07 June 2012

The Temptation of Jesus Christ

Temptations: Jesus Experienced Them, Too
Are you walking in a wilderness of temptation? Jesus suffered temptations unlike any we could ever imagine, and through that suffering was a righteous example of how we should rely on faith in our Heavenly Father, and the scriptures to stand strong against temptation.
“Many have thought of Jesus as one who came into the world as it were, in a cosmic diving suit, who was not exposed to the buffetings of the real world, who walked through life in a white robe, never was tired, never wearied, never pushed or pulled in different directions, but our scriptures teach us otherwise.” [1] For he was, “ in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” [2] and also suffered, “temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death.” [3]

The Trinity

Temptations come to everyone and so it was even with Jesus. The synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke record this event in Jesus’ life.

After the great event of his Baptism he, “was led by The Spirit into the wilderness.” [4] Just like in the Baptism of Jesus we again find in this story the distinction of characters [5] called the Trinity. You have, “The Spirit,” or “Holy Ghost,” [6] Jesus Christ and God.[7]

Led by the Spirit

Both Matthew and Luke say that after Jesus’ baptism he was, “led by the spirit into the wilderness.”[8]  Mark states that the spirit, “immediately… driveth him into the wilderness.” To be driven into the wilderness seems to be bolder language than Matthew and Luke’s meaning of being led.

Some have believed that this was a forcible act that may have even been against his will. However, the meaning here is the same as to be led and does not connote hostility from the Spirit to Jesus as some have supposed.[9] In order for someone to lead there must have been a follower and that follower must have been willing to go and do whatever the leader has asked him or her to do. This goes for Jesus for he was led by the spirit willfully and obediently into the wilderness.

Transported by the Holy Spirit

In Galatians 5:25 we read, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Jesus had the Spirit with him after his Baptism, and may have walked in the spirit into the wilderness or desert. I say “may” for there is in the story of his temptation a description of the Spirit acting as a transporter of flesh and bones to the pinnacle of the temple. It would hardly be believable that Jesus had climbed up to the top of the pinnacle of the temple. Accounts all throughout the scriptures shed light upon this matter that the Spirit can transport a human from one place to another.

Says Bruce R. McConkie, “…Ezekiel was lifted up and carried by the Spirit. (Ezek. 8:2-3.) Nephi ‘was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceeding high mountain,’ upon which he ‘never had before’ set his ‘foot.’ (1 Ne. 11:1.) Mary herself ‘was carried away in the Spirit’ at the time of the conception of Jesus. (1 Ne. 11:19-21.)

Nephi the son of Helaman ‘was taken by the Spirit and conveyed away out of the midst’ of those who sought to imprison him, and thus ‘he did go forth in the Spirit, from multitude to multitude, declaring the word of God.’ (Hel. 10:16-17.)

After Philip baptized the eunuch, ‘the Spirit of the Lord caught [him] away,’ and he was carried to Azotus. (Acts 8:39-40.) It is not an unheard-of thing for the Lord, by the power of the Spirit, to transport mortals from place to place…”[10]

Being 40 Days Tempted of the Devil

Forty days place a huge role in this story. Is it literal? Is it symbolic?

·         When Noah built the ark, “the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.” [11]

·         When Moses received the Decalogue upon Mount Sinai amid the thunder and lightning’s he, “was in the mount forty days and forty nights.”[12]

·         Elijah rose up and, “did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.” [13] Spies were sent by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan for 40 days.[14]

·         Goliath, the Philistine presented himself every morning and evening to Israel for 40 days.[15]

·         Ezekiel bore the iniquity of the house of Judah for 40 days.[16]

·         The Prophet, Jonah, gave Nineveh 40 days to repent.[17]

·         Forty days was also the time frame from the resurrection of Jesus to his ascension.

So what is the significance of 40 days and 40 nights?

Some say that the number forty represents a period of testing, probation, judgment or when salvation is at hand. This is so because with each 40 day listing has a comparable line of testing, probation, judgment or salvation.

The Bible is not the only place where 40 days is used as a significance of meaning. The Egyptians (5500 BCE), Hindus (550BCE), Jainism (3000 BCE), Zoroastrianism (1500 BCE), Sikhism (1500 BCE), and Buddhism (600 BCE) all have their hand in this pot of, “40.” [18] But to the significance of the why of the 40 days and nights still remains a mystery to me.

And He Did Eat Nothing

It is clear that he ate nothing during this time. But was an, “afterward hungered.”[ 19]  Fasting is not a new concept here.

