In Genesis Three we see the Temptation of the first Adam, (along with his wife).There is much to learn in the account, about the nature of the adversary, human psychology, and the power of well crafted lies to seduce us.
In Matthew Four we have another temptation narrative, that of the ‘last Adam’. The Lord Jesus Christ had been baptized and affirmed by the very voice of God, and anointed with the Spirit of God, when he was “led” of the Spirit out into the wilderness. It was time to engage in the Spiritual conflict.
He is tempted as a man, and not in a garden of delights, but fittingly in a harsh and unforgiving desert. He is alone, and all he has as a resource is his memory of Scripture.He has been fasting, and in much prayer. At the point in the fast where the hunger would re-emerge with a vengeance, the Tempter came to Him.
The tempter spoke to Him, and He knew it was the serpent’s voice,
“If you are truly the Son of God, Turn these stones into bread…”.
The first temptation had this in common with the original temptation, it had to do with food. We all need food for our sustenance, there is no question about that, and furthermore, a man fasting for forty days is greatly aware of his need for food. The smooth stones in the various Wadis’ that the Judean wilderness teemed with, would actually resemble loaves of bread, especially after forty days of fasting.
But the temptation ran deeper, for He was being tempted to do something ‘out of himself’ about his need, to use the power which God had entrusted to him to miraculously turn these stones into bread.
Underneath every temptation, no matter how seemingly mundane, a religious principle is being called into question, far deeper issues are at stake.
The issue in this case is, ‘would Jesus rely on the Father alone to feed him in His time? Or should Jesus take matters into his own hands, and “use” God’s power to solve his own problem and meet his own need? Satan was calling on Jesus to take matters into his own hands, and to prove to himself that indeed He really was the Son of God!
But Jesus drew from a very deep stream in his life as a man, the knowledge of scripture. In this case there was already a scriptural similitude to Jesus’ temptation other than the temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden. Jesus knew he was retracing he steps of the nation of Israel, for they too had been brought out int the wilderness to be tempted sorely, that they might learn one important lesson,
And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.(Deuteronomy 8:2-3)
The one great lesson intended in the wilderness was that we do not live by physical bread alone, nor by anything temporal and material ; education, entertainment, approval, the honor of our fellow men, will all temporarily satisfy but eventually fall short.We were made to be sustained by something much higher and purer.
Nothing the material world has to offer is adequate to satisfy our deepest longing, which happen to be spiritual. We will never be able to live without communion with God himself, and that remains impossible to us, because of sin and alienation from God.
This is why it is not simply a matter of Jesus “using” the power entrusted to Him by his power, to “turn those stones into bread”, on his own volition and impetus.
The true Bread by which man lives is, and can only be received as a gift from God, and granted to us by God at his initiative.
Jesus was waiting for God to feed him, in the wilderness, he would not succumb to the temptation to “turn those stones into bread” on his own initiative.
Only God’s Word can be to us the true “bread of Life”, We can only truly live by utter dependance upon God, for everything! God’s word is our true food and sustenance.
Thus Jesus drew from the scripture implanted in his heart, and in the midst of temptation spoke, “It is written…”.
Why should the person who is in very truth the eternal Word of God, and the true author and originator of all scripture, have to say “It is written…”? Couldn’t he legitimately say, “I command…” or “I have spoken….”? Why does he speak in the third person, “It is written….?
The answer is that Jesus is being tempted as a man, and not his own man, but as a man under God and under the authority of God, and citing to Word of God as an authority. By saying “It is written…He is invoking an authority above Himself as a man, and standing underneath that authority in his conflict with the Devil.
This is hugely significant, to us in these modern days of ungrounded self confidence, and false spiritual warfare teaching, which have actually encouraged believers to do the very opposite of Jesus, and to rail on Satan and the demons. Jude an Peter warn us against this practice though,
Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.(Jude 8-10)
Jesus does no such thing, rather he stands in his pace as a man under God and under the very authority of the scriptures, and invokes those scriptures in the very face of the Devil. He knows what the temptation really is and the underlying religious principle at stake, and that the issue goes far beyond the mere satisfaction of a temporal hunger.
He quotes the passage in Deuteronomy, “…Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God…”.