Matt. 4:1 ¶ Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Notice the phrase “led up by the Spirit”. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. That will be important later on. The reason He was led into the wilderness was so that He could be tempted by the devil.
Matt. 4:2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.
We see that Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights. This meant He would have been in a weakened state. Remember, He was being led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Typically, when you’re going into temptation you want to be strong. We see that before the temptation started, Jesus fasted 40 days and nights, which would have put Him into a very weakened state.
Matt. 4:3 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
Matt. 4:4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’”
In Matthew 4:1 we were told that Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. In verse three the term “tempter” is used to refer to the devil. Notice the word “if”. The devil started out by saying to Jesus, “If You are the Son of God”. The devil knew that Jesus was the Son of God, but the devil was challenging Jesus. He was trying to get Jesus to prove that He was the son of God. The devil’s suggested method of proving it was to take stones and turn them into bread.
I remember when I was a kid I used to read this passage and the question I always had was, what would have been wrong for Jesus to turn the stones into bread? After all, Jesus had the power to do that. He is God. He certainly could have done that if He wanted to. There are other passages of scripture where Jesus multiplied loaves of bread and fish. There is also a passage where Jesus caused a coin to miraculously appear in the mouth of a fish. So I always asked why it would have been wrong for Jesus to turn the stones into bread.
To answer that, first of all, remember that in Matthew 4:1 we’re told that Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit. It was the Spirit that led Jesus to fast for 40 days and 40 nights. So if Jesus would have cut short His fast, He would have been disobeying the Spirit. Ultimately, the issue here was Jesus was obeying the Spirit, obeying His Father.
I believe Jesus confirmed that by through passage of scripture He cited. Notice the pronoun “He” in Matthew 4:4. That pronoun refers to Jesus. Then Jesus said, “It is written”. That’s an indication that He was quoting from the scriptures. He quoted from Deuteronomy.
Deut. 8:3 “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.
This verse is a reference to the time the Israelites were wandering through the wilderness for 40 years. During those wanderings, Yahweh allowed the Israelites to be hungry so that they would learn there was more to life than simply having food and water. They also had to obey Yahweh. That’s the portion Jesus quoted back to the devil. Jesus said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
Jesus understood there was more to His life on Earth than simply having bread. He also had to be obedient. The Holy Spirit had led Him out into the wilderness to fast and to be tempted. Jesus was not going to break His fast until the Spirit gave Him permission to do so. For Him to turn the stones into bread would have been disobeying the Spirit and Jesus refused to do that.
For us living in the 21st century, we have some similar teachings from the New Testament. Let’s look at Matthew 22.
Matt. 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
Matt. 22:37 And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’
Matt. 22:38 “This is the great and foremost commandment
We see here that the greatest commandment is to love God. John defines for us what love of God is.
John 14:21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me;
1John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
We see that the greatest commandment is to love God and the definition of loving God is to obey Him. That’s very similar to what Jesus said to the devil. First and foremost, Jesus had to obey the Spirit. Jesus could not break His fast until the Spirit gave Him permission to do so. 1 John has some other verses that apply to this.
1John 2:15 ¶ Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
These verses tell us we have to focus on the Father and follow Him and not the world. The devil wanted to Jesus to focus on His hunger and His earthly needs, disobey the Spirit, and turn the stones into bread. Jesus refused to do that.
Likewise for us, it’s very tempting to get focused on the things of the world and our life here on earth. We focus on our physical needs, our hunger and thirst, our need to earn a living, and our need to have clothing and shelter. And then we focus a lot on our wants and things that we don’t really need. We get focused on comfort, pleasure, and entertainment. All of those things distract us from following our Father in heaven.
Those things are not necessarily wrong. However, we have to make sure Jesus is first and foremost in our lives, and not all these things of the world. The devil was trying to get Jesus to focus on His hunger and disobey the Spirit. Likewise, we are tempted to get so focused on our earthly life, and our needs and desires here on earth that we put God in second place. We have to make sure we don’t do that.
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“Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
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