The depriving of the physical to elevate the spiritual has been done for thousands of years. But what does fasting accomplish? Certainly Jesus was not worried about his weight. There must have been something more important. To simply go without food could not be a complete fast for Jesus, for something else was required—Prayer


The Purpose of Fasting

"Christ in the Desert" by Ivan Kramskoi 1872
Jesus told his disciples to, “Pray that ye enter not into temptation.” Certainly, Jesus must have been without food and intent on prayer to thwart any oncoming future temptation. This constituted a true fast.

The purpose was to draw closer, or to remain closer to God his Father, “to seek of him a right way.”[20] This is an important and critical time in Jesus’ life. This fasting was in preparation of his ministry that was soon to begin. Fasting, as is shown by Jesus is an important and critical step that one should take before taking on an intense trial or purpose. Jesus fasts before his temptation of the devil and his disciples cannot cast away an evil spirit because, “this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”[21]

Command This Stone to be Made Bread

We do not know if the Devil appears to Jesus visually, audibly or even by thoughts, but we do know that there is contact between them both for, “the devil said unto him, if thou be the Son of God, command this stone that It be made bread.”

We know that Jesus had powers over physical environments such as the calming of the waves and the turning of water into wine so it was probably something he could easily do. But why did he not do it this time is explained below.

Here Satan tempts Jesus upon his struggle for food, a struggle of appetite. But, “Satan was not simply tempting Jesus to eat…Satan’s temptation was to have him eat in a spectacular way.” [22] Isaiah says that one of the purposes of fasting is to, “deal thy bread to the hungry.” [23] Here Satan takes on the role of master deceiver.

Satan decides to play the role of helper and Savior only on his condition that Jesus proves by a sign that he is the Son of God. Satan of course did not need a sign that he was the Son of God, but it was his way to place doubt in Jesus’ mind, thus the ‘if’ clause by each taunt that Satan gives.

A Powerful Force Creates a Defining Moment

The power of appetite is real and Satan knows this. David O. McKay once said, “A person's reaction to his appetites and impulses when they are aroused gives the measure of that person's character.” [24]

Under Jesus’ extremity of the lack of food, we find his true character. The defining moment of a man’s character is determined upon the extremity of the situation that he finds himself in.

“It might well be stated as a rule of human nature that when a man reaches his greatest extremity—a moment of extreme danger, pain, emotion, or critical need, a point in life which is marked by imminent destruction or death—the true nature of his soul becomes evident from statements he makes at that crucial time.”

Words in Times of Crisis Reveal Soul

McKay then goes on to say, “Why? Because a man’s words mirror his innermost soul. His speech betrays what his character is really like—the quality of his concerns, his compassion, his love—the whole focus or thrust of his life, whether noble or mean, depraved or exalted.

At his greatest extremity, the very depths of his soul are bared for all to view; the intensity of the moment calls forth comments that mirror his inner self. A glorious example of this rule is the life of Jesus of Nazareth. His last seven recorded utterances permit all the world to see and know the true quality of his character and the divine nature of his soul.” [25]

But Jesus’ response to Satan’s temptation was simply a resort to the Torah [26], “And Jesus answered him, saying, it is written, that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” [27]

Here we learn that there are two types of sustenance necessary for life: the bread of man and the bread of God.

We also learn from Jesus’ resort to scripture that he at this time was a master in scriptures, having memorized the Torah like other Rabbis so strenuously sought to do. There is great power and strength in memorizing scripture, as Jesus has shown. Not only his memorization, but his constant pondering and understanding of the law were truly written upon his heart. This is what got him out of the grasps and chains of Satan.

The Devil Took Him to a Mountain

Both Matthew and Luke say that it was the Devil that took Jesus into an high mountain.
Does the Devil really have power to transport others just as the previously mentioned Holy Spirit? This is the first and only time Satan has power to take Jesus to a high mountain.

Could This Be a Translation Error?

I consider this to be a serious translation problem. The Joseph Smith Translation replaces, “devil” with “the spirit.”

According to Matthew and Luke the Spirit that previously transported Jesus to the Judean desert has now abandoned him to Satan’s power of transporting Jesus where ever he desires. This is not believable to me. Satan has power only as God allows him. This is shown in the story of Job, as God gives Satan permission to try and tempt the man. I highly doubt that God would allow the Devil to transport Jesus to anywhere.

Luke tells us that the devil “shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.” [28] If you remember, Moses had the same experience as well.[29]

The purpose of Satan showing him the kingdoms of the world is explained in the following verses.
·         And the devil said unto him, all this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.” [30] This is the first time ever that Satan claims to have power. This is a myriad of temptations balled up into one. This is a temptation of pride, lust, vanity, power and riches.

·         Scripturally speaking it is not even Satan’s to give. It is only Gods to give. “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers.” [31] Satan’s proposition to give Jesus the kingdoms of this earth fell upon deaf ears. For Jesus may have known that if he were to be, “faithful to his Father and obedient to every commandment”, he would inherit “all that [the] Father hath,” [32] and not just the kingdoms of the earth.

