Let me tell you a wonderful story: Tempted in the wilderness

John was the one to first announce the mission of Jesus, and he prepared the way by baptizing those who turned again to God, but there his work ended and that of Jesus began. And it was so great a work that great preparation was needed. Though Jesus had shown, during his life at Nazareth, that he was worthy to receive power and approval from God, yet he was now to be sorely tried and tested.

After his baptism he had at once retired into the wilderness. He was there forty days, neither eating nor drinking. And during that time he was tempted. Now we are told that Jesus “was tempted in all points like as we are.” When we are tempted, there is no creature by our side, urging us to do this or that. Sometimes one of our friends urges us to do what we know to be wrong: he is then an adversary to us, because he opposes what we know to be right. The word Satan means “adversary”, so that if a person tempts us to do what is wrong he is to us a Satan. If, on the other hand, he tries to stop us doing what is right he is again a Satan.

A person, however, is not always the tempter. Our own thoughts may tempt us. A boy looks longingly at the fruit just over the wall. He thinks of the pleasure of eating it. It is not far over, and the wall is not high. No one is about. He could easily climb over and back without being discovered. Perhaps he yields to the temptation and climbs the wall; he steals; he has sinned. He has been his own tempter, for he has allowed his thoughts to lead him into actions which were wrong.

Jesus was tempted like this. During that forty days his thoughts would often have led him to sin had he not checked them. We do not know exactly in what way these tempting thoughts would ahve led him, but we can judge by those which came at the end of the time of fasting. They were stronger then because he was weaker, but they were probably similar to other tempting thoughs which he had conquered.

Naturally, as the pangs of hunger increased, his mind would suggest, “Why remain hungry? Why not seek food? Why not leave this desert where there is no food?” Then the answer would flash across, “Because God has led me into the wilderness.” But then the tempting thought sprang up, “Why not produce food? I have the power, for God has annointed me with the Holy Spirit. Why not change these stones into bread?”

This was a keen temptation indeed, for it was accompanied by the thought, “I must eat to live.” Surely a full justification for the act. But Jesus allows the tempting thought to go no farther. God has appointed him to be a Saviour in Israel: He will provide food when necessary. The power that God has given him is to be used for God’s work, and not for himself. More than this, God has sent him into the desert, not to think of means of supplying his daily food, but of God’s plan for saving mankind. And so the thought is dismissed from the mind, and Jesus is no longer tempted by it.

Excerpt from The Life of Jesus Christ by W.R. Mitchell

Read about Jesus’ temptations in Luke 4:1-13.

Painting: Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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