Luke 4:1–13 . . . Bible Study Summary with Photos

   Three Temptations of Jesus

Today's text portrays our Lord Jesus Christ as being challenged by Satan to turn a stone into bread; a miracle indeed. This proposition is the first of a series of three "temptations" that Satan makes to our Lord, at the very outset of his public ministry. Not only did these temptations occur during a 40-day fasting period, but three gospel writers — Matthew (4:1–11) and Luke (4:1–13) and Mark (1:12–13) — report it in detail or allude to it. We must therefore conclude that these temptations are significant to the writers, their gospels, and ultimately us.

The Temptation Accounts' Importance

There are at least four reasons why the temptation accounts are important to us as we see God's use of them to instruct us.

First, the three accounts provide some tension in the biblical text. Our Lord taught the disciples to pray, "Lead us not into temptation" (Matthew 6:13); why then did the Spirit lead our Lord into temptation, as the text indicates (cf. Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1)? And, if James informs us that God cannot be tempted (James 1:13) and we know that Jesus was fully God, how could he be tempted?

Second, our Lord's entire mission relies on his victory over Satan's every temptation. Jesus is being tested as the "Son of God," Israel's Messiah and King. To fail these tests would be to nullify all of God's purposes and promises, which were to be realized through the Son of God.

Third, by studying Satan's tempting of our Lord, we learn a great deal about that adversary of ours. To know the mind-set and methods of our enemy, the devil, we become forewarned and forearmed about the temptations by which he'll seek to destroy us (2 Corinthians 2:11). In Satan's three challenges and solicitations, as reported by Matthew and Luke, we find three primary avenues by which Satan seeks to make inroads into our lives to devastate our spiritual walk with God through Christ. Our survival as saints depends on our knowing Satan and ourselves, thereby wearing the "full armor of God" to withstand Satan's attacks.

Finally, we see in our Lord's successful resistance to Satan's solicitations the same means that God has made available to us to withstand Satan's attacks. Our Lord exemplifies the use of the Word of God in recognizing the evil of Satan's solicitations and the course of obedience to our Father's will. Our Lord's example in facing temptation is vital to every Christian who desires to live a life that conforms with the will and Word of God.

Our Lord's Temptation Was Unique

While Satan's temptation of our Lord has much similarity to his attack against Christians, we must remember that our Lord's temptation was a unique event in history. It was Satan's attempt to nullify the purpose of Christ's first coming and prevent the establishment of God's kingdom on earth. Mere man wouldn't be "tempted" to turn stone into bread; that's something that only God can do. Satan's temptation was direct and obvious; he was obviously the source of them. Our temptations are more indirect, coming most often through the world and the flesh.

We must recognize that the word "temptation" is used here in two different senses. Temptation is, on one hand, a "solicitation to sin," to do that which is contrary to the will and Word of God, an attempt to cause a person to sin. Satan's temptation efforts always fall into this category. But from God's point of view, temptation is a "test," an opportunity for one to be proven righteous. Thus, in the case of Job (cf. especially chapters 1 and 2), Satan sought to bring Job to the point of forsaking his faith, then sinning. But God's purpose was to deepen Job's faith, as well as to demonstrate to Satan that Job's love for God wasn't based on the many material blessings that God had bestowed upon him.

Three Temptations, Segment by Segment

The First Temptation: Turn stone into bread (vv. 3–4)  Jesus, having fasted for 40 days, was quite hungry. More than just hunger is involved, however; if he continued his fast, he'd die. This first temptation was based on the fact that our Lord was extremely hungry. Satan sought to induce our Lord to use his divine power to convert stone to bread. Our Lord's response, based on the lesson that Israel was taught in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8:3), was that life consisted of more than physical existence and was therefore sustained by more than food. Ultimately, we're to live in union and fellowship with God, as Adam and Eve had done prior to the fall. Death is separation from God; life, then was sustained by obedience to every word of God. For our Lord to have acted independently of God by turning stone to bread would have been to doubt the word of God and thus forfeit life instead of sustaining it.

