The ministry of Jesus has begun… or has it? He has been baptized by John, the heavens opened, the Spirit descended upon Him in “bodily form” and the Father has spoken; now He has one more hurdle before He begins, He must be tempted.
The Spirit leads Him out into the desert (Wilderness) where He is to fast for 40 days, just as Moses and Elijah have done before. This is the first of several parallels to Israel’s past in this section. After 40 days, Jesus is terribly hungry, and in this we see His humanity in full force, after He was proclaimed by His Father to be the Son of God. Taking advantage of the situation, the devil comes onto the stage…
Knowing Jesus’ hunger, the devil points to a stone and tells Jesus to turn it into bread to ease His suffering. Of course you’ll recall the ruckus among the Israelites in the Wilderness about their lack of food which demonstrated their lack of faith in the God who had so recently rescued them from Egypt in spectacular fashion. Unlike the Israelites, Jesus’ faith does not bend at this point, and He replies to the devil with Scripture (4:3-4).
Next in 4:5-8, the devil shows Jesus all of the world’s kingdoms and offers them to Jesus, if He will only worship Satan. Is the entire world Satan’s to offer? People have debated that for a long time, and it probably doesn’t really matter here, for Jesus again quotes Scripture in rejection of the offer. The really interesting aspect of the offer is that it would have brought Jesus to His destiny in a sense, while bypassing the cross, for in being the king of all nations, every knee would bow to Him. Yet in His denial, Jesus has passed another test that the Israelites had failed in the Wilderness, for He refused to bow to another god, while they had not only bowed to other gods, they had actually manufactured gods to bow to.
Then, the devil took Jesus to the highest point of the Temple and invited Him to jump so that the angels of God would have to save Him, and actually quoted Scripture to justify his gambit.
Jesus quoted Scripture in His refusal (4:9-12).
Had Jesus performed this stunt, presumably there would have been many witnesses and He could have jump-started His ministry with a big following; something like you might see on TV today, followed by the toll free number to donate money. Yet Jesus was not about to use His power and position toward His personal ends, for His was a mission as a servant leader, of humility and self-denial, not show business.
Jesus was the real deal, and stands in stark contrast to the Israelites who wanted God to prove Himself over and over in the Wilderness.
In the final verse, Luke tells us that Satan withdrew in favor of a more opportune time, and indeed, we will encounter him again and again in the story. When all of this was completed, Jesus returned to His home town to kick off His public ministry, no doubt to cheers from His friends and family.