Luke 4:1-2 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.
There was more at stake in this event than at first appears. Adam and Eve were tempted by the devil, and due to their failure, plunged the human race into death and destruction. Since Jesus came to lead us out of death and destruction, he had to succeed where Adam and Eve failed. Therefore, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Satan did his best to disqualify Jesus from becoming the Savior of the world.
Luke 4:3 The devil said to him, If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.
Jesus had not eaten anything for forty days, which is about as long as a person can go without permanent injury. Satan is a master of timing, and waited until Jesus was at his weakest, before he began his assault.
The soil there is rocky, and some of the stones resemble loaves of bread. Since Jesus would multiply bread to feed thousands (Matthew 14:19-20), he could have turned a stone into bread if he wanted to. But the fast was God’s idea (Luke 4:1), so to break it prematurely would have been a sin. That would have disqualified Jesus from saving us from our sins (Matthew 1:21).
Luke 4:4 Jesus answered, It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone.
This is the first of three quotations from the Old Testament which Jesus used to battle Satan. Jesus’ first line of defense was to quote God’s word. The Bible is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), with which we can fight the devil. Christians who know the Bible well are in a better position to overcome temptation than those who do not. Jesus knew the Bible well enough to quote it, and he is our example.
Luke 4:5-8 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours. Jesus answered, It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.
This is one of the most fascinating conversations in the Bible. In exchange for a moment of worship, Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. [I]t has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to, he said. The only thing more shocking than Satan’s claim is that Jesus did not deny it.
In fact, Satan’s claim is actually supported by additional Scripture. Three times Jesus called Satan the prince of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11). The Apostle Paul called him the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4), and the ruler of the kingdom of the air (Ephesians 2:2). And the Apostle John was very clear when he wrote, the whole world is under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19). This is truly shocking, but it does explain a few things.
First, if Satan controlled the world, we would expect the world to be completely confused about God. And after thousands of years, the world has come to no consensus on the two most important questions: Is there a God? and What is he like?
Second, if Satan controlled the world, we would expect the world to be filled with sin, sorrow and death. And every person born into the world goes through sin, sorrow and death.
Third, if Satan controlled the world, we would expect to hear stories of rape, murder and war. And all we have to do is turn on the news to hear stories of rape, murder and war.
Fourth, if Satan controlled the world, and God came into the world, we would expect the world to crucify God. So God came into the world in the person of Jesus Christ, and it was only a matter of time before he was crucified. It seems like the whole world is under the control of the evil one. But how did this happen?
The explanation is found in the first few chapters of the Bible. God created the world and put Adam and Eve in charge. As long as they were under God’s authority, every day was paradise, and Satan could not harm them. But when they ate the forbidden fruit, they stepped out from under God’s authority, and found themselves under Satan’s authority. That was the end of paradise, and the beginning of Satan’s rule (Genesis 1-3). Ever since that day, our greatest need has been for someone to save us from the tyranny of Satan.
Luke 4:9-12 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. If you are the Son of God, he said, throw yourself down from here. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Jesus answered, It is said: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.
This temptation was unique because Satan used the Bible to make his argument. He quoted from the ninety-first Psalm, and argued that if Jesus threw himself off the temple, God would send angels to catch him. Satan was saying that if Jesus believed the Bible, he should prove it by taking a leap. But Jesus refused to leap.
The purpose of the ninety-first Psalm is not to encourage rash behavior, but simple trust in God. So Jesus rebuffed the devil by quoting another verse. Do not put the Lord your God to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16).
This is how we should treat all the promises of God. Jesus said, If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer (Matthew 21:22). We ought to pray in faith, therefore, and believe that God will answer. But we should never use God’s promises to force his hand, since God will not be forced to do anything.
This may seem obvious, but in the name of faith, some parents have withheld medicine from their children—with tragic results. The Bible is God’s word, but Satan quotes it for his own purposes, such as leading us into rash behavior. The broad counsel of Scripture is to pray in faith without putting God to the test. As Jesus prayed elsewhere, not my will, but yours be done (Luke 22:42).
Luke 4:13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
We are not told when the opportune time was, but one of the last temptations Jesus faced was to come down from the cross. Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God! (Matthew 27:40), said his enemies. The devil may have been speaking through them, and Jesus may have been tempted to take his revenge (Deuteronomy 32:41). But like his other temptations, Jesus did not give in.
Adam and Eve enjoyed a perfect environment, and were only forbidden the fruit of one tree, so they could show their loyalty to God (Genesis 2:17). They failed, however, and plunged the world into misery. Jesus faced hardship in life and death, but never failed once. He recovered everything Adam lost, and reopened paradise for all who believe. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22), wrote Paul.
Reflection and Review
How does the Bible help us defeat Satan?
Why is the world under Satan’s control?
How does Satan misuse the Bible?