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Why did satan tempt Jesus?

Matthew 4:2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 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. 5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 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, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thhence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.

To understand an answer to this question we need to define what ‘Satan’ is.

Contrary to popular Christian mythology, Satan is not a ‘fallen’ or ‘rebel’ angel. ‘Satan’ or the ‘Devil’ in the New Testament is the personification of the evil desire or lust which resides within man. It came about because Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Because of it, all men (and women) sin and all die. James describes how it works.

James 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

Jesus explains that it is not an outside agent that causes us to sin, the problem comes from within.

Mark 7:20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

For those who try to live by the commandments of God a continuous inner battle goes on which Paul describes:

Romans 2:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Jesus was born with our nature and tempted in the same way that we are.

Hebrews 2:17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

His temptation was in fact greater than ours because at his baptism God gave him the power of the Holy Spirit and he had the power to do things that we cannot do.

Although personified as though an outside agent was involved the temptations actually arose from within and came into his mind.

Jeremiah 19:5 They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind:

One temptation was that of hunger. He had fasted for 40 days and was hungry. He had the power to turn stones into bread. The temptation was to use his power for self gratification.

A second was that of showing the people a miracle by going to a wing of the Temple and jumping off. He knew that the angels were commanded to save him. In this way he could give visible proof that he was the Messiah and save himself a lot of trouble from the Jewish Rulers.

A third temptation was to use the power he had to take over the world and rule it on his own terms. He would avoid death by crucifixion which he knew awaited him.

From the temptations, 3 principles are immediately made plain.

1. We live our lives by the words of God.
2. We must not put God to the test.
3. We must worship God and not ourselves.

The reasons that the ‘Satan’ was not a person external to Jesus I give as follows:

1. Personification is a common feature in scripture.

2a. Angels do not rebel against God. In heaven his will is done perfectly; hence the request:

  • Matthew 6:10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

2b. Our reward is to be made equal to the angels. If the angels of God can sin we will be no better off than we are now,

  • Luke 20:36 Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.

3. Jesus was tempted as we are. We never literally meet an angel to be tempted by him. All our temptations to sin originate from within; from thoughts which come into our minds.

4. Jesus did not literally go to Jerusalem and climb to the top of the Temple. He remained in the wilderness. The idea was a thought which came into his mind.

5. There is literally no mountain high enough to view all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. It can only be imagined.

6. God rules in the kingdoms of men. Satan as a fallen angel could not give him the kingdoms of this world, because a ‘fallen angel’ has no such power.

  • Daniel 4:17 ...that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.
  • Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

7. Jesus himself was the only one who had the power to take the kingdoms of this world, for God had promised him that he would rule the world. The temptation was to do it in his way and not God’s.

Here is a link to information available on the website regarding this topic:

Do you believe in a Devil?

I hope you have found this helpful.

May God bless you,