Consider Christianity Online Library

The Temptation of Jesus

Things to Notice

Potential Problems

A - Mark only refers to the temptation, he gives no details C - Matthew and Luke have a different order for the last two temptations
B - Jesus responds to Satan with scripture  



Matthew 4:1-11

Mark 1:12-13

Luke 4:1-13

1Then Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. 2And having fasted forty days and forty nights afterward he hungered.  12And immediately the Spirit drives him out into the desert. 13And he was in the desert forty days being tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts,


1And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit in the desert 2forty days being tempted by the devil. And he ate not anything in those days, and when they were ended, he hungered. 
3And approaching, the tempting one said to him, 
“If you are the Son of God, speak so that these stones may become loafs.” 4But answering, he said, 
“It has been written, ‘Not on bread only shall live man, but on every word proceeding through the mouth of God. 


3And the devil said to him:
"If you are the Son of God, tell this stone that it become a loaf." 
4And Jesus replied to him, 
"It has been written that 'Not on bread only shall live man.'" ††
5Then the devil takes him into the Holy City, and sets him on the wing of the temple, 6and tells him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it has been written, that  ‘He will give commands to his angels concerning you’ and ‘on hands they will bear you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” 7Jesus said to him, “Again it has been written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” 


5And leading up him he showed him all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth in a moment of time. 6And the devil said to him "To you I will give all this authority, and the glory of them, because to me it has been delivered and to whomever I wish I give it, 7therefore if you will worship before me, all will be yours. 8And answering, Jesus said to him: "It has been written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'" 


8Again the devil takes him to a very high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, 9and said to him, “All these things I will give to you, if falling you will worship me. 10Then Jesus says to him, “Go Satan†, for it has been written, ‘The Lord your God you shall worship and him only you shall serve.’” 


9And he led him to Jerusalem and set [him] on the wing of the temple, and said to him: "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10for it has been written, that 'He will give commands to his angels concerning you to preserve you,' 11and that 'on hands they will bear you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" 12And answering, Jesus said to him that "It has been said, 'You shalt not tempt the Lord your God.'" 
Then the devil leaves him and behold angels approached and ministered to him. and the angels ministered to him. 13And having finished every temptation, the devil went away form him until a season. 
BOLD Things to notice
* Notes on the Greek text
†  Textual Issue
Italic Identical in the Greek

† Mt 4:10 Some mss: "Go away from me Satan"
†† Lk 4:4 Some mss add: "but on every word of God" or "but in every word of God" or "but on every word proceeding through the mouth of God."


Immediately following his baptism and identification as the Messiah, Jesus went out into the desert for forty days of prayer and fasting. After that time, Satan came and tempted Jesus three times. 

One of the first things we notice about this account is that it is fully recounted by only two Gospels (Mt & Lk), briefly mentioned by Mark, and not mentioned at all by John. 

Mark's briefness has led some scholars to conclude that Mark wrote first, and that Matthew and Luke are expanded versions of Mark. Others however, see such a short account as indicating that Mark's readers were already familiar with the story. Would Mark have made a reference to Jesus being tempted by the Devil himself and not give any details, unless his readers already knew the story? You decide.

An interesting thing to see in this passage is how Satan tried to tempt Jesus. The temptations of the bread and at the temple both begin with "If you are the Son of God." What then follows is a challenge to use the power (turn stones to bread) or privilege (the promise of protection) that is accorded to the Son of God. 

Now it would seem clear that Jesus did have this power. For example, he was later to do even more. He did not just create bread out of stone, he created bread out of nothing during the feeding of the five thousand.

In the third temptation, Jesus is also challenged to claim what is rightfully his, the kingdoms of the world. But if Jesus rightfully had the power to create bread, demand protection, or claim authority, then where is the temptation?

The answer is found in Jesus' reply. To these temptations Jesus replied that God is more important than food, that we must not tempt God, and that God is whom we worship and serve. It is not the other way around. God is not our servant. 

The temptation was to use power and privileges that rightfully belong to Jesus, not for the glory of God, but for his own purposes - to use them in an incorrect way. As Jesus later told the Jews, "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself, he can only do what he sees his Father doing" (Jn 5:19).

Another interesting thing to notice in Jesus' reply to Satan is his use of Scripture. In His reply, we can see the authority that Jesus placed on Scripture. The Word of God, correctly interpreted, was all the authority needed to prove His case. 

We can also see in Satan's attacks that scripture can be twisted if taken out of context. But Jesus' reply does give us a test we can apply: "Is the result for my own benefit, or for the glory of God?"

There is one potential problems that as been cited in this passage. Even a quick comparison of Mt and Lk reveals that they differ concerning the order of the temptations.

Actually, this is not really a difficult problem, for the Gospels did not always follow a chronological order. Sometimes they are topical or thematic. Luke centers much of his gospel around Jerusalem, and so has chosen to end the temptations there. It is pretty clear from reading the passages that Matthew is following a chronological order [And approaching... (v3); Then... (v 5); Again (v8)]; while Luke does not [And... (v3); And... (v5); And ... (v9)].

As always, be sure to read over and study the passages for yourself, for in doing so you will come to a better understanding of God's Word.