A few disciples have a mountain top experience with Jesus as witnesses of his Transfiguration. Upon coming down, they find the rest of their group unsuccessfully trying to help a demonized boy.
When Jesus was confronted by the devil in the wilderness, he might have just destroyed the devil once and for all. Or, he might have used a bit less of his own divine omnipotence and suddenly shut the devil’s mouth. After all, hadn’t the Holy Spirit just descended upon him at his baptism in the last chapter? Wasn’t he ready to engage in a mighty public miracle-working ministry? Maybe so, but those options would not have taught us the same lesson as what he actually did.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 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,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Instead of somehow rendering the devil powerless, Jesus, who was empowered by the Spirit and led into the wilderness by that same Spirit, confronted the devil with Scripture. Instead of doing something that only Jesus could do, he did something that any Christian can do just as well.
When confronted by temptation, we can rely upon the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures to resist it. That is not always easy to do because the devil tends to catch us off guard, when the Spirit’s indwelling presence is the last thing on our minds. Arguably, Jesus also knew the Bible better than we do.
Alas, these may be real reasons, but they are not good excuses. We should find it encouraging that Jesus did what he did in the way that he did it. The lessons learned are to stay conscious of the Holy Spirit’s presence within us and to grow spiritually from a steady diet of the Bible. You never know which obscure verse, say from Deuteronomy, is going to come in handy.
Let’s continuously pray for the Holy Spirit’s help and continuously take in regular doses of God’s Word. When temptation comes, we will be ready to resist it just like Jesus.
The child learns to speak because his father speaks to him. He learns the speech of his father. So we learn to speak to God because God has spoken to us and speaks to us. By means of the speech of the Father in heaven his children learn to speak with him. Repeating God’s own words after him, we begin to pray to him.
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906-1945, in Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible