While the first three gospels record the temptation of Jesus, the writer to the Hebrews tells us why it was necessary. Through His temptations, Jesus experienced a human trial. As a result, He could be a help to us when the devil tempts. The writer to the Hebrews proclaims, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” As I reflected on this experience in the life of Jesus, I considered what happened before the temptation, during the temptation and after it.
Before the Temptation
The temptation of Jesus follows His baptism. At His baptism, the Spirit descended as a dove and declared, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus was at a defining moment in His life. He had arrived at the pinnacle of His ministry and was full of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit then leads Him out into the wilderness for a purpose – temptation. Matthew writes that the Spirit led Jesus into this encounter for the devil to tempt Him. The apostle James clarifies that evil does not tempt God nor does He tempt anyone.
During the Temptation
Luke writes that the devil tempted Jesus for forty days. During that time, Jesus did not eat. The devil harassed Him to misuse His calling for His own needs. He needled Him, “If you are the Son of God.” He twisted the scriptures. He offered Him an easier way. Jesus didn’t defend His identity, speak of His purpose, nor use His authority. Rather in humility He used the sword of the Spirit. And as Paul instructed Timothy, He rightly divided the word of truth. He knew the power of God’s word, and He wielded it.
After the Temptation
There came an end to the temptation. There was also the knowledge it would happen again. Matthew writes that when the devil left, the angels came and ministered to Jesus. What a marvelous comfort! Such comfort comes to us as we fix our eyes on Jesus, to learn from His example, and to rest in His victory. Because of His experience, we learn when and where temptations come from, what they might look like, how to deal with them, and though many, they are only temporary. These fresh insights have come from looking to the life of Jesus, what happened before the temptation, during the temptation and after it.