Harmony of the Gospels

 Harmony of the Gospels

-AD 27-
(2) Jesus Tempted
(Psalms 91:11) Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13


So far the gospels have shown us that the Son of God came down to the earth to be born a human.  He had a normal childhood, except He never sinned.  He was baptized to identify Himself with mankind.  Now, He has come to the place where He is to be tempted.  The word tempt has two meanings: 

First: “Incite or entice to evil; seduce.”  I was born with a fallen nature that came directly from Adam; therefore, I yield easily to sin.  That was not true of Jesus.  He did not have a fallen nature, because His father was not a man.  John 14:30 says, “…..for the prince of this world cometh, and has nothing in me.”  There was nothing in Jesus that Satan could take advantage of or use against Him.  Hebrews 7:26, describes Jesus as “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.”  So the temptation of Jesus had to be different than what would make us fall; it needed to be much greater. 

Second: “Test.”  God will test men, He will not tempt us.  James 1:13 says, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.”

Now Jesus is to be tempted by Satan.  Could He have failed the test?  No, He could not!  If He could have fallen, then He would not be a sure Savior and God would not be sovereign.  Some may ask, “Well if Jesus could not have fallen, was this temptation a legitimate test?  It was a legitimate test and He was tempted more than anything you and I will ever experience in our lives.  His testing can be compared to the test that is given to a diamond to make sure that it is genuine and not a phony.  There is no way a real diamond will fail the test and there was no way Jesus could have failed the test either.  He was the real thing.  Jesus was tested to demonstrate that He was exactly who He claimed to be.

I will give into temptation, if it is great enough and if the pressure is maintained long enough, and you will too.  But that is not the case with Jesus, He never gave in to temptation, even though Satan tempted Him far beyond anything that we will ever experience.

Let’s begin to look at the temptation as it is recorded in the first Gospel.



Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil.  (Matthew 4:1)

This verse tells us several things.  The Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness.  He will be met by the Devil and the Devil is going to tempt Him.  So the temptation was not a surprise to Jesus, but He had planned to confront the Devil.

And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward and hungered.  And when the tempter came to him, he said, if thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.  (Matthew 4:2-3)

I have only fasted a couple of times in my life and it was for a very short time.  So it would be difficult for me to relate to what Jesus went through.  It would take a tremendously strong will for Him to deny Himself food for 40 days and it would have had a terrible effect on His physical condition.  Remember that Jesus was a man in the physical sense.  He did not have any advantage over you and I in that respect.  The temptation here is to His flesh.  Will He choose to satisfy His hunger?

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.  (Matthew 4:4)

Jesus’ reply is to quote scripture, “….. That he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.  (Deuteronomy 8:3)

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, least at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.  (Matthew 4:5-6)

Now the Devil is quoting scripture.  He is quoting Psalm 91:11-12, and it is interesting that he knew that it applied to Jesus.  Actually, he did not quote scripture; he misquoted it, because he left out the words, “in all thy ways.”  The Devil evidentially changes scripture to suit his own purposes.  Verse 11 reads, “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”

Jesus said unto him, it is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”  (Matthew 4:7)

Here Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16.

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.  (Matthew 4:8-9)

Satan showed Jesus all the nations of the world and all their riches.  This was a psychological temptation that would appeal to man’s lust for power.  However, the Lord Jesus has “all power in heaven and earth,” should he decide to use it.

Then said Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.  (Matthew 4:10)

Jesus quotes scripture for the third time.  This time He quotes Deuteronomy 6:13 and 10:20.  He responded every time with scripture and that should tell us something.  There is a reason why so many of us have a difficult time living the Christian life.  It is because we are ignorant of God’s word.  The answers to all of life’s problems are in His book.  We need to read it and it would be good to be able to quote some verses.

Jesus answered Satan every time from the Word of God and the devil seemed to think that they were good answers, because he did not argue, he just left.

