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 His temptations:
- 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 Himself.
- 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.
- 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.