Jesus’ triumph over temptation began our way back MATTHEW 4:1–11
By June Renie
Today’s gospel narrates the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Soon after His baptism He was led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Jesus had been fasting for 40 days, by which time He was weak and hungry. Yet, He did not succumb to His tempter. He did not sin.
By contrast, Adam and Eve did not resist their tempter and in direct violation of God’s command, they sinned. Their sin so tarnished the human race they made us subject to original sin and in need of a redeemer.
Jesus, the second Adam, came as the promised redeemer, the sacrificial lamb to reconcile God’s people, through the cross of Calvary. Jesus’ rejection of temptation began the way back to victory over sin.
Let us examine the temptations.
“If you are the son of God tell these stones to turn into loaves,” Jesus replied citing Deuteronomy 8 “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt4: 3–4).
The devil knew that Jesus was hungry so he tempted Him with food. Knowing Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, he was not testing Jesus in His material need for food but rather in His spiritual need, for it was his desire to ruin God’s plan for Jesus, as the redeemer, by encouraging Jesus to disobey God.
It was therefore God’s plan for Jesus to be led by the Spirit into the wilderness; where He would be spiritually nourished and tested in preparation for His journey to Calvary. The testing was meant to prove Jesus as the perfect man, one who could resist sin and defeat the devil; unlike the first Adam.
Had the devil succeeded, he would have turned Jesus’ direction away from the spiritual fulfilment of God’s plan and he would have won. But in Jesus’ response He was saying that He could accept hunger and weakness if it meant obeying God. Bread alone was not the only nourishment that Jesus needed. It is also not enough for us.
“If you are the son of God, throw yourself down…” Jesus responded “scripture also says: you must not put the Lord your God to the test” (Mt 4:3).
The devil is quoting scripture. He quotes Psalm 91:11–12, a psalm of trust, “he will put you in His angels’ charge to guard you wherever you go …” It tells of how God protects His people by giving His angels charge over them.
He wants Jesus to abandon His trust in God by putting God to the test. In response Jesus quotes (Dt 6:16) “Do not put Yahweh your God to the test… Keep the commandments… do what is right and good in the eyes of Yahweh so that you may prosper…”
Faith and trust are foundational to Israel’s faith. Scripture states “Hear oh Israel the Lord our God is the one Lord, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength” (Dt 6:4–6).
The devil knew exactly what he was doing. He was trying to get Jesus to abandon His trust in God by putting Him to the test. Jesus resisted. He lost again. Jesus was God’s son; He trusted His father and had no need to put Him to the test.
“I will give you all of these … if you will fall at my feet and worship me.” It must have been an act of desperation for the devil to be so bold as to ask Jesus to worship him. He was defeated again in Jesus’ response “You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone” (Mt 4:10).
Jesus had already determined that His kingdom was not of this world. To earn it He had to accomplish His father’s mission as the Lamb of God. This was God’s plan for Jesus and for our redemption; therefore He had to be the perfect lamb, the sinless one, tempted in every way but able to resist.
“Then the devil left him and angels ministered to him”
So too will the devil leave us if we resist him.
The gospel meditations for March are by June Renie, a retired law librarian and a graduate of the Catholic Bible Institute. She is an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist at St Anthony’s parish, Petit Valley.