The Temptation of Jesus

A Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS 31 Oct 2010 (some material from Jan 2002 sermon delivered to Rocky Mountain Presbytery)


Intro: Blue House Logic test:

Imagine you are walking up to a one-story house called the Blue House.

·         The roof is blue, the siding is blue, and even the door is blue.

·         You step into the house and find that the ceiling is blue, the walls are blue, and even the floor is blue!

·         The curtains on the windows are blue, and so are the couches in the living room.

·         The dining room table is blue, and so are the chairs.

·         Even the chandelier is blue.

·         Now, here’s your test question. What color are the stairs?

·         ANSWER: I told you at the beginning, this is a one-story house. There are no stairs!


I tell you this to illustrate the importance of remembering foundational truths. When Jesus was tempted, He was tempted to forget or forsake the powerful truth of His father’s commissioning statement at His baptism: “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased.”


It is also important for us to keep this foundational statement firmly in mind, let’s start this morning at the end of chapter 3:

Matt 3:16. Now, after being baptized, Jesus immediately went up from the water, and the heavens were like opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon Him, 17. and like a voice out of the heavens saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I delight.[1]

What does it mean that God delights or is well-pleased with His Son?

Cross-references to eudokew[2]

·         Meaning: eu- “good” + dokew “think” – think well of, be pleased with, show good-will toward.

·         Could well be an allusion to Isa. 42:1 “Look, my servant; I hold with Him, My chosen one, delight of my soul; I set my Spirit upon Him; He will cause justice to go out to the nations.”

o       Matt. 12:18 quotes Isa. 42:1 from the MT (not the LXX – in which eudok- does not appear) and says Jesus fulfilled this when he healed the man with the withered hand.

·         God repeats this statement at the transfiguration: Mat 17:5b “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; heed Him” (cf. 2 Pet 1:17).

·         God’s delight in His son is also seen in Col 1:19 “For it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him [Jesus] should all the fulness dwell”


How does God’s good pleasure work?

·         God is not “pleased” with people who “crave evil” 1Cor 10:5-6, Mal 2:17, Jer 2:19 (LXX)

·         Heb 10:6 “In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure” (cf. v.8)

·         Jer 14:10-12 Explains that when people offer sacrifices while they still love to wander away from unrighteousness, God has no delight in these kind of hypocrites. (cf. Psalm 51:16-19)

·         Therefore, the writer of Hebrews states that it is unshrinking faith that God is pleased with: “But my righteous one shall live by faith: And if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him” (Heb 10:38, quoting the LXX of Hab 2:4 – not the MT)

·         The writer of Psalm 147 understood this: v.10 “He delights not in the strength of the horse: He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. 11 Jehovah takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His lovingkindness.”


God is “well-pleased” to save His people when they are humble before Him!

·         Lev 26:41 “I also walked contrary to them, and I will destroy them in the land of their enemies: if then their uncircumcised heart be humbled, and they will become pleasing apart from their sins; 42 then I will remember the covenant with Jacob and the covenant with Isaac, and I will remember my covenant with Abraham.” (LXX)

·         2 Sam 22:20 “He brought me forth also into a large place; He delivered me, because he delighted in me.” (cf. Ps. 18)

·         Psa 44:3 “For they did not take over the land by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them, but rather Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your face, because You were pleased with them.”

·         Psa 149:4 “Jehovah takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the meek with salvation” (cf. 40:13, 85:1, 102:13)

·         Luke 2:14  "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

·         Luke 10:21 [Jesus] “rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, ‘I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.’” (cf. Mt. 11:25)

·         Luke 12:32 “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

·         1Cor 1:21b “…it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of preaching to save the believers.”

·         Gal 1:15 “…it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me [Paul], even from my mother's womb, and called me through his grace, 16  to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles”

·         Ephesians 1:5 “He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good-pleasure of His will… 9  He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good-pleasure which He purposed in Him” (cf. Philip 2:13).


