The Temptation in the Wilderness

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to him, he said, if thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down; for it is written he shall give his angels charge concerning thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him; and behold, angels came and ministered unto him.

— Matthew 4:1-11 

Think of our Lord’s understanding, imagination, and heart, in which lay the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Must he not have known, felt, imagined, and rejoiced in things that could not be told in human words, nor understood by human hearts? There is no attempt made to convey to us even the substance of the battle of those forty days. Such a conflict of spirit as absorbed all the human necessities of The Man in the cares of the Godhead could not be intelligible to us. It is not till the end of those forty days that the divine event begins to become human enough to be capable of being spoken in human forms to the ears of men.

Emerging from the storms of the ocean of divine thought and feeling, bearing with him the treasures won in the strife, our Lord is an hungered; and from this moment the temptation is human, and can be in some measure understood by us. But the inward experiences of our Lord could be conveyed to the disciples only in a parable. For far plainer things than these, our Lord chose this form, for it is the fullest form in which truth can be embodied, and to the parable will the teacher of the truth ever return. He who asserts that the passage contains a simple narrative of actual events must explain how Satan could be so foolish as to think that the temptation he presented could have tempted our Lord.  But told as a parable, the story is as full of meaning as it would be bare if received as a narrative. 


by Earle Canty

The Scriptures tell us that, after His baptism by John, Jesus fasted for forty days and nights.  They tell us nothing else about what He did during that time.  Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit, not by Satan, but because He is God, He knows what lies before him.  He does not grow hungry until the end of the forty days and nights.  How can that be?  While He is God, He is also human and we know that a human cannot fast for forty days and nights without getting hungry within the first few days.  We must conclude that Jesus was in fellowship with the Father in a way that would be unintelligible to a human, a way that a human could not fathom.  As soldiers train in preparation for battle, Jesus trained in preparation for a battle of cosmic proportions.  When the preparation was complete, He became hungry, a reaction that a human can readily grasp.

Why did Jesus teach His disciples through parables?  Why not just tell them what He wanted them to know or do?  There is an adage that a picture is worth a thousand words.  Parables are word pictures that Jesus used to convey many fundamental principles to His disciples.  These fundamental principles are the essence of who Jesus is, and how we are to live.  They come alive in parables and leave the hearer with a clear understanding of those fundamental principles.  In Mathew 13:10-16, Jesus answers the disciples question, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”  He explains that the hearer needs spiritual eyes to see and spiritual ears to hear in order to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.  The crowd may be large, but despite the vivid picture being painted by the parable, only a proportion of that crowd will understand because they have eyes to see and ears to hear.