Why was Jesus tempted in the wilderness? We’re going to be looking at all three gospels to get to the bottom of that question. If we take a good look into all three of the gospels that mention this, we will discover some very interesting things that may often go overlooked.
Three Different Accounts of Jesus Led into the Wilderness
I guess we can start with the most direct and to the point book of Mark. We’ll go over this and dig into the 2 verses that mention it later. However I’ll add the baptism of Jesus here since it’s mentioned in all three. Mark didn’t waste any time as he included it into chapter 1.
10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: 11 And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 12 And immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness. 13 And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.
That’s Mark’s account, then right away from there in the next verse it goes into John the Baptist’s imprisonment, so let’s move on to Matthew’s account. Now Matthew chapter 4 had more to say about it than Mark, and also afterward goes into John the Baptist’s imprisonment immediately in the verse following these.
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
OK, here’s the account from Luke’s gospel and the following verses are a little different here. Unlike Matthew and Mark, Luke follows Jesus into the city and continues on with the ministry of Jesus. Luke chapter 4:
And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.
3 And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. 4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
5 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 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. 7 If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.
8 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.
9 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: 10 For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: 11 And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
12 And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 13 And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. 14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.
Led into the Wilderness
Alright, we’ve laid out the groundwork for this page with the three accounts given in the Gospels. All are different points of the same events. All three point out something very specific right off the bat. That would be the first sentence in each.
Jesus was immediately led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. Jesus didn’t go out into the wilderness because he thought it was a good idea to fast forty days and nights, or as if he needed to prove his faith in God, but was following what the Holy Spirit directed him to do. Let’s think about that.
Does anybody really expect for the Holy Spirit to lead them into the wilderness? I think if we’re honest, we more likely expect him to lead us out of the wilderness. At least I do. Lord get me outta here and fast! But do we really expect to be led into the wilderness? What for? There is an answer right in these passages. We’ll get there as we go forward into this.
Well, in the case of Jesus, we have the benefit of reading along to find out why, but I don’t think he had this information at the time. If he did, would it really have been a time of testing or temptation? Sure the Holy Spirit knew, but Jesus was here to live as a man and was tempted with the things that are common to man.
I mean the whole point behind Jesus coming in the first place is for God to give his Son as a personal sacrifice as a lamb on our behalf as a remission of sins.
1 Corinthians 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
Philippians 2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Romans 3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
Think on it for awhile… Right now, there is a man of flesh and bone, glorified, at the right hand of the Father, sitting with him on his throne.
Tempted Forty Days
God doesn’t cheat, so anything we can be tempted with or go through, Christ has been there. And in that forty days in the wilderness, I can imagine that he was tempted to quite often go against the leading of the Holy Spirit. If you read closely into the three accounts, it kind of implies that Jesus was not just fasting for forty days, but for the time he was in the wilderness it seems that temptations were right there too. Luke says ‘being forty days tempted by the devil‘. According to Luke he was forty days dealing with this.
Mark’s account mentioned wild beasts. In my mind that could do a few things. Imagine yourself alone out in the middle of nowhere in the black of night, with the only company you may have is the rustling around of something hungry close by. Would your faith in God be put to the test in those conditions? Perhaps could be a great incentive to back out, find the nearest place to lodge for some shelter and safety… Maybe a quick bite to eat.
Another area the wild beasts could become a temptation to someone who has fasted for a few days could be the taste buds. You can almost hear Satan’s whisper in his ear: Rise Jesus, kill and eat! These are the reasons I think the Holy Spirit guided Mark to mention the wild beasts. Either for a nagging food source in the face of a man that’s fasting, or the beasts desire to make him become a food source.
Thinking about it, just with a simple mention of wild beasts being around where he was in the wilderness, two things are presented that are very important to us. First is fear. Fear can cripple if not wipe away your faith in God Almighty if it is allowed to take root into you. Fear is responsible for many never lasting through their journey through the wilderness. And may cause for one to turn away from the Holy Spirit’s lead.
2 Timothy 1:7
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Second aspect of the wild beasts out there would be to end the fast. God had a plan which obviously required Jesus to fast for the duration. If Jesus fell into temptation to eat something at that time that would be the needs of the flesh trumping the lead of the Holy Spirit. If what we think we need overcomes what God is telling us to do, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate what we think our needs are. Just a thought.
Satan is not all knowing!
Thank God for that! Sure his genius is legendary, as his handiwork is visible everywhere. But, he does not know everything, and has NOTHING on God. While we’re at it, Satan has NOTHING on Christ. Jesus vs Satan is often played out as a close contest. That is also Satan’s design. The only future that he is aware of is the future that he’s been told about by God. And it doesn’t look to good for him, and he knows it.
