3 The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." 4 Jesus answered, "It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (Matt 4:3-4)
The devil assumes that Jesus is able to produce miraculous bread in the wilderness. That’s what the Son of God has always done (e.g. Exodus 16). And it's what He would do again (Matthew 14 and 15). But in those cases the Son of God provides bread for others and in so doing proves Himself to be the true Bread, torn apart to feed the world (John 6:48-51).
But Jesus will not feed Himself. He has come to die – and a death far worse than starvation – to feed others. And so He says: I entrust Myself utterly to My Father, knowing I can abandon everything to My Father and live. That’s round 1.
Round 2 is fought along similar lines:
5 Then the devil took Him to the holy city and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "`He will command his angels concerning You, and they will lift You up in their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.'" 7 Jesus answered him, "It is also written: `Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
The devil, like so many of his servants, is a preacher. And he knows enough of the bible to know that the Psalms proclaim the Son of God. So he says to Jesus – “Psalm 91, as everyone knows, concerns the Son of God. Well then if you are the One of Psalm 91, you’ll be able to do this celestial bunjee jump and the angels will catch you.”
In a future post we'll consider Christ's rejection of this kind of PR stunt.
But the bottom line is, Jesus won’t cave. He has come to hurl Himself down, and not simply to be dashed on the stones of the temple courts. He had come to hurl Himself into the great Abyss for us. And explicitly at His arrest He refuses the help of angels to prevent it (Matthew 26:53-54). As Son of God He must die on that cross and though 12 legions of angels are on 24 hour stand-by, the Scriptures must be fulfilled. The Son of Man must go as it is written of Him - He must be the One who dies. Jesus will not test His Father but obey Him, even to the point of death.
Round 2 resisted.
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. 9 "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." 10 Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"
Satan is the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) - not by right but by popular choice. The world does indeed follow the devil and his lying, self-serving, death-dealing ways. So Satan offers Jesus the chance to form a coalition government. Satan says, "Let’s not be enemies here. You know what it will cost you to dethrone me (Gen 3:15) – it will cost your life. Let me offer you another way. Let’s rule the world together. Forget the painful business of eradicating evil, compromise with it and you can avoid the whole way of the cross."
But Jesus will receive the Kingdom from His Father, not the devil. He will not bow to Satan, He will crush Him. Though it cost Him His life, Jesus will not compromise with evil. His heart is wholly for God His Father and so His heart is wholly for the cross.
Christ proves Himself to be exactly who the Father had declared. He is the beloved Son of God because through every temptation to the contrary He resolves not to serve Himself but others. He will not save Himself but save others. This is the only power to defeat the ultimate Egotist. Everyone else in the history of the world has failed Satan's tests. No-one has ever walked the way of the cross like this. But the True Son of God did. And Satan must depart.
But as Luke says, Satan limps off only to regather his strength for future assaults (Luke 4:13). We'll consider these in the next post (here).