Then the devil leaveth him, and behold, angels came and ministered unto him.  (Matthew 4:11)

This testing revealed several things: 

First, it is clear that Satan is a person.  Jesus addressed him as such and treated him like a person.  Satan is not just an influence, as some people believe. 

Second, the devil is very subtle.  He said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”  (v. 3)  The temptation is for Jesus to prove that He is the Son of God in a way that is not God’s way.  To turn stones into bread could be a good thing, and later Jesus would do some amazing things with bread, feeding 5000 people at one time and 4000 at another.  The temptation for Jesus was to get him to do something that was outside of the will of God for His life.

Also, every time that Jesus answered Satan, He used the word of God.  If only we were adept at using the word of God.  It is also a very effective tool for us today.

The Devil wanted to make Jesus a great religious leader, but to do it by missing the cross.  He would have Jesus present His credentials through some spectacular miracle, rather than offering His credentials in the manner that God prescribed.

The Devil knew scripture and quoted scripture, or rather he misquoted it.  He is a liar and will twist scripture to fit his purpose.  It is important that we check every man’s words, or at least those who claim to preach the word, against the Bible.

Another thing that is interesting about the temptation is that Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world.  Did he really have those kingdoms?  I think he did, because Jesus did not disagree.  He did not say, “You can’t offer me what you do not have.”  I believe that Satan is in control of this earth and the evidence is all the terrible things that are going on.  I don’t believe that I need to make a list; you can do that.  Satan is behind the confusion and turmoil that we see in the world.  He is our enemy and he wants to be God.  Remember, he said, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.”

In verse 11, we see that Satan left Him, but in Luke we find it was only for a season.  I don’t believe that he left Him alone for very long.


And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.  (Mark 1:12)

“Driveth” is a strong, forceful word.  The Spirit of God moved him out into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.  This was God’s plan.  Satan may have thought that he was forcing the issue, but the power and authority of Christ would prevail, just like it did in the Garden of Gethsemane and every time He freed a man from demon-possession.  Other men had failed.  They couldn’t do the job.  The temptation was too great for them.  Adam failed.  Noah failed, because after he got through the flood, he fell on his face.  Abraham failed.  Moses failed--he led the nation of Israel through the wilderness, but could not enter the Promised Land.  David failed, even though he was “a man after God’s own heart.”  Jesus did not fail, but it was the temptation that initiated Him into His work.

And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.  (Mark 1:13)

Jesus was tempted during the whole forty days.  Some people think that He fasted for forty days and then He was tempted.  Actually, He was tempted all the time.

Mark is saying that Jesus was with the wild beasts and He was with the angels and both ministered to Him.  The beasts are part of creation and under the domination of man.  In Genesis we learn that everything that God created was for the purpose of making a home for man.  Jesus, being both man and God, was ministered to by the beasts that He created and by the angels that He also created.


Jesus was tempted as a man.  They were the same types of temptations that come to all of us, and they were threefold:

  1. The first temptation was directed at the flesh.  Jesus was in need of food.  His body and mind desired it, but for Him to turn stones into bread would be wrong.  It would be selfish, because He had come to show man that we do not live only to satisfy the needs of the body.  It is more important that we feed upon the word of God.  However, what we have today is a society that says, “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”  And after that there is nothing else.  Our Lord, in not giving into this temptation, refuted the popular philosophy of the world.
  2. Satan offers Jesus the nations of the world.  Nations derive their power through brute force and political intrigue.  They are founded on war.  They operate through corruption and fear and make people dependent on the government.  This is Satanic and that is the type of kingdoms that Satan wanted to give to Jesus.  But the Kingdom of God is different.  It requires that a man change before he can enter it: “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”  (John 3:3)  Jesus answered Satan by bringing the focus back to our Almighty and Holy God: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”  (Matthew 4:10)
  3. Satan tempted Jesus to throw Himself down from the temple.  It would have been an easy way to get people’s attention and show His power.  But Jesus did not choose to take the easy way to the throne.  He chose the way of the cross, so that He could save mankind, and so that He could do the Father’s will.

