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The Temptation of Jesus

Bible Reading: Matthew 3:16-4:11

The Message (MSG)

16-17 The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up and he saw God’s Spirit—it looked like a dove—descending and landing on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.”

The Test

1-3 Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”

Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”

5-6 For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, “Since you are God’s Son, jump.” The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: “He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone.”

Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: “Don’t you dare test the Lord your God.”

8-9 For the third test, the Devil took him to the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth’s kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, “They’re yours—lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they’re yours.”

10 Jesus’ refusal was curt: “Beat it, Satan!” He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.”

11 The Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus’ needs.

What Does it Mean?

In verses 16-17 we see Jesus being affirmed by His Father after His baptism. God was pleased with Jesus – and He hadn’t even begun His time of ministry! But look at what happened next. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. The NIV translation of Matthew 4:1 uses the word “then” – but in the same story in the Gospel of Mark, Mark makes the timing a little more clear, with the use of the words “at once” (Mark 1:12). So as soon as Jesus was baptised, He had to be tested by the devil. Often our lives reflect this same pattern. The closer we draw to God, the harder the devil tries to trip us up.

But Jesus was the Son of God, so why did He have to be tested by the devil? It was all part of God’s masterplan. Notice that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. There was nothing accidental about the temptation of Jesus. In order to be a sacrifice for the sins of mankind, Jesus had to be completely without sin. He had to face the same kind of temptations that all humans face at the hands of the devil so that he could resist the temptation and remain completely without sin.

The devil is crafty. He knew that Jesus was hungry after fasting for forty days. But look at Jesus’ response in Matthew 4:4. Jesus quotes the Scriptures in responding to the devil’s taunt, and what He says is an important lesson in itself. Whilst the human body requires food and water for nourishment, the human spirit requires something far more important – nourishment from the Word of God – the Bible. It is possible to safely fast from food and drink, but the spirit will suffer much more greatly if we fast from God and His precious Word.

Look at how Jesus rebutted the devil’s temptations. In each case, Jesus quoted Scripture, knowing that His power lay in His grounding in the Word of God. This is an important lesson. If we ground ourselves in the Bible, we are in a much better position to resist the devil.

Notice in Matthew 4:6 that the devil also quotes Scripture. We must be on our guard against this tactic of the devil. He is capable of quoting Scripture at us, but often it will be taken out of context, and it is important to look at Scripture in context in such situations. We should never use Scripture in an attempt to justify doing things that we know are wrong.

Bottom Line

Jesus wasn’t immune to the temptations of the devil – He had to face the tests that satan threw at Him in the desert, when He was weak from hunger. However, He succeeded in resisting the devil to remain sin free so that the plan of God could be accomplished – the redemption of mankind through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. He was fully submitted to the will of God, resisted the temptations of the devil, and, in verse 11, the devil fled from Him. Can you see the parallel here with James 4:7 – “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” or, as The Message puts it: “So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper.”

Ponder Points

Are you fully submitted to God, as Jesus was?

Are you grounded in Scripture so that you can use it to resist the temptations that the devil throws at you? If not, it might be time to take fifteen minutes a day to read the Bible and build up your defences. There are lots of reading plans that you can use to work your way through the Bible at a manageable pace. Check out You Version’s Bible App for Smartphones and Tablets, or view You Version’s Bible Plans online.


Jesus was tempted by the devil just like we are – He understands what it’s like to face the temptations of the enemy. When you are struggling with temptation, take time out to talk to Jesus in prayer. It really does make a difference.

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