Before the Lord is tempted, two things have been clearly established in the preceding verses (Mt 3:16-1716After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove [and] lighting on Him,17and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”): He is the Son of God and He is sealed as Man with the Holy Spirit. This also applies to the believer. Temptations are part of the Christian’s life. Before we are confronted with them, we see how the Lord has gone before us in this.
Christ has to deal with three temptations. In the first temptation He is tempted as Man, in the second as Messiah and in the third as the Son of Man. The first temptation is about dependence on God, the second is about trust in God and the third is about worship and service for God (cf. 1Jn 2:1616For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.).
The Spirit, Who has just recently come upon Him, leads Him into the wilderness into the devil’s presence. The devil is not a ‘bad principle’, but is as much a person as the Lord Jesus. From Genesis 3 onwards he is used to deceiving people by addressing their lusts and pride. He does not find this with the Lord Jesus.
God has not placed any special protection around His Son, so that He would remain free from being tempted by the devil. Christ is tempted by the devil for the full period of forty days, that is, as long as He is in the wilderness. Only the last three temptations are recorded in the Bible.
In the temptations that the Lord Jesus undergoes, there are two kinds. The first kind of temptation is not general for man, but especially for Him. They are not described because they do not include lessons for us. The second kind is those which He goes through at the end of the forty days. These are the three temptations described from verse 33And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” onwards. Such temptations are also our portion.
The purpose of the temptations Christ goes through, is not to see if He can sin. He can’t. With Him, the temptations prove that in the most extraordinary circumstances He does nothing other than obey and fully trust the Word of God. He overcomes where the first man in much more favorable circumstances has failed. For after all, Adam and Eve turned in the Word of God by the devil, while the Son of man withstands because of it.
Throughout the entire forty-day period, the Lord has fasted. When He speaks of fasting in one of the following chapters (Mt 6:16-1816“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites [do], for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.17But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face18so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.), He speaks out of experience. He is perfectly aware of the enormous power of the temptations of the devil and what is at stake. Everything shows that He is truly Man. Nor is he above the consequences of fasting. He gets hungry. He goes through everything that can happen to a person.