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The devil tempts Jesus

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Bible text for this story

 


 


 


 

 

Doodling

Print the words GOOD and EVIL. 
• Cross out one of the O's in GOOD. 
• Put a D in front of EVIL. 
• What do you have?


Into the wilderness

At his Baptism, Jesus offered himself and his life to God, and received God’s blessing. That was a glorious moment.

But it was only the start. Jesus had committed himself to God, but now he had to actually live the life – and being human he has to face what we all face – temptation. 

Jesus looks out over the kingdoms of the Earth: the third temptation Before Jesus could teach others and then save them, he had to meet Satan face to face, confront him and defeat him. The loneliness of this struggle was terrible. There were no friends to support him, only the wild beasts and the harsh desert.

The temptations were all directed against the divine Sonship of Jesus. The Devil encouraged Jesus to

  • misuse his divine powers

  • gain his purpose in the world by obeying the Devil instead of his Father

  • doubt the reality of his Father’s love and care.

 

The first temptation: stone to bread

Jesus had fasted for forty days. Note: ‘forty’ is a significant number, reminding us throughout this story of the forty years the Hebrew tribes spent in the wilderness as they travelled towards the Promised Land.

Mosaic of Jesus tempted to turn stones into breadFasting probably meant living off the land rather than going entirely without food or water. There is not much water and very little food in the desert, but Jesus survived, though he would have been physically weakened and mentally drained. This is when the Devil was most able to entice him - watch yourself and your actions when you are tired and drained. This is when the Devil strikes.

The first temptation urged Jesus to use his status as the Son of God to perform an act of power to satisfy his hunger.

‘Make these stone into bread’, the Devil said to Jesus. ‘You are hungry, and right at this moment your body needs you to do it. You are after all the Son of God. What’s the good of your power if you don’t use it?’

This was not simply about food. It was more subtle than that. The Devil was urging Jesus to upset God’s pattern of creation by making something into what it is not meant to be, and moreover use his power as Son of God for his own ends instead of in God’s service.
But Jesus was the New Israel, and he would not abandon God as the Hebrews did when they turned to the Golden Calf, itself a symbol of food and fertility. A person’s true character is not dazzled by magic tricks. Jesus would not do as the Devil suggested.

Stone to bread, Christ in the Desert, Kramskoi

Stone to bread, Christ in the Desert, Kramskoi

 

The second temptation 
(Luke and Matthew place the temptations in a different order.)

The Devil/Evil tried a second ploy.Jesus tempted at the pinnacle of the Temple He took Jesus to the ‘holy city’- presumably Jerusalem. There he lifted Jesus and placed him on a ‘pinnacle’ of the Temple. This was probably some projecting turret or rooftop. Curiously enough, the punishment for blasphemy at the time was to be thrown off the pinnacle of the Temple.

‘Now jump’ said the Devil. ‘God will surely protect you from harm, since you are His Son. He will send an angel to scoop you up and keep you safe.’ With breathtaking blasphemy, the Devil quoted God himself – a brilliant, seductive ploy. But the quotation had been ripped out of its context so the Devil was, in effect, mocking God’s words.

Jesus’ response was contemptuous, dismissive. ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’ – a quote from Dt. 6:14. No-one, said Jesus, not even the Devil, could put God the Creator to the test. We are God’s creatures, He is not ours. Jesus knew, as we do, that a person tests the faithfulness of God only when he no longer truly trusts God.

Keep in mind that Satan/Evil is real, then as now. We ourselves must expect similar conflict, and with Christ’s help we may enjoy a similar victory.

 

Reconstruction of a stairway leading to the Temple precincts with a pinnacle above

Reconstruction of a stairway leading to the Temple precincts, 
with what could be described as a 'pinnacle' above

 

The third temptation

Jesus offered all the kingdoms of the worldThe Devil/Evil then tried a third ploy. He took Jesus to the peak of the highest mountain in the world (this story was of course current in a world that believed that the Earth was flat). The world was spread out before them and the Devil, like a prospective seller, pointed out all the kingdoms of the world. 

‘Worship me’ said the Devil, ‘give yourself over to me, and I will give you power over all this.’ 

Once again there are echoes of the Old Testament, when the People of God were dissatisfied with God and were tempted to worship the Golden Calf. Here was the entire world, over which Jesus would exercise complete power. Think of all the good he could do! 

But the world, Jesus knew, did not belong to the Devil. It was not his to give. Satan’s promise was not to be trusted. Bowing to him was incompatible with serving God.

Summary

  • Bodily survival

  • Control over the Laws of Nature, and 

  • Absolute Power 

The Devil had offered all these to Jesus, and been rebuffed. Jesus knew that in fact the Devil had no control over any of these things, and that his promises were empty.
Mark’s account of the incident, shorter than Matthew’s or Luke’s accounts, is brief and to the point: the Son of God is victorious over the powers of Darkness. 

 

The Temptation of Christ by Duccio di Buoninsegna

The Temptation of Christ by Duccio di Buoninsegna


 

 

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What  the  Gospels say

1.  The first temptation. Read the blue text

2.  The second temptation.  Read the green text

3.  The third temptation.  Read the red text


Matthew 4:1-11

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 

2 And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry. 

3 And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." 

4 But he answered, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" 


5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, 

6 and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, 'He will give his angels charge of you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" 

7 Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'" 


8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; 

9 and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." 

10 Then Jesus said to him, "Begone, Satan! for it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'" 


11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him. 


Mark 1:12-13


12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 

13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him. 


Luke 4:1-13


1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit 

2 for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. 

3 The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." 

4 And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone.'" 


5 And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 

6 and said to him, "To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 

7 If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours." 

8 And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'" 


9 And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; 

10 for it is written, 'He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,' 

11 and 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" 

12 And Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'"
 

13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. 

 


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Bible Study Guide:  Jesus faced three temptations after fasting in the desert. The Devil, Evil, was defeated 

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Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Fletcher