5-8-2 The Wilderness Temptations: A Window Into The Mind Of Jesus
We have shown that our Lord's experiences were similar to those of Israel
in the wilderness.
The following are additional comments which give greater insight into
- The Lord realized He was in a similar position to Israel in another
wilderness, and therefore personalized Scripture in Deuteronomy concerning
their experience there to apply to Himself.
The personification of the sinful temptations in the Lord's heart as a
person called 'the devil' shows how clearly His mind was divided
between flesh and spirit- without the hazy overlap so characteristic of
our semi-spirituality. It was probably with this in mind that He deftly
broke the bread representing his body into two at the Last Supper- to
show that clear division within Himself (Mt. 26:26). A psychotherapist
friend of mine, Dr. Artur Dombrovsky, suggested to me in discussing the
wilderness temptations that the more in touch with themselves a person
is, the more clearly they will be able to see themselves from outside
themselves; the greater the distance they are able to place between
them and the 'self' whom they analyze and dialogue with in
self-examination. Much of our self-talk is vague; that of the Lord
Jesus was specific and focused. He was the man ultimately in touch with
- His quotation of Dt. 6:13 "You shalt fear the Lord your God (alone)"
was probably made with Dt. 6:14 in mind "You shall not go after other
gods". Perhaps He interpreted the pagan idols as the evil
thoughts of His heart. Earlier Dt. 6:7,8 had warned that not repeating
the Law would result in idol worship- and Christ saw that His neglect
of the Father's word would result in His serving His evil desires. Thus the purpose
of the temptations was to prove whether Christ would really keep and apply
the word in His heart (Dt. 8:2), as it was for Israel in their wilderness.
- God alone has the power to give the Kingdom (Dan. 4:32). That Jesus
was tempted to take if for Himself (Mt. 4:9) indicates He was tempted
to make Himself equal to God. Phil. 2:6 comments on this, that although
He had the same perfect mind as God, He did not consider equality with
God a thing to be even considered. This shows (again) how conscious Christ
was of His sinless mind, and how this tempted Him to proudly assume equality
with God. This was probably in the back of His consciousness as He argued in Jn.
10:34-36 that men in the Old Testament had been called God, but He was
not then taking that title to Himself as He could have done, but only calling
Himself the Son of God. His appreciation of the many passages which called
Him Yahweh would have tempted Him to use the name in His own right because
of His ultimate manifestation of God. Christ reflected that to whomsoever
He wanted He could give the Kingdom (Lk. 4:6)- and He thought of giving
it to Himself. Note how later He promised to give the cities of the Kingdom
to us (Mt. 19:28; Lk. 19:17).
His 'adversary', His own mind, quoted Ps. 91:11,12 to Himself (Mt. 4:6)
:"He shall give His Angels charge over you". This Psalm has primary
reference to Joshua being protected by the Angel during the wilderness
wanderings when the apostate Israelites were consumed by the destroyer
Angel. The specific reason for this protection is given in Ps. 91:1;
because he had remained in the tabernacle, no doubt from the motive of
wanting to hear as much as possible of God's word spoken by the Angel
to his master Moses (Ex. 33:11). Our Lord was in a similar position-
dedicated to the word of God, the rest of Israel apostate. It would
have been tempting to abuse the subsequent Angelic power which His
spirituality had made available to Him.
- There is the implication that it took the Lord 40 days to overcome
the Devil, at which point the Devil departed. This is more easily understandable
in terms of an internal battle, than a literal struggle against a supernatural
being. And the fact it took 40 days shows how hard was the struggle for
- The Lord standing on a high mountain beholding the coming Kingdom of
God (1) points forward to an identical scene in Rev. 21:10. There are
other connections with Revelation- " The kingdoms of the world"
= Rev. 11:15; v.9,10= Rev. 22:8,9; v.5= Rev. 21:2. It is almost as if
the Lord Jesus in giving Revelation was looking back to His wilderness trials,
rejoicing that what He had been tempted to have then illegitimately, was now His and ours
legitimately. The wilderness temptation was to take the Kingdom and rule
it for Himself rather than for God; i.e. not to manifest God, even if
externally there would not be any evident difference between whether He
was manifesting God in an acceptable spirit or not. For these temptations
to be real, it must have been possible that God would have allowed Christ
to take the Kingdom; as He would have allowed the Lord to use the Angels
to rescue Him from his ordeal in Gethsemane. That God was willing to accept
a second best, to allow His plan for salvation to go as far as Christ's
freewill effort allowed it to, would have been a tremendous temptation
and yet stimulation to Jesus. Hence God's supreme delight in the totality
of Christ's effort and victory, as described, e.g., in Is. 49:5-9.
- There can be little doubt that standing on a mountain looking out over
God's Kingdom would have reminded Christ of Moses on Nebo, who for one
slip was denied it all. And that must have sobered Him (Dt. 34:1). And
having quoted Dt. 8:3 to Himself about living on the bread/word of God,
His mind would have gone on to Dt. 8:9 with its description of eating
bread without scarceness in the Kingdom- i.e. feeding fully on spiritual
things, in the allegory.
- The Lord was tempted to believe that He would be miraculously preserved
from dashing His foot against a stone. This is an allusion to Prov. 3:23,
which promises that the Father will keep the Son in whom He delights from
'stumbling in the way'. Prov. 3:4 is specifically applied to the Lord
Jesus in Lk. 2:52. But 'stumbling in the way' in the context of Prov.
3 refers to sinning, and the need to not stumble by the hard effort of
applying Divine wisdom in daily life. Do we get another window here into
the mind of the Lord? Is not the implication of all this that He was tempted
to think that as God's Son, somehow God would preserve Him from sinning,
and so He could do as He wished? Thank God, and Him, that He put that
thought so far behind Him.
(1) Christ seeing "all the kingdoms of the world
in a moment of time" (Lk. 4:5) surely refers to the future Kingdom of God on earth- all
the kingdoms as they would be in the future (cp. Rev. 11:15).