The Temptation in the Wilderness

The Temptation in the Wilderness

By R. Herbert

“The Synoptic Gospels tell us that after he was baptized, Jesus fasted for forty days and nights in the Judean wilderness and that at that time Satan appeared to him and tried to tempt him (Matthew 4:1–11, Mark 1:12–13, Luke 4:1–13). The three temptations aimed at Christ (to turn stones to bread, to throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple, and to worship Satan) all have been interpreted in various ways.

The first temptation, that of turning stones to bread, is doubtless the easiest to understand. Anyone fasting for an extended period of time would have no difficulty comprehending the physical temptation to turn objects into food if they had such power. The second temptation (in the order given in Luke’s Gospel) is more difficult to understand. Many scholars note that there were plenty of high points in the Judean wilderness, but simply jumping from a high point would not be a real temptation. They feel that the temptation must be understood based on the fact that if Jesus had thrown himself from a pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, worshippers in the temple courts would have witnessed his being safely let down by angels (according to the devil’s reasoning regarding Psalms 91:12) and would thus believe in him. The temptation occurred, of course, before the many legitimate signs Christ did give after his testing, but this temptation would be an appeal to his emotions and was perhaps offered to Christ as an alternative to the route of eventual crucifixion. The third temptation – to bow to Satan in order to gain power over the whole world, might then be seen as the psychological temptation to elevate the self by “going over to the other side.”

(this article is an excerpt from the January–February 2015 edition of the Sabbath Sentinel)

To read the rest of this article, which starts on page 10, click this link:

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