Red Letter Year: 3/12

Matthew 4:1-11

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Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.

During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,

‘He will order his angels to protect you.
And they will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”

Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”

10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”

11 Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.


Five things I want to draw your attention to here:

  1. The devil is real. That may not be a popular idea these days, but Scripture and all of Christian tradition and experience concur: we have an enemy who does just this sort of thing. Any time Christians get too comfortable with the idea that Satan is a myth bad things happen (e.g., German Christians didn’t much believe in Satan prior to WWII). It’s foolish to dismiss what Scripture clearly teaches. And dangerous.
  2. Satan chooses a very strategic moment to tempt Jesus. First, Jesus is weak from fasting 40 days. Second, this comes just after the significant spiritual experience of Jesus’ baptism. He has just gotten confirmation of who he is in God and he is weak and tired. Just the sort of moment the enemy will attack you and me as well.
  3. All of the temptations are attacks on Jesus’ identity and call. “If you are the Son of God… then do….” Trying to get Jesus to doubt his identity and/or act contrary to his calling.
  4. Jesus responds with Scripture each time. Jesus was a student of Scripture. In the second temptation, both Satan and Jesus use Scripture, but Jesus demonstrates that difficult passages should be interpreted in light of clearer passages. Satan uses “creative hermeneutics” (to say the least), but Jesus uses a clear and direct interpretation to cut through that nonsense.
  5. In each of his responses, Jesus responds from the perspective of an ordinary human. This doesn’t mean he is giving in on his identity, but at no point does he say, “No that doesn’t apply to me, I’m special.” In other words, the temptations he faces and the responses he gives are both common to all humans (Hebrews tells us Jesus was tempted just like us in all things, except without giving in). That means you might want to reread 2-4 above as they apply to you and me just as much as they applied to Jesus.

New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.