Provision, Protection, Position: Satan vs Jesus

The story of Jesus’s temptation is depicted in both Matthew and Luke in great detail. Both Matthew and Luke use similar language to describe the devil’s attempt to persuade Jesus to betray God and serve him. In Matthew 1:21, an angel tells Joseph in a dream that the reason Jesus has come to Earth ‘[because] he will save his people from their sins’. In order to save humanity from sin, Jesus needed to show us how to handle problems that we will face in our life; the best way to do that is to go through them himself and show how to use scripture to keep from sinning.

Matthew writes the temptation story to show Jesus as an interpreter of the scripture; he does this because Jesus came to save humanity via living a holy and perfect life while going through human problems like temptation from the Devil and, as such, must be able to use biblical scripture correctly to refute sin. This is shown through 3 different forms of sin: physical, mental, and spiritual. The first attempt of the Devil to tempt Jesus is physically.

At this point, Jesus has not eaten for 40 days in the wilderness. (Matt 4:1-2) The online concordance says that ‘wilderness’ comes from the Greek word ‘eremos’ meaning solitary or lonely (Crosswalk). I think the fact that Jesus fasted for 40 days is related to the Israelites; Israelites, God’s chosen people who were to rule in God’s Kingdom, were tested by God as they wandered alone in the wilderness for 40 years and inevitably failed to enter the land because of disobedience (Harper Study Bible, Footnote).

Jesus, having to go through human trials, in turn goes through a similar trial to show that it could be done in the name of the Lord; using the number 40 for significance to the people he is trying to save. The Devil tries to use Jesus’s bodily weakness of hunger against him by telling him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread”. (vv. 3) The Devil acknowledges that Jesus is the ‘Son of God’.

The online concordance says that ‘Son of God’ comes from the Greek ‘huios theos’ (Crosswalk) One of the definitions for ‘son’ is “term used preeminently of Jesus Christ, as enjoying the supreme love of God… bedient to the Father’s will in all his acts” (Crosswalk) I think that the devil knew he was going up to have a tough time dissuading Jesus from God but thought he could do it anyway, despite Jesus’s predisposition to obey God. Jesus was certainly tempted to follow the devilish proposals since he was hungry, but he was not tempted by devil-worship, since he found no attraction in evildoing itself since he is ‘obedient to the Father’s will in all his actions’. Therefore, the devil had to conceal his wickedness under the disguise of the goodness of creation: bread and water.

The temptation was not only about eating or not eating, not about performing or not performing a miracle but also about pursuing a self-serving mentality, focused on all that we have not been given by God. (Crosswalk) Furthermore, instead of giving a ‘physical’ answer like ‘Oh, I’m not hungry’ or ‘I can wait a little longer’, Jesus responds with scripture to defeat the Devil. Jesus replies with a verse from Deuteronomy 8:3: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”. (vv. ) This is another reference to the Israelites in the wilderness; God gives them manna to eat when they were hungry but not only did it nourish them physically but spiritually. I think that Jesus is relaying a very clear point to the Devil: work that Christians do for themselves will get them into heaven; only the faithful belief and practice of the Word can do that. In addition, Jesus teaches that to defeat evil, Christians must go to the Word to get strength even when physical strength fails; the only way to do this is through understanding and correctly interpreting the Word of God, a task Jesus does for us in the book of Matthew.

The second temptation is the Devil’s attempt at Jesus’s mental state. The Devil’s request has to be divided between the action and the reason behind the action. First, the Devil takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple in the ‘holy city’ and tells him to throw himself to the ground. One difference between Matthew and Luke, the other gospel that goes into a very detailed description of Jesus’s temptation, is that the ‘holy city’ is not named in Matthew but in Luke is called Jerusalem. The second part of the sentence is his justification as to why Jesus should follow his command.

The Devil, knowing the scriptures just as well as Jesus does, uses a verse from Psalms 91:11-12 to explain his request: “‘He will command his angels concerning you’, and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone’. ” (vv. 6) The scripture that the Devil quotes is true; God does say that nothing evil shall befall us if we ask for protection and it is in God’s will to protect us. On the other hand, the Devil has taken the scripture out of the context it should be in and Jesus corrects him with another scripture from Deuteronomy: “Do not put the Lord you God to the test”.

Christians are supposed to have faith in the Lord and call on his name in times of trial or tribulation. I think this logic does not extend when you are trying to prove for someone else that no matter what you do, the Lord will always save you; that turns the holy character trait of faithfulness into the sinful trait boastfulness. In comparison to the Israelites’ story, the point of challenging or testing God is what differs in each illustration. The Israelites test God as shown in Deuteronomy 8-9 through disobedience and rebellion; Jesus holds firm to the Word of God and does not sin.

The Devil wanted Jesus to boast over the greatness he possess; Jesus, seeing that, illustrates how Christians must know scriptures for themselves not to be lured into traps that involve ‘misquoted scripture’. Moreover, not only does he know the scripture, Jesus uses them correctly, demonstrating Jesus’s subtle w ay of revealing to us that he really is the Son of God. The temptations tell readers that Jesus is capable to interpret scripture that is being used incorrectly, modify the scripture’s meaning to what it should say, and then continue to do the right thing.

The last temptation the Devil uses against Jesus is lust or stature over everything on Earth. The Devil, having failed in using scripture to make Jesus sin, tries the last thing he believes he can use: power. Matthew 4:8-9 state, “the devil took [Jesus] to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and said to him ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me. ” He challenges the Lord’s ability to give Jesus total power over everything; at this, Jesus becomes angry and intolerant of the pestilence that is the devil.

Jesus once again goes back to scripture to contradict what the devil says: “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him”. (Matt. 4:10, cf. Deut. 6:13) I think the use of ‘Satan’ versus ‘devil’ is very important here. The online concordance says that ‘devil’ comes from the Greek word ‘diabolos’ meaning ‘prone to slander and falsely accurse’ while ‘Satan’ comes from the Greek word ‘satanas’ meaning ‘the inveterate adversary of God and Christ’ (Harper Study Bible, Footnote) Jesus shows his anger not only in what he says to the devil but the word choice that he uses.

This last temptation is the only thing not related to the Israelite story. I think that this temptation was done because God knew that, at some point in the history of Earth, humans would become especially power-hungry and want more and more control over the world that it would consume our thoughts, words, and. Inevitably, our actions. Jesus shows that Earthly power and control is not better than what God can give you; in fact, at the end of the correlating Israelite story, the Israelites, only with the help of God, would go on to take many countries and control more than they could possible believe.

On the other hand, the other part of Jesus’s response must be addressed; not only can you only serve God, but you cannot serve any other Gods. Later on in Matthew, Jesus discusses serving two masters and how that is not possible as a Christian: “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. ” (Matt. :24) God makes it very clear: you are either on God’s side or Satan’s side and, like Jesus, a clear decision must be made. Jesus’s interpretation of the scripture made a clear decision about whom he was going with and why. Immediately, Satan leaves Jesus and the angels tend to Jesus.

The devil flees with the knowledge that he could not and cannot get to Jesus. Also, just as Jesus defended earlier, God was waiting to help him as angels come to assist Jesus after the temptations. (Matt. :11) Jesus is the savior for humanity; his life should be an example for us to live by and learn from. He has been shown to interpret scripture in order to help us defeat sin in our everyday life. Matthew’s presentation of Jesus’s temptations demonstrates one of many ways Jesus has taught Christians to live with evil. Using scripture correctly and having faith in not only God but his promises and Word allow Christians to fight the devil on a physical, mental, and spiritual level.

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