And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being forty days tempted of the devil.  And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.  (Luke 4:1-2)

In the genealogy that is in Luke, we can trace the line of Christ all the way back to Adam.  This is on Mary’s side.  It was as a human being that He was tempted.

There is something ghastly and horrible about the temptation of Christ.  There were evil forces present all around Him.  I believe that Satan threw everything that he could at Him.  Only the one who created all things could have come through this experience.

There are several things to consider about the temptation of the Lord.  He was filled with the Holy Spirit.  He had taken on our humanity, so He needed the Holy Spirit to face the temptations.  And we need the Holy Spirit to face the temptations in our life.  Paul, who some would say is the greatest Christian that ever lived said, “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.”  (Romans 7:21)  This is true in my life, and it is also true for you.  Then in Galatians 5:16 Paul says, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”  We need the Holy Spirit.

We are told that before the testing, the Lord was led (Mark says driven) by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness.  He did not seek the tempting by Satan, but God ordained it. It would be proof that He was who He said that He was.

The Lord’s temptation did not begin at the end of the forty days.  He was tempted continually by Satan and after the temptation we read in verse 13 of this chapter, “And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.”  Satan didn’t leave Him alone for long.  In the Garden of Gethsemane there was another onslaught against Jesus.

Satan is a person.  Jesus met him face-to-face.  Satan is subtle.  At one time he may appear as a roaring lion--"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." (1 Peter 5:8), and the next time as an angel of light--"And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light." (2 Corinthians 11:14).  Sometimes he comes seeking to devour and at other times he attempts to deceive.  But the scriptures are clear about him being a person.

The threefold testing of the Lord was physical, psychological and spiritual.  The Lord was first tempted in the physical realm.

And the devil said unto him, if thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.  (Luke 4:3)

Satan has a very low opinion of mankind.  He said in Job 2:4, “…..Skin for skin, all that a man have will he give for his life.”  He thought that Jesus would give into the temptation to relieve His hunger.  But Jesus never gave into temptation and He used the word of God to defeat him.

And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.  (Luke 4:4)

Next, Satan tested Jesus in the psychological realm.

And the devil, taking him up into a high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.  And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will give it.  If thou therefore will worship me, all shall be thine.  And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.  (Luke 4:5-8)

This test had to do with what John called the lust of the eyes.  Satan took Jesus to the top of a high mountain where He could see all the kingdoms of the world.  That would have included the Roman Empire.  Christ was on His way to the throne, by way of the cross, but Satan said to Him, “It is foolish to suffer the pain and humiliation of the cross.  Take the easy way.”  It is foolish today to try to build a kingdom, nation, business or family without Christ, because there are only two rulers: Satan and Jesus.  If you are not taking the Lord into account, you must be taking the other.  The apostle Paul said, “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”  (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Finally, the Lord was tested in the physical realm.

And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time, thou dash thy foot against a stone.  And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.  And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.  (Luke 4:9-13)

John calls this testing “…..the pride of life…..” (1 John 2:16)  This involves faith and patience.  Satan wants Christ to make a demonstration of His power.  Then people would accept Him, but this would not be faith.  He was daring God.  Faith is quietly waiting upon God and doing His will.

Why was Jesus Christ tempted?  It was to demonstrate that we have a sinless savior.  He proved that all power had been given to Him.  Satan did not have anything to offer Him.  There is a man in heaven today that experienced all aspects of our life, so that he could understand us and be our advocate.  In 1 John 2:1-2, it says, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.  And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”  We can depend upon the Lord Jesus, no matter what our circumstances in life might be.

You may have noticed that beginning with this chapter, I have switched from the NIV to the King James Bible for all scripture.  Although the NIV has better clarity, I find that something is lost in the NIV translation and that the King James version gives a better sense of what the Holy Spirit is saying.  The remainder of this text will use only the King James translation.  However, I invite you to use any study aids available to assist you in understanding the material. 


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