Jesus' identity, strength and authority are suddenly tested in a quick succession of encounters with Satan and his wily powers of deception. As is so often the case with temptations, these encounters come when Jesus is most vulnerable—alone, needy and unproven in his newly announced calling.
Furthermore, the trickery in the tests is primal and powerful, simultaneously raising doubts concerning God's promises and appealing to purposes that can be good in and of themselves: "feed yourself, feed the world; generate a public spectacle, demonstrate God's power for all to see; and here's political leadership, use it to free your people and save the world." Recognizing, resisting temptation is neither simple nor easy.
In the third temptation, the evil one tips his hand: "All these I will give you, if you fall down and worship me." In temptation there is always a price to be paid. With evil the price is costly: This will, in the end, cost you your allegiance to God, your freedom and your life. The ways of evil are pathways to death.
Gracious God, in my times of testing, keep me in conversation with others in the community of faith, give me the wisdom to discern truth from deception and send your Spirit to solidify my trust in your promises.
Matthew 4:1-11 (NRSV)
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.
3 The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread."
4 But he answered, "It is written, "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple,
6 saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, "He will command his angels concerning you,' and "On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.' "
7 Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' "
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor;
9 and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me."
10 Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! for it is written, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.' "
11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.