·         This temptation must have been enticing to Jesus whose humble birth was in a lowly atmosphere and his occupation as a carpenter faired him no great wealth. “If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.” [33] Satan is desperate and intent on destroying, he would that all humankind be under his control. Remember that one third of the hosts of heaven fell under his spell.[34]


Get Thee behind Me Satan

“And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me,Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” [35]

Jesus is known to have said this to Satan himself and later on to his leading disciple and Apostle Peter.[36] His own reference to, “get thee behind me,” would not imply for Satan to then become a disciple as was his call to some of the twelve, “follow me.”

This was a statement regarding symbolism. This is the second time Jesus refers to written scripture to defend his position for righteousness. [37]

“And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.”

Here Satan tries to become Master Theologian as he, too, can quote memorized scripture. He chooses Psalms 91:11-12, “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.”

Even the Devil Quotes Scripture

Time, and time again we see people use scripture to defeat the purposes of God.,

Satan used scripture to tempt Jesus. The Sadducees used scripture to their belief that there is no resurrection. [38] The Pharisees used scripture to prohibit the service to others during the Sabbath. [39]

Just answering because someone is incredibly talented in their knowledge and in the memorizing of scripture does not sustain them as one who is holy, but could on the contrary,  sustain them as someone who is unholy. Evidence shows that something more is needed than the knowledge of scripture to inherit God’s Kingdom.

Jesus all three times resorts to Scripture

Jesus’ response to Satan’s temptation to throw himself off the heights of the temple is rebuked by Jesus quoting Deuteronomy 6:16[40], “It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” [41] Jesus’ understanding of the law is truly remarkable. Even at the age of twelve years old, Jesus is at the temple sitting in the midst of doctors of the law. “And they were hearing him, and asking him questions,[42] and all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.” [43]



Satan Departed Him for a Season

The scripture says, “And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. ”[44]

Jesus escaped from the temptations of Satan by the use of Scriptures and a desire to adhere to them. God will never allow a temptation to come upon us that we are not able to bear. “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” [45]

The saying, “the devil made me do it,” can no longer be upon the lips of a true Christian.

And, when one cannot endure a temptation it is because he is drawn away of his own lust. “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” [46]

Isaiah teaches of the redemption of those who have faith to overcome temptation. He says those who “wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” [47] For, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations.” [48]


[1] Truman G. Madsen
[2] Hebrews 4:15
[3] Mosiah 3:7
[4] Luke 3:1
[5] At the Baptism of Jesus we find the distinction between Jesus, The Holy Spirit and God
[6] Luke 4:1
[7] Luke 4:4, 8
[8] Luke 4:1, Matthew 4:1
[9] See http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/the-fourfold-gospel/by-sections/jesus-tempted-in-the-wilderness.html , http://www.thestoryofjesus.com/expand3_16.html
[10] The Mortal Messiah¸ p. 413
[11] Genesis 7:12
[12] Exodus 24:18, 34:28
[13] 1 Kings 19:8
[14] Numbers 13:25
[15] 1 Samuel 17:16
[16] Ezekiel 4:6
[17] Jonah 3:4
[18] See studies done by  http://www.40daydetox.com/40-days-its-physiological-psychological-and-spiritual-significance-day-35/
[19] Luke 4:2
[20] Ezra 8:21
[21] Matthew 17:21
[22] Elder Howard W. Hunter, “The Temptations of Christ.”
[23] Isaiah 59:17
[24] LDS General Conference, April 1964
[25] The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, p185
[26] Deuteronomy 8:3
[27] Luke 4:4
[28] Luke 4:5
[29] Deuteronomy 34:1-3
[30] Luke 4:6-7
[31] Colossians 1:16
[32] Doctrine and Covenants 84:38
[33] Luke 4:7
[34] Revelations 12:4
[35] Luke 4:8
[36] Matthew 16:23
[37] Deuteronomy 10:20, Exodus 20:5, Exodus 7:16
[38] See Matthew 22:23-33
[39] Luke 6:7, Mark 2:24
[40] “Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God.” KJV
[41] Luke 4:12
[42] JST of Luke2:46
[43] KJV of Luke 2:47
[44] Luke 4:13
[45] 1 Corinthians 10:13
[46] James 1:14-15
[47] Isaiah 40:31
[48] 2 Peter 2:9
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The Temptation of Jesus Christ by Michael A. Hickman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.



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BYU Carpet Cleaner

I carpet clean the Mission Training Center and love the gospel of Jesus Christ. These posts contain my experiences, thoughts and opinions on spiritual things.

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