The Second Temptation: An offer of Satan's authority and splendor (vv. 5–8)  What's Satan trying to avoid or accomplish in this temptation? Because Satan's claims cannot be taken at face value, since Satan is a liar by nature (John 8:44), this offering statement of Satan's must be carefully weighed. What does Satan actually possess? What is he authorized to give to another? Consider what the Bible tells us about his authority. Our Lord's words in John's gospel are most informative. Summed up, he calls Satan the "ruler of this world" (John 12:31–32; 14:30–31; 16:11). Apostle Paul calls him the "god of this age" (2 Cor. 4:3–4). To be the "god of this age" or "ruler of this world" isn't all that Satan claims it to be in his second temptation of our Lord. The right to rule the earth was given to man, not Satan. Adam and Eve were the only ones commissioned to rule God's creation (Genesis 1:26).

During the Great Tribulation Period, in the future when Satan will be given authority to rule, such power has been granted with limits and for a specified period of time. Satan's problem was that Christ's coming (with the establishment of His kingdom) spelled Satan's doom and the demise of his kingdom; he was desperately striving to save his own skin, attempting to derail the establishment of God's kingdom, the Messianic rule of Christ on the earth, by trying to somehow persuade the Son of God to become his ally, not his arch-enemy. No way! Satan had asked for one thing only, which was the most crucial act of all: He'd asked to be worshipped.

The Third Temptation: To leap down from the temple's top (vv. 9–13)  What was Satan trying to accomplish and why? All three temptations take place in different settings: in the wilderness; from the top of a high mountain; at the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem. In this third and final temptation (as Luke records it), Satan tempts the Son of God as if he himself were God. Only God, or at least one very much assured of God's protection, would contemplate a leap from the heights of the temple pinnacle.

Satan must have led our Lord — the King of Israel — to Jerusalem for a particular reason. Jerusalem meant a great deal to an Israelite. The challenge is clear: Satan dares our Lord to jump from atop the temple. Since Jesus has in the previous two temptations cited Scripture as the reason for his refusal of Satan's solicitations, Satan now cites Scripture himself, supposing that this will greatly enhance his position. Satan's biblical citation comes from the text of Psalm 91, which speaks of the safety and security of the one who takes refuge in God.

Satan hoped to persuade Christ Jesus to jump from the temple roof for a number of reasons. He was: (1) attempting to disqualify the Lord as Messiah; (2) trying to get our Lord to doubt the goodness and power of God; and (3) seeking to kill the Messiah. The Lord's response? Jesus didn't respond by correcting errors in Satan's theology and methodology. Instead he struck at the jugular vein of the matter, giving but one biblical response, one that terminated this entire temptation session: "Do not put the Lord your God to the test."

In our culture, putting God to the test is a sin in three ways: (1) We might test him when we act on "future promises," as if they were present realities (similar to so-called "name it and claim it" Christian offers); (2) when wrongly responding to adversity we might be putting him to the test, e.g., when God doesn't heal the sick, we question his presence and goodness; and (3) when we live recklessly, we put our Lord God to the test, e.g., expecting God to save us when we jump off a bridge or a temple pinnacle. Instead of testing God by counting on our leaps of faith, we must trust God, forsake folly, and continually walk the path of love, by the power of God's Spirit, to his glory.

To successfully fight the devil's temptations, you need only "Hit him," by using Scripture as Jesus did. Watch and be stimulated by Rev. E.V. Hill as he delivers a stirring oratory to Promise Keepers titled "How to Make the Enemy Run."

It Makes You Wonder . . . .

  • Q. 1   If the devil took three "temptation shots" at you, what three temptations would he choose? How do these compare to Jesus' temptations?
  • Q. 2  What can help you resist these appeals to self-interest, power, and spiritual pride? What encouragement do you find here?

This Week's Passage
Luke 4:1–13

New International Version (NIV) [View it in a different version by clicking here; also listen to chapter 4]

You can also watch this passage-specific video clip from the "Jesus" film.

Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness

James Tissot painting of John the Baptist calling out in the wilderness (Luke 3:4).

Click to enlarge

4 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

3The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread."

4Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone.'"

5The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7If you worship me, it will all be yours."

8Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'"

9The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here. 10For it is written:

"'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" 12Jesus answered, "It is said: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

13When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.