Doing things in obedience to God with faith in Him enjoined His good-pleasure:

·         The servant of Abraham performed his task of finding a wife for Isaac with faith in God and God and felt God’s good pleasure (Gen 24:26,48)

·         God said he was glorified by the rebuilding the temple (Hag 1:8)

·         Knowing that he enjoyed the good pleasure of the Lord, the Psalmists asked many times for God to do things for them: (1Ch. 16:10; Psa. 5:12; 19:14; 51:18; 69:13; 89:17; 106:4; 141:5; 145:16 -LXX)


So, keep this important statement by God the Father about His pleasure in His Son in mind as we turn to look at the temptation of Christ:


Read passage: Matt. 4:1-11 (My translation follows)

1. Then Jesus was led up into the desert by the Spirit to be tried by the devil.

2. And after fasting 40 days and 40 nights, He then got hungry.

3. And the Tempter came up and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, speak so that these stones become bread.”

4. But He answered saying, “It has been written, ‘Not upon bread alone will man live, but rather upon every word proceeding through the mouth of God.’”


5. Then the devil takes Him  along into the holy city and stood Him upon the wing of the temple 6. and says to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it has been written that ‘He will command His angels around you, and they shall lift you upon their hands, lest you whack your foot against a stone.’”

7.  Jesus was informing him, “Again it has been written, ‘Do not try the Lord your God.’”


8. Again the devil takes Him along onto a very high mountain and shows to Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them 9. and said to Him, “All these I will give to you if you were to fall down worshipping me.

10. Then Jesus says to him, “Get lost, Satan, for it has been written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and you shall serve Him alone.’”

11. Then the devil lets Him go, and angels like came near and were attending to Him.


Impossibility of Temptation

·         When Jesus came to be baptized, John recognized that Jesus did not need his baptism, and he objected, “I have need to be baptized by You, and You come to me?”

·         John’s baptism was impossible for someone who had not committed any sin. Likewise, the temptation of Christ is impossible if we believe that Jesus is God, for the scriptures say that “God cannot be tempted by sin” (James 1:13).

·         James had personal experience with this because Jesus was his big brother – he had seen that no matter how irritating he was as a little brother, Jesus would not sin!

·         Tempting Jesus to sin was like a babysitter tempting a 10-year-old to eat brussel sprouts. It just doesn’t work! If Jesus is God, He cannot be tempted to sin or repent of sin; it’s impossible!


And yet it says expressly in 4:1 that Jesus was led by the Spirit in order to be tempted.


Operation of H.S.

·         The Holy Spirit is the One who set the stage with a human body for Jesus within the womb of Mary.

·         The Holy Spirit is also the One who anointed Jesus at His baptism for the carrying out of His ministry

·         and this Holy Spirit is also the one who drives Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted.




Possibility of sin, Peirazw

How can I explain the unexplainable: How could Jesus, the Son of God, be tempted to sin? Was it possible for Jesus to sin? To sin would be to deny His very nature. Yet Hebrews 4 tells us that Jesus was “tempted at all points, like as we are.” All we can say is that Jesus was tempted, but remained without sin.


In this, too, He identified with us in order to be our savior. He couldn’t be our savior if He had sinned, but He couldn’t have been one of us if He hadn’t been tempted. Yet it goes deeper than that.


The Greek word for “tempt” has a broader range of meaning than the English word “tempt.” Peirazw actually has a primary meaning of testing for genuineness – trying something to see what it really is.

·         When Jesus was tried in the wilderness, He was being tested as to whether He were genuinely one of us, or if He would act as though He were not one of us.

·         Satan’s scheme was diabolical – using the very things that were natural for the Son of God in order to get the Son of Man to act out of character.


