Jesus Overcomes Satan
“Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’” (v. 10). - Matthew 4:8–11
Fame, power, and authority are so enticing that many people embrace wickedness in their drive to be known and followed. Men lie and cheat in order to climb the corporate ladder. Starlets try to outdo one another’s outrageous behavior in order to keep their names in the spotlight. Politicians lie and stab others in the back in their pursuit of the highest offices in the land. Matthew Henry is right to say that “the glory of the world is the most charming temptation to the unthinking and unwary and that by which men are most deceived. The pride of life is the most dangerous snare.”
In today’s passage, Satan presents Jesus with a prize — authority over all the kingdoms of this world (Matt. 4:8–9). This rule is not sinful in itself since the Messiah is promised reign over the nations (Ps. 2:8). The problem is the means the Devil offers. Worship of a false god, the evil one himself, can bring the Son of David immediately to a position of authority in the world (Matt. 4:9). Satan is tempting Jesus to take a shortcut and bypass the cross to receive the name by which every tongue on heaven and earth will bow (Phil. 2:5–11). John Calvin says this temptation is that “Christ should seek, in another manner than from God, the inheritance that he has promised to his children.”
Adam failed this test. Instead of submitting to the Creator, he embraced godless autonomy. He ate the forbidden fruit so that he could be a law unto himself instead of looking to the Almighty to define right and wrong (Gen. 3). God’s son Israel (Hos. 11:1) disobeyed as well by going after other gods (Ex. 32). However, Jesus will not make the same mistake. On a mountain He will declare that He has received authority, but it will not be on the mount of temptation. No, it will be on a mountain after He is faithful to His Father’s will (Matt. 28:16–20). Jesus will not avoid the cross in His drive to regain the righteous dominion given to man (Gen. 1:26–27). He will not become an idolater (Matt. 4:10).
Thus, Jesus triumphs over Satan (v. 11). This is good news for us indeed. In staring down temptation, Jesus experienced suffering, and thus He is able to help us when we are tempted (Heb. 2:18).
Matthew Henry comments that “the best of saints may be tempted to the worst of sins.” Though Jesus never sinned, Satan left the worst temptation of all for last — blatant idolatry. If our Lord faced such a test, we too cannot be surprised if we are tempted to do the worst. But take heart, for Jesus can strengthen us to defeat the enemy. When tempted, run to Him in prayer and study His Word so that you can resist the Devil.
Passages for Further Study
- Genesis 39:6b–12
- Psalm 119:9–16
- Matthew 16:21–23
- 1 Peter 5:8–9