This is what I think and am taking license here, so I’m not saying thus saying the Lord with this following remark. But, the way it reads out, it’s as if it was noticed spiritually just as strongly as physically when the Holy Spirit came down upon Jesus from above. And I’m sure anything wicked lingering around the river that day heard the voice of God saying,”Thou art my beloved Son, with whom I’m well pleased.”
Well, we read before all this that Herod slew all the children in Christ’s age group (a tactic Satan already used over and over in the Old Testament) after being born. For all we know, Satan had no clue that Jesus was the Son of God. In fact, He proves it himself with the particular line up of temptations he threw at Christ Jesus toward the end of the fast.
I’d say that the unseen creatures that give us issues today whenever the Holy Spirit takes us out into our own version of the wilderness, are the same type that were harassing Christ during the forty days. And as they had to deal with failure after failure, the guns brought out were bigger and bigger. Till finally, the boss was brought out to get it done himself. Failing miserably, and in a spiritual sense, publicly humiliated.
If Satan knew that Jesus was the Son of God, his line of questioning and tempting may have been different. If thou art the Son of God, wouldn’t need to be said, if you know what I mean. If Satan knew who Jesus was at that time, allot of things would have happened differently I would imagine. But through Christ’s perfect obedience, things went just according to God’s plan.
If you want a healthy dose of some supernatural truth, just let the Holy Spirit lead for awhile. I promise you, all the hosts of hell will take notice of you. They will do everything in their power to trip you up, attempt to bleed some fear into your heart to meddle with your faith in God the Father, or to do something different than what the Holy Spirit is leading you to do. And you can tell about where you are in your journey, as the spiritual guns that come out against you get bigger and bigger.
But that only means one thing. If you make it, you will most certainly hurt them far greater than they have the capacity of hurting you. Satan and all his kingdom want nothing to do with someone that is led by the Holy Spirit because they know who is leading you, and they are far more fearful of Him, than you are of them.
James 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
1 John 4:4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
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If He led you into the Wilderness, He’ll lead you out
I’m not going to go over the actual three attempts that Satan made because for most, that’s the only part people get out of these verses, and there’s a ton of great sites, books and videos that concentrate on the last straw Satan tries to sway Christ. However I’d like to at least say that Satan used God’s Word out of context to attempt to trip Jesus up. That’s why knowing your Bible well and in it’s context, through the lead of the Holy Spirit, is crucial to avoid being deceived. Satan uses it to trip up the Saints, and God uses it to smack down the devil, like Jesus did that very day. As Jesus did, so should we whenever necessary.
Like the subtitle says, If He led you in, He’ll lead you out. If there is a way into the wilderness there is a way out. Look at what happens after the fast, and tempting was through. Jesus walked in being led by the Spirit, but just look at how he came out on the other side of all this!
Before getting too excited, I want to wrestle a bit on why two of the three books immediately jump to John the Baptist’s imprisonment. There’s something going on with three’s here. Three gospels talking about Jesus being tempted literally by Satan three times. Bear with me…
2 gospels continue with John’s imprisonment and one is very different. Could it be that the Holy Spirit is creating a pattern here for us to discover? I offer this prayerfully. If Jesus failed or gave in to any one of the three major temptations, bondage would have been the result, perhaps in a way we’re unaware of today, using John’s imprisonment as an example or a type. Our failure to recognize the enemy’s temptations will do the same for us if we are deceived into giving in, and are lead astray, AWAY from God’s truth and the Holy Spirit’s lead.
But that one gospel that’s very different, is success, and victory! As Luke describes it:
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.
Why did God want Jesus going through all of this? There it is right there. That is Jesus completing a task successfully giving heed to the Holy Spirit the whole time, as a man filled with the Holy Spirit, overcoming all temptations that came at him. And there’s God’s plan come to fruition. Luke’s account doesn’t continue like the other two, it goes on with Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit, continuing on doing all kinds of miracles, and jump starting his ministry in truth and in power!
You walk in to the wilderness being led by the Spirit, and walk out of the wilderness in the power of the Holy Spirit!
To follow up with the most difficult temptation that Jesus ever had to undergo, please read my post on The Temptation of Jesus. For more about the striving of Satan against Jesus I recommend checking out the book entitled Kingdom of Darkness in a Fallen World. If you enjoyed this article, I’m confidant that you will enjoy the book.That particular temptation makes these discussed on this page look like child’s play in comparison.
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Thank you for reading, Why was Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness, I hope it blesses you somehow!