Jesus is Tested in the Wilderness

Matthew 4:1-11

Tunc Jesus ductus est in desertum a Spiritu, ut tentaretur a diabolo. Et cum jejunasset quadraginta diebus, et quadraginta noctibus, postea esuriit. Et accedens tentator dixit ei: Si Filius Dei es, dic ut lapides isti panes fiant. Qui respondens dixit: Scriptum est: Non in solo pane vivit homo, sed in omni verbo, quod procedit de ore Dei. Tunc assumpsit eum diabolus in sanctam civitatem, et statuit eum super pinnaculum templi, et dixit ei: Si Filius Dei es, mitte te deorsum. Scriptum est enim: Quia angelis suis mandavit de te, et in manibus tollent te, ne forte offendas ad lapidem pedem tuum. Ait illi Jesus: Rursum scriptum est: Non tentabis Dominum Deum tuum. Iterum assumpsit eum diabolus in montem excelsum valde: et ostendit ei omnia regna mundi, et gloriam eorum, et dixit ei: Hæc omnia tibi dabo, si cadens adoraveris me. Tunc dicit ei Jesus: Vade Satana: Scriptum est enim: Dominum Deum tuum adorabis, et illi soli servies. Tunc reliquit eum diabolus: et ecce angeli accesserunt, et ministrabant ei.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days, and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. And the tempter, approaching, said to him, “If you are the son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” He answered and said, “It is written, man lives not only on bread, but on every word which proceeds from the mouth of God.” Then the Devil took him up into a holy city, and he set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the son of God, cast thyself downwards. For it is written, ‘That he has given his angels charge over  you, and and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest by chance you dash your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'” Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and he showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory, and said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you shall fall and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan, for it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve only him.” Then the Devil left him, and behold the angels came and ministered to him.

Vocabulary

  1. postea — afterwards
  2. deorsum — downwards
  3. tollent — they shall bear (or raise) you up
  4. rursum — again
  5. iterum — again
  6. vade — be gone

Commentary

In the last chapter, Jesus is baptized, and afterwards he sees the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove, and hears his Father’s voice calling out from the heavens. I think it is noteworthy that Jesus communes with both the Father and the Holy Spirit right before his encounter with Satan. I also think it’s meaningful that he is hungry. It is one thing to be tempted when we are satisfied; it is all the more difficult to be tempted after we have fasted forty days.

Satan makes three petitions to Jesus. The first is an appeal to his hunger. “If you are the son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus responds by saying that the word of God sustains man, not just bread. This is fitting, as the word of God sustains Jesus during his encounter with Satan. In response to each of Satan’s petitions, Jesus cites scripture, thereby proving how the word of God reigns supreme over Satan.

The first two petitions are similar in form. Satan seems to be taking a playful or even mocking tone. If you are really the son of God, prove it to me, he seems to be saying. But in the last petition, Satan changes tack. “All these I shall give to you, if you shall fall and worship me.” It is clear that Satan wants two things. First, he wants us to fall, and second, he wants us to worship him. These are the motivations of the devil.

But Jesus tells Satan that God alone shall be worshipped, and God alone shall be served. This really takes the wind out of Satan’s sails. Jesus is telling Satan that it is not his lot to be worshipped, that honor belongs to God alone. The duality of Jesus as man and God shows in this passage. The first response of Jesus tells us something about man: that man can resist temptation by adhering to the word of God. But the next two responses tell us something about God. That God cannot be tempted, and only God can be worshipped.

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