THE threefold temptation of our Lord corresponds to the temptation of the first Adam in Genesis. John tells us (1 John 2:16) that the threefold appeal is by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. This appeal was used with Eve: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took the fruit thereof, and did eat; and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat” (Gen. 3:6).
Luke, in his account of the Son of Man, follows the Genesis order; but Matthew puts the third appeal second, making the order that which would appeal most to a king, with its offers of a quick way to the throne.
Jesus meets the appeal to the flesh with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. He could have readily provided Himself with a meal, for God can set a table in the wilderness whenever He likes; but our Lord was willing to trust His Father to supply His need without resorting to the suggestion of the devil. He will not selfishly use His power.
Then the devil undertook to pervert the Word of God and lead Jesus to resort to the spectacular to prove God’s care. He quotes a messianic psalm in which God promises to protect the Messiah because He is obedient and trustful. Had Jesus listened to Satan, He would have broken the condition. To ever ask for signs and wonders of God—to demand some sensational proof of His love and care—is to follow this same suggestion of the devil.
Then the adversary offered the Lord the kingdoms of this world. They really were his to offer, for this present world-system is under him. In John 12:31 and 14:30 our Lord speaks of Satan as the “prince of this world,” and in 2 Corinthians 4:4 calls him the “god of this world.” God owns the world, but the devil possesses it in the present age. But Jesus defeated the tempter again with a sword-thrust from Deuteronomy. No wonder the devil has fought Deuteronomy so and has sought to destroy it with higher criticism! The Lord defeated him each time with a verse from that book. If the Lord used only three verses from Deuteronomy to whip the devil, we ought to put up a good fight with the whole Bible!
Mark adds that our Lord was with the wild beasts. The first Adam was tempted in a lovely garden with all creation at peace. The second Adam was tempted in a wilderness typical of the earth spoiled by sin. But one day, by reason of His victory, He shall reign over the earth… redeemed from the curse and with creation at peace (Isa. 11:6-8; Rom. 8:18-25).
After the devil left Him, angels ministered to Jesus. After each victory over evil, we are visited by His strengthening Presence in fresh power, in joy, and in confidence. Luke adds significantly that the devil departed “for a season.” Again and again through His life, our Lord suffered being tempted, and He is even now able to succor them that are tempted (Heb. 2:18).