By Bob Waldron
After Jesus was baptized, He was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. The account of the temptation of Jesus offers some of the richest lessons in scripture. In studying the temptation, many have sought to explain why Jesus did not follow Satan’s suggestions by various, sometimes ingenious, ideas. These ideas may be true, and are definitely worthy of thought. Jesus, however, knew best why He could not do the things Satan wished Him to do. We shall be guided in this study, therefore, solely by the replies Jesus Himself made.
Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days during which time ; He fasted. Both Matthew and Luke indicate that Jesus’ felt no hunger until after the forty days. “And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He afterward hungered” (Matt. 4:2). “And He did eat nothing in those days: and when they were completed, He hungered” (Luke 4:2). Hunger fell upon Jesus more as a blow than as something to which He had slowly grown accustomed. Mark indicates that Satan had been tempting Jesus already. “And He was in the wilderness forty days tempted of Satan” (Mark 1:12). Now Satan comes again.
“If thou art the Son of God, command that these stones become bread” (Matt. 4:3). Now we know that Jesus had the power to change one substance into another (see John 2 where Jesus changed water to wine). We also know that several times Jesus used His power to provide food (Matt. 14; 15; John 21). Why not this time? Satan seemed to be tempting Jesus to prove His Sonship, but Jesus’ reply was not, “Satan, I do not have to prove my Sonship. Both you and I know who I am.” The temptation was more subtle than that. Jesus replied, “It is written, `Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God”‘ (Matt. 4:4). If we are to understand what Satan’s temptation was, we will do so only by understanding Jesus’ response.
When Israel was encamped in the plains of Moab, poised to invade Canaan, Moses preached to them. He said, “All the commandment which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which Jehovah sware unto your fathers. And thou shalt remember all the way which Jehovah thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble thee, to prove thee, to know what was in thy heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or not. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by everything that proceedeth out of the mouth of Jehovah doth man live” (Deut. 8:1-3).
If the Israelites had been asked to list their necessities, they would have said food and water. We cannot be critical of them without some self-examination. If someone were chosen at random and asked to list the necessities of life he would list: (1) food, (2) water, (3) shelter. The Israelites had to learn that God was more important to their survival than bread. They had to learn that the first necessity is to obey the words that proceed out of the mouth of Jehovah. Oh, how we today need to learn to include that necessity at the top of our list.
How, though, does this .point tie in with Jesus’ refusal to turn stones into bread? Satan was telling Jesus to use the power He had for His sole benefit. It was not the Father’s will that Jesus’ power be used in that manner. Though Jesus knew He needed food He also knew one thing He needed more – to do the Father’s will. God did not give Jesus His great power so that if He had a headache He could merely wish it away, .or if He became thirsty He could cause a glass of water to pop into His hand. He always used His power for the sake of others to produce faith in them. Thus it would have been contrary to the “word that proceeded out of the mouth of God” for Jesus to use His power for His benefit. Therefore He would not and told Satan why. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
Truth Magazine XXIII: 31, pp. 504-505
August 9, 1979