12-4 The Wilderness Temptations Of Jesus
THE WILDERNESS TEMPTATIONS OF JESUS
The evidence for the 'devil' in the wilderness being Christ's internal
desires seems too strong to be dismissed. However, there are a number
of hints in the records which imply that Angels had a part to play in
the confused mind of Christ. His temptations show that He was thinking
of misusing their power, and this must have constantly been with Him-
not least on the cross (Mt. 26:53).
Both John and Ezekiel were shown by an Angel a future temple and a high
mountain. Perhaps Jesus in His confused state (He had not eaten for forty
days- cp. 1 Sam. 30:11,12) thought an Angel was leading Him in vision
to the same scene. Jesus saw the state of the Kingdoms in the future (Lk.
4:5)- i. e. when the Kingdoms of men have become the Kingdoms of Christ
(Rev. 11:15). It is noteworthy that there are many points of contact in
Revelation 21 and 22 with the wilderness temptations- a "holy city", a
great mountain, temple towers, a wrongful falling at someone's feet.
John was shown the visions (Rev. 1:1; 4:1) in the same way as Jesus was
"shown" the Kingdoms by an Angel.
Because of Christ's love and respect for the Angels, He may have been
tempted to resign His potential superiority over them and worship
the mighty Angel which had represented Him in Old Testament times. It
was maybe this Angel that Jesus imagined offering Him all the Kingdoms
of the world if He would worship him. Bear in mind it is the Angels
who rule over the Kingdoms of men. We have seen that Nebuchadnezzzar was
humbled by seeing that the Angels were in control of the kingdoms of men.
Dan. 4:32 says "the Most High ruleth in the Kingdoms of men, and giveth
it to whomsoever He will". Jesus being offered these Kingdoms cannot be
just an incidental allusion back to this passage in Dan. 4. He was offered
them by "the Most High"- an Angelic phrase, perhaps referring to the 'highest
of the high ones'- the great Angel who represented Jesus, dwelling between
Christ overcame all His temptations
by quoting from Deuteronomy, showing that His mind was
seeking strength from the words of the Angel leading Israel through the
wilderness. There are clear similarities between the Angel's leading of
Israel through the wilderness and Christ's experience in the wilderness:
v. 2 "The Lord thy God [an
Angel] led thee. . in the wilderness"
v. 1 Jesus led by the spirit
(an Angel?) into the wilderness.
Forty years in the wilderness
Forty days in the wilderness
v. 3 "He (the Angel who led
them in v. 2) suffered thee to hunger".
The Angel made Jesus hunger.
The Angel "fed thee with manna"
Jesus was tempted to ask the
Angel to provide bread as He did to Israel in their testing.
“Man doth not live by bread
v. 4 "Man doth not live by
Considering In The Heart
Thus Jesus surveyed His own experience in the wilderness, and saw that
He could take to Himself personally the lessons given to Israel. The Angel
led Israel through the wilderness "to prove thee, to know what was in
thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments or no" (8:2).
God Himself knows anyway, so this must be regarding the Angel, seeking
to know the spiritual strength of Israel, as Job's satan Angel sought
to know Job's strength. Similarly, Christ's Angel led Him into the
wilderness, suffering Him to hunger, to humble and prove Him, to
reveal His real attitude to the word of God. His quoting of the word to
answer the temptations surely proved this to the Angel, especially since
Christ showed Himself so capable of thinking Himself into Scripture, and
therefore taking the lessons most powerfully to Himself. Christ was made
to realize the importance of His memory of the word, as He would have
later reflected that this was the only way He had overcome- that man spiritually
lives by "every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God". As a result
of their wilderness temptations, both Israel and Christ were led to "consider
in (their) heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God
(the Angel) chasteneth thee". The chastenings of Christ spiritually
in the wilderness were therefore arranged by the Angels.
There did not have to be Angels actually tempting Christ in the wilderness
temptations- because they can act directly on a man's heart, they can
lead us into temptation. The fact we pray for Him not to implies that
He does- through the Angels, as He Himself tempts no man (James 1:13),
although the Angels tempted Abraham, Israel and Christ among others. In
the same way as our spiritual strength is due to our personal effort in
studying the word along with the Angel acting upon us, so our temptations
come from our own internal lusts, but to some degree the Spirit-Angel
is also active here. Thus the Angels may arrange an external stimulus,
e. g. the fruit of the tree of knowledge, knowing it must produce
certain internal desires within us which tempt us.
The temptation to throw Himself off the top of the temple because of
the Angelic care He knew was about Him, was also answered by a quotation
which has an Angelic context- "Ye (Jesus) shall not tempt the Lord
your God, as ye tempted Him in Massah" (Dt. 6:16). At Massah the
Israelites put the Angel to the test by questioning whether He could
provide water (Ex. 17:2-7).