“Tempt” is used three times in this passage

  1. v.1 “led… to be tempted/tried/tested”
  2. v.3 “the Tempter/Tester/Trial lawyer” came near
  3. v.7 “you shall not tempt/try/test the Lord”

·         God can try the hearts of men to mature them in faith and take delight in their faithfulness, but we are not to try the Lord’s patience with our foolishness.

·         One tool in God’s toolbox is Satan, the Tempter whom God allows to push us out of our comfort zone so that we let our guard down and our hidden sins show up under the stress.

·         In this sense, Jesus instructed us to pray: “lead us not into temptation” – that we would not renounce our faith in God and turn back to sin and the dominion of the devil.

·         In the Lord’s prayer, “lead us not into temptation is parallel to “deliver us from the evil one.”


The Way Satan works

He said to Jesus, “If you are the son of God, do such-and-such.”

·         Jesus did not need to do anything to prove that He was the son of God. God had just told Him, “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.” There was nothing more to prove. Jesus could cling by faith to that word of God and know that He is the Son of God.

·         Direct assault on God’s statement. Satan also did this with the first Adam in Gen 3” “Did God say you couldn’t eat…?”


The Three Temptations: Next Week

I plan to examine the three temptations next, but I’m going to have to wait until next week to do that. This week, I’m just making some general observations about the temptation of Christ to set the stage for the three specific temptations.


The foundational truth is the Jesus was and is the Son of God, whose very existence is a delight to God the Father, and whose lifework as savior of mankind is a delight to God the Father.


Illustration: George Washington

This Jesus became one of us, passing up all the rights and privileges which He deserved as the Son of God, in order to save us. The magnitude of this act defies comparison, but let me tell a little story from the life of George Washington as an illustration:




  1. As a result of knowing the pleasure God finds in His Son, in saving us and making us His sons, and in our lives of obedience to him, let us also delight in the salvation Jesus offers us and let us live lives of obedience to God.

·         Believe it, Christian, God takes pleasure in you and the work of your hands! Ecc 9:7 “Go your way, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already taken pleasure in your works.”

·         We can even take pleasure in our frailties, frustrations, and failures because God is glorifying Himself through them: 2 Cor 5:8, 12:10 “Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

  1. By the way, If this is the case, then It’s o.k. to try to obey God if you don’t fully understand.

·         “v14. I have need to be baptized by thee... Though [John] remained ignorant, for a time, of some part of his public duty, this particular error did not prevent him from discharging, in a proper and lawful manner, his office of Baptist. This example shows, that we do not act rashly, in undertaking the commission which the Lord has given us, according to the light we enjoy, though we do not immediately comprehend all that belongs to our calling, or that depends upon it.” ~Calvin

  1. Pray for grace to endure temptation and prove genuine as God’s children

·         Psalm 119:10 gives us another model prayer, “…do not cause me to wander from your commandments.”

  1. Resist the temptation to do things in order to prove that we’re really Christians.

·         If you are really a child of God, do such-and-such,” whispers Satan.

·         No! Believing that we are loved by God so much that He sent His son to take our place is what makes us Christians.

·         Don’t fall into that trap of trying to do things that other Christians do in order to be a really “good” Christian.

·         It is your relationship with God by which He calls you His child that makes you a Christian. What you do will naturally (supernaturally!) flow out of that relationship, not necessarily out of copying what everybody else in church is doing.

  1. The fact that Jesus allowed Himself to be tempted shows that He held nothing back in fully identifying with us in order to save us.

·         Heb 4:14-16 “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.



[1] cf. Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22 “Thou art…”

[2] Other human judgments of what “seemed good:” 1Th 2:8, 3:1, 2Th 2:12, Rom 15:26-27, 2Ch 10:7, 2 Thess.1:11, Rom. 10:1, Philip. 1:15 Other LXX references to Eudok-: Lev 26:34, Jdg 15:7, 1Ch 29:3, 23, Job 14:4-6, Psa 49:12-13, 68:16, 77:7,119:108, Psa 150:6 (apocryphal) Son. 6:4