Jesus' Temptation was a Test
The Greek word translated as "tempt" means "to test" or "to be tried." The noun form "temptation" means "a test" or "a trial."
We read in Luke that, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led in the Spirit in the wilderness." (Luke 4:1). Matthew writes, "Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted/tested/tried by the devil." (Matthew 4:1). In Mark we read, "Immediately the Spirit drove Him to go out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted/tested/tried by Satan." (Mark 1:12-13). Jesus was being led into the wilderness to be tested for his obedience to God.
Yahweh being tempted to sin and fall short of His own glory
In Trinitarian doctrine, Jesus is Yahweh and Jesus and God the Son are one and the same person. Was God the Son then tempted to sin? To sin is to fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). Does it make sense for Yahweh to be tempted to sin against His own will to see if He would fall short of His own glory?
The Purpose of the Account was not to demonstrate how Jesus was a Prideful Show Off to the Devil
There are many who choose to read the Temptation account as if Jesus was intentionally showing off to the devil just how good he was. But this account is not about a charlatan pompously proving himself better than the devil. This account is about Jesus' humility and how he chose to humble serve his God and Father by doing his God's will for each of the three tests instead of choosing to do what the devil tempted. He was hungry and the devil tempted him with his hunger but he nevertheless chose not to turn stones into bread. He was a son but chose not to rule the world and instead chose to be a servant. Indeed, he chose not to be an arrogant show off and jump off the temple and test his God but he instead chose to simply serve his God.
The Purpose of the Account was not to Teach the Devil a Lesson
There are many others who chose to read the Temptation account as if Jesus was teaching the devil a lesson or two. But we read that Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tested. The Bible does not say Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to teach the devil a thing or two. When he said, "You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only," it was not an instruction to the devil to serve Jesus' God, or for the devil to serve Jesus as God. In fact, his first response is, "MAN shall not live..." Rather these quotations of the Law were Jesus' response to the devil's temptation, that is, this was how he himself would respond to the choice set before him and what he himself would do rather than choosing the devil's offer.
The Purpose of the Account is to illustrate how Jesus Chose Humble Obedience to the Will of His Father
Matthew and Luke recount three temptations from the devil. We must remember that Jesus was a Jew born under the Law. For each test, Jesus quoted from the Law. When he was tempted to turn stones into bread, Jesus set the pattern for the next two temptations by saying, "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." In other words, Jesus responded to this temptation by indicating what his choice would be. For the first temptation his choice was to obey his God and Father and faithfully trust that his life was in doing the will of his Father as commanded in the Law.
In the next two temptations, Jesus does the very same thing. He does not choose the temptation but the will of his God and Father. He always chooses to obey his Father no matter what and this is the reason he quotes the Law on all three temptations: the Law was his God and Father's will. He quotes the Law because this was how Jesus indicated he would live by "every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."
From the moment he left the Jordan river, Jesus was tempted in all respects throughout his life on earth but never once disobeyed his Father even at the prospect of dying upon a cross. He learned obedience from what he suffered. And Jesus passed each test. Even though he was offered the whole world, he declined the offer just to do his Father's will. He was not a hypocrite when he taught us we must deny ourself and pick up our cross if we want to be his disciple. He denied himself in every respect and humbly picked up his cross. He was not a hypocrite when he taught us we must forsake everything to be his disciple. He forsook absolutely everything to do his Father's will. As he himself said, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and finish his work" (John 4:34). Jesus invested himself and his life in his God and God's choices for him, not in himself and his choices. Our Rabbi showed us how we too must walk by doing it himself.
In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:7-9).
Last Updated: March 26, 2011