The Three Temptations of Jesus

(Matthew 4:1-11)

By Rev. Dr. Sergio E. Arevalo, Jr.

Eagle Rock Lutheran Church

Los Angeles, Ca

March 09, 2014


Have you already encountered a devil? I experienced to encounter one when I was the university chaplain at Wesleyan University-Philippines. The Education Department dean, my fellow pastors and I encountered a devil’s challenge. The devil possessed two female students inside the chapel. They were shouting, and scandalizing the university. We believe their ideas and voice were not theirs, but of the devil who possessed them.

wupbuilding1Led by spirit-filled dean of the College of Education, Dr. Corazon Cleto, we wrestled with the devil and casted him out from the bodies of the students. We also persuaded the students to accept the lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives. We believe that Jesus won in that instance since the devil left the students. The students did not know what happened to them after the struggle.

In our passage, Jesus was approached by the Tempter, the devil, actually the general of all devils, Satan, during the time of his physical weakness and hunger. Imagine if you are not eating for 40 days and 40 nights? When Esau/Edom was hungry he sold his birthright to Jacob (Gen.25:29-34). In other words, humanly speaking, if we are hungry, our body is in the state of exhaustion, weak, we become irritable, and decreases concentration and focus.

In that situation Satan appeared to Jesus and tempted him.

 1. The Devil Tempted Jesus as the Son of God (v.3).

Satan said to Jesus, “Since you are the Son of God,” he said, “tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”  The devil knew the power of Jesus as the Son of God and he tested it. The devil thought that Jesus was hungry so he might give in and he might “magic” loaves of bread!

Jesus’ Rebuttal (v.4): “It is written, ‘One must not live on bread alone, but on every word coming out of the mouth of God.'” The Word of God that he used is paraphrased from Deuteronomy 8:3.

“He humbled you, causing you to be hungry, yet he fed you with manna that neither you nor your ancestors had known, in order to teach you that human beings are not to live by food alone—instead human beings are to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.temptationofjesus1

 2. The Devil Tempted Jesus to Show off His Relationship with God (v.5-6).

Then the devil took him to the Holy City and had him stand on the highest point of the Temple. This “taking” is not clear to me (v.5, 8). I believe that happening in the passage is real but the “taking” or “transporting” has two interpretations: (1) Jesus defied the gravity through the help of the devil since Satan was “prince of the powers of the air” as written by the Apostle Paul (Eph.2:2). (2) Jesus might also be in trance due to his being hungry.

The devil told Jesus, “Since you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, because it is written, ‘God will put his angels in charge of you,’ and ‘With their hands they will hold you up, so that you will never hit your foot against a rock’“(v.6). The devil used the words in Psalm 91:11-12. The devil used the Scriptures to test Jesus. Jesus might be hungry but he was not a fool.

Jesus’ Rebuttal (v.7): “It is also written, ‘You must not tempt the Lord your God.'” That phrase is taken from Deuteronomy 6:16, “Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.”

 3. The Devil Tempted Jesus’ Loyalty to God (v.8-9).

Once more the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, along with their splendor. He told Jesus, “I will give you all these things if you will bow down and worship me!”

Jesus’ Rebuttal (v. 10): “Go away, Satan! Because it is written, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.'” That’s paraphrase from Deuteronomy 6:13, Fear the LORD your God, serve him, and make your oaths in his name.”


Jesus was in the wilderness among the wild animals according to the account of Mark (Mark 1:13). Jesus’ faith was tested, even his courage and wisdom. Thus we can see faith in action, courage in fearful situation, and wisdom in times of challenge.

Jesus used his knowledge of Scriptures to counter attack all temptations of the devil.

We all face challenges and temptations, from small ones to bigger ones.

The devil is not showing to us as an ugly being. Most of the time he is showing himself through beautiful things and gorgeous human beings. I tell you he is very attractive! Most of the times his arguments and reasoning are very convincing, too. We see that he used the Scriptures to tempt Jesus.

If we know our Bible, the Word of God, we might have a weapon to counter attack the temptations of the devil.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Ephesians,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord, relying on his mighty strength.

Put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the devil’s strategies.

For our struggle is not against human opponents, but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in the darkness around us, and evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm.

Put on the Armor of GodFor this reason, take up the whole armor of God so that you may be able to take a stand whenever evil comes. And when you have done everything you could, you will be able to stand firm.

Stand firm, therefore, having fastened the belt of truth around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and being firm-footed in the gospel of peace.

In addition to having clothed yourselves with these things, having taken up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to put out all the flaming arrows of the evil one, also take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (6:10-17).

The Apostle Paul writes to Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

I believe the prime temptation of the devil to us nowadays is not reading our Bible. So that we might not know the Word of God, so that we might fall to temptations of the devil. As if he is telling us now:

“No need to read your Bible, you are so tired from the whole day of work and studies. No need to read your Bible since it hinders your relaxation, it hinders in following your favorite shows (“The Legal Wife”). No need to read your Bible since you cannot understand it. No need to read your Bible since when you are reading it, you always sleep.”the-holy-bible

Martin Luther talks about the Bible, the Word of God,

“God is everywhere. However, He does not want you to reach out for Him everywhere but only in the Word. Reach out for it and you will grasp Him aright. Otherwise you are tempting God and setting up idolatry. That is why He has established a certain method for us. This teaches us how and where we are to look for Him and find Him, namely, in the Word” (

The noted Bible teacher James M. Gray told a story that emphasizes the importance of reading the Scriptures for personal growth.

He said that when he was a young Bible teacher he became deeply impressed by the peace and spiritual poise of a friend with whom he often talked.

Since Gray wanted that same stability, he asked his companion the secret of his confident bearing and positive outlook. “It all started through reading Ephesians,” said the man.

Gray was surprised by this simple response. He had read Ephesians many times but had never experienced the same strength he saw in his friend.

jamesgray1Noticing Gray’s puzzled look, the man explained. “On one occasion, when I was on a short vacation, I took a pocket edition of Ephesians with me. Lying down one afternoon, I read all six chapters. My interest was so aroused that I read the entire epistle again. In fact, I did not finally lay it down until I had gone through it some 15 times.”

He then said, “When I arose to go into the house, I was in possession of Ephesians; or better yet, it was in possession of me. I had the feeling that I had been lifted up to sit together in heavenly places with Christ Jesus–a feeling that was new to me.”

This testimony encouraged Gray to study more the Bible for himself. He began to overflow his mind and heart with God’s Word so that he could freely and effectively share it to others (

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