The temptation of Jesus is recorded in Matthew 4:1-11. We will be referring to these verses many times.
Walking the earth as a man subjected Jesus to all things common to humanity. The Epistle of James teaches that God is not tempted by sin, and does not tempt anyone to sin. But Jesus is God in the flesh; he experienced all the things we experience and can thus empathize with our weaknesses, feelings, emotions, frustrations, and so forth. Whatever we experience, Jesus himself has been there. And so it is with temptation.
Jesus is first tempted by hunger. Satan tells him to turn stone into bread. With each temptation, Jesus responds with scripture. The first lesson to learn here is to go to the Word of God. Jesus – the incarnate Word – responds to each attack of Satan by quoting the written Word. In response to the suggestion to turn stone to bread, Jesus replies “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
The second temptation is to prove himself. Jesus replies that we should not test God. Finally, Satan offers to Jesus the kingdoms of this world. Satan had turned a third of the angels in heaven away from God, if only he could get God’s son to worship him. He offered the kingdoms of this world, which the Bible teaches are established by God in the first place. They were sort of Satan’s to offer; but not really.
In all three cases, what Jesus is really being offered is an easy way. He was hungry after fasting forty days. That was his purpose for being in the wilderness; to pray and fast. Satan was offering a short cut to getting feed. We also read in scripture that to many, their belly is their god. To prove himself by summoning the angels, to receive many kingdoms here and now; also shortcuts. It would have been easier to accept the offer of Satan than to take the long, hard road to the cross. That’s what sin always is; a quick fix, a short cut, settling for less than what God has in mind for us. Pornography offers instant gratification, rather than the work it takes to maintain a real relationship. Stealing gets you what you want quicker than earning the money to pay for stuff. Insert whatever sin you like in the blank, it’s quicker than waiting, easier than doing it God’s way. We settle for less than the blessing God has in mind for us.
When Jesus is being arrested, Peter pulls out his sword and cuts off one man’s ear. He is ready to fight, and calls on the other disciples to fight with him. Jesus tells him to put his sword away. Why does he use the phrase “Get the behind me Satan,” with the Apostle Peter? It could very well be that Peter is offering an easier way than the death on the cross Jesus knows he must face. He may have been tempted, just for a moment, to let Peter hack some guys to pieces. Any other way than what God has in mind is sin; and it usually comes to us looking like a good idea at the time.
It should be pointed out that Jesus did everything perfectly, without sin. While it is the Christian’s goal to become more Christlike, we are fallen creatures. We fail daily in our attempts to live righteously. In the words of Paul we “press toward the mark of the prize,” but never do so perfectly.