After Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, He was directed by the spirit of God to the wilderness, where he was tempted three times by Satan. However, the Bible says in the book of Hebrews that even though he was tempted, he was without sin. In other words, he did not fall into temptation. There is a lot we can learn from these three temptations that Jesus overcame.
The three temptations by Satan in the wilderness are covered in Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13 and Luke 4:1-13.
- The first temptation symbolizes the things of the flesh
- The second temptation symbolizes worldly power
- The third temptation symbolizes worldly recognition.
The symbolic meanings of the three temptations are similar to those mentioned in 1 John 2: 16-17: “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever”
In the three temptations, Jesus uses God’s word to ensure victory over Satan. He confronts the devil with biblical truth by declaring “it is written” and then quoting scripture. Furthermore, through the temptations, the devil wanted Christ to act in His own timing instead of waiting for God’s plan to be fulfilled.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the temptations and what they symbolize below:
First Temptation Symbolizes Things of the Flesh
In the first temptation, Satan approached Jesus and said,
“If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:3-4).
We know that Jesus had the power to turn stones into bread because He fed 5,000 people with three loaves and two fishes (Matthew 14:13-21). His power is also portrayed by turning water into wine (John 2:1-11) as well as through many other similar miracles. However, Jesus did not respond to the temptation by performing miracles. Instead, He demonstrated His faith in God to provide for His needs. So, turning stones into bread symbolizes the temptation to prioritize immediate physical needs and desires. In short, the devil first tempts Jesus with things of the flesh, symbolized by the bread.
The tempter came after Jesus had stayed in the wilderness for 40 days and nights. He must have been weak, and Satan saw it as an opportunity to tempt Him in the flesh. However, Jesus was not vulnerable to the deceits of Satan; that’s why He didn’t give in even though He was hungry.
The answer given by Jesus also signifies the importance of spiritual nourishment. He made it clear that bread was not the only sustenance man needed. He made it clear that the word of god was more important than physical food.
The Second Temptation Symbolizes Worldly Power
The second temptation symbolizes our desire for power. The test taps into a fundamental aspect of human nature—the desire for control and dominance. The symbolism lies in the allure of wielding power and authority on a grand scale.
In this temptation, Satan tells Jesus to jump off a temple if he’s truly the Son of God (Matthew 4:5-7). Jesus responds by affirming that one should not put the Lord to the test. This emphasizes the importance of trusting God without deliberately putting ourselves in harm’s way and expecting miraculous intervention.
Besides, by resisting this temptation, Jesus sets an example of prioritizing spiritual values over the immediate gratification of worldly power. Jumping from the Pinnacle of the Temple also symbolizes the temptation to seek validation or test God’s protection for personal gain. Jesus refuses to question God’s love and flaunt His power.
The second temptation can also be associated with the lust of the eyes. This term describes the temptation to seek pleasure and satisfaction through material possessions. It could also be interpreted to mean the things of the world or the pride of life (things of the world that can lead to boasting or arrogance).
By telling Jesus to jump from the pinnacle of the temple, Satan challenges Jesus to test God’s protection and intervene miraculously. Therefore, the second temptation teaches about putting trust and faith in God without demanding proof. Another lesson learned from this temptation is the importance of trusting God’s plan instead of seeking tangible proof of divine presence.
In His response, Jesus teaches against compromising spiritual principles for personal gain or glory. Thus, the second temptation was to test spiritual integrity and the right use of spiritual gifts. This lesson is significant because, despite Jesus being sinless, he was fully human. Thus, when we face temptations, we should follow Jesus’ example and rely on scripture to overcome challenges.
The Third Temptation Symbolizes Worldly Recognition
When Satan tempts Jesus with dominion over worldly kingdoms, it symbolizes the allure of power as a means to elevate status and fulfill a desire for self-importance. If Jesus had bowed to Satan in exchange for worldly possessions, He would have committed the sin of idolatry. In the book of Exodus 20:3, God expressly commanded that we shouldn’t worship any other god. Jesus understood this command and made it clear that only God should be worshipped. By so doing, Jesus provided an example that continues to be relevant over time for Christians to resist compromises by rejecting worldly glory.
The third temptation also illustrates the pride of life by appealing to the desire for power and worldly success. Jesus’ refusal to accept the devil’s offer teaches about resisting the pride of life and prioritizing spiritual values over worldly success.
To conclude, the Gospel shows that Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness where He was tempted by Satan three times. This happened after Jesus had fasted for 40 days and nights. During this time Jesus was human, and His body was weak. By approaching Jesus when He was physically weak, the devil sought to exploit this vulnerability and make the temptations easier to succumb to. However, Jesus did not give in to the devil’s temptations. In doing so, the Son of God showed that although He was human and subject to temptation He remained sinless. (Hebrews 4:15).