There is no fast and easy route to serving the Lord. Every experience, every day, is preparing us to follow and serve God tomorrow. The challenges and even the temptations are God’s means of teaching us, strengthening us, and preparing us. This is the path Jesus Himself followed.
As we set sail today, the Gospel accounts give us four important events that now take place in the life of Jesus. Out of the wilderness has come John the Baptist—this unique, courageous prophet of God, wearing a rough camel-hair tunic and, I imagine, a little locust and honey stuck to his beard. John’s been preaching a message of repentance to prepare the nation for their coming Messiah. The public ministry of Jesus is about to begin. But before it does, these four events take place.
We will call the first event identification. In Mark’s Gospel account, we read, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan” (Mark 1:9). Matthew’s Gospel tells us that John was reluctant to baptize Jesus, but Jesus insisted (Matthew 3:15).
You might wonder why Jesus would be baptized since He had nothing to repent of. Well, the basic idea of baptism is identification. Those people who were being baptized were not only testifying to their repentance; they were also identifying with the coming Messiah. And so when Jesus is baptized here, He is also identifying with this believing remnant in Israel who are expecting the fulfillment of God’s promises through the Messiah.
Now the second event takes place—and that is an anointing. Matthew 3:16 records:
When Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him.
When the Son of God left heaven and became a man, He did not surrender His divine nature, but He took on a human nature. He is fully God and fully man. And with this anointing here, Jesus, as a man is going to show us what it’s like to be surrendered to the power and leading of the Holy Spirit so He can complete His messianic mission.
And by the way, every believer to this day has been anointed—given the Holy Spirit who now resides within us. The apostle Paul writes in Romans 5:5, that the Holy Spirit has been given to us. In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul writes that our “body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within [us].” That means that you and I have the same resource for living a holy life that Jesus had, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The third event is approval. Here is Matthew 3:17: “A voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (see also Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). This takes us back to the prophetic words of David in Psalm 2:7, where we read, “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.’” Jesus receives the public approval of the Father.
Following these three events, we come to the fourth and very significant event that essentially becomes the first event of Christ’s ministry—and that is, in a word, temptation.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all weigh in on this event, and together the three accounts give us a very full picture of the temptation. Jesus is now led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness, where He fasts for forty days. Satan seizes this opportunity and arrives to tempt the Lord.
Matthew 4:3 records Satan’s words to Jesus: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” He knows Jesus has the ability to end His fasting by feasting on fresh bread. But Jesus answers in verse 4, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Satan is tempting Jesus to serve Himself—to use His divine powers to satisfy a human need. And let me tell you, Jesus never once used His divine power to make His human life more comfortable.
Now, Matthew and Luke agree on the details of all three temptations, but they reverse the order of the last two. Matthew’s order is chronological, and Luke’s is thematic.
We will continue following the chronological order, as Matthew writes in verses 5-6:
Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
Here Satan is quoting a little Scripture too. But he twists it around to tempt Jesus to experiment with God the Father’s promise to take care of Him. “Jesus, why don’t you test God rather than trust Him?”
Jesus responds in verse 7: “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Here He quotes Deuteronomy 6:16. Essentially, He’s saying, “My confidence in Him is so great, I don’t need to experiment. I don’t need to prove anything. I’m not going to test Him; I’ll just trust Him.”
Now the third and final temptation is given here in Matthew 4:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” (verses 8-9)
The devil’s appeal is essentially this: “Listen, Jesus, why go through the suffering and rejection? I’ve been given delegated authority over the kingdoms of the world. Why wait? I can give it all to you now! You can have the crown without the cross.”
I love Jesus’ response in verse 10: “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:13 here, and He speaks with authority, dismissing the devil. This entire time Jesus has been in control, and Satan knew it. That is why Matthew says in verse 11, “Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.”
Notice that every response of Jesus comes directly from the book of Deuteronomy. I often wonder how well I would do when tempted to sin, if all I had was the book of Deuteronomy. Well, that is all Jesus needed to counter every attack.
You should notice too that Satan is still tempting people today with this same strategy. The first temptation says, “Look, if you have a need, go ahead and fill it. You deserve it.” Jesus had a legitimate need for food—and the ability to create it. But Satan was tempting Him to fill His desires and leave God out of it. We need to go to our heavenly Father and ask Him, “Do You want me to have this desire? Is this what You would be pleased with?”
The second temptation is, “Look, do you really believe God cares about you?” Does He know about our problems in life? We need to remind ourselves that He does and speak His promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
The third temptation is to assume God’s will should not be hard or difficult. Satan wants you to think you can have a crown of gold without a cross of wood. But Jesus promises to teach us and refine us through the fiery trials of life that cannot be avoided (See James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7).
So, when the tempter comes your way today, I want you to think of two words: First, run! Run to the Scriptures—use the truth of God to fight the lie of Satan.
Second, remember! Remember that whatever you are going through, the Lord Jesus has been touched with the feeling of your infirmities. “In every respect [He] has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He has experienced temptation. He knows what you are feeling today.
 J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Zondervan, 1981), 94.