The Challenge of Satan: Part One


Jesus demonstrates to every one of us that we are capable of overcoming temptation.

Mark 1:12-13


After Jesus’ baptism, Mark shows us that Jesus’ identification with us immediately involved Him in fierce spiritual battle. “The Spirit immediately drove Him out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him” (Mark 1:12–13).

The other gospels take much longer to discuss this incident in Jesus’ life, but Mark, the servant, uses a phrase that is not found in the other accounts. Mark notes that it was the Spirit that drove Jesus into the wilderness; it was the Spirit that urged Him to go.

This spiritual battle is significant because of the identity of Jesus’ adversary and because of the way Jesus fought and won the battle. The Lord Jesus had come from heaven for a purpose. Earth was the rebel province. It was as if a prince had rebelled against a king and claimed that he was now master of his own province. That is exactly what had happened here. Lucifer had fallen to become Satan and said, “This world is mine.” The Lord Jesus Christ had come to begin to dislodge this great enemy.

As soon as the Lord Jesus Christ had been identified as the Messiah, the Holy Spirit drove Him to the one who claimed to be in charge of the province. God always works in an orderly fashion. In the Book of Ezekiel we discover that when the devil was first created as Lucifer, he was established as a ruler by God. But then he rebelled and said, “I am so wonderful and wise that I do not need to get direction from God. I can administer from my own knowledge and power. And I do not need to give all of the credit to God. I can take some of that credit for myself.” That double interception in the channel of administration and worship is the original sin that came into this universe. It is the taking of authority to oneself and taking the credit to oneself. 

Originally, God had said to Lucifer, “Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so” (Ezekiel 28:14, KJV). And though Lucifer had rebelled, God had never completely overturned his power. Thus, when Jesus arrived on earth and was proclaimed by God as His ambassador, He immediately made His protocol visit to the devil, just as a visiting ambassador today would present his or her credentials to the head of state. The time had come for Him to deal with the problem that had been created on earth by this rebellious prince, so Jesus went straight to Satan, and for forty days the devil brought great stresses against Him.

The other gospel accounts reveal that Satan’s first challenge to Jesus was, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matt. 4:3). When Satan said “if,” it was no if of doubt. Satan knew whom he was confronting. He knew very well that this was the Lord, Jehovah of Hosts, made flesh. It was Satan’s pride that led him to challenge Jesus in this way. He wanted still to be treated as God’s equal, to be acknowledged as rightful master of this earth, something Jesus would never do. He was in effect saying to Jesus, “Don’t meet me as a man, though that is the form You have taken. Meet me as God.” It was humiliating for Satan to face the fact that God would defeat him with the seed of the woman, as the Lord had promised Eve in the Garden. It degraded Satan in his own proud mind to know that God’s victory over him would be accomplished with an insignificant being made lower than the angels. He did not want that. He wanted Jesus to fight him as God, for he believed that doing so would elevate his own status. The devil said, “Don’t defeat me as a man; that would be too demeaning. Beat me as God. Then at least I can go back and say, ‘Well, after all, it took God to do it.”’

But Jesus said, “I have come forth in simple humanity,” and His first answer to Satan was, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”’ (Matthew 4:4). He demonstrates to every one of us that we are capable of overcoming temptation with the Word of God and the Spirit.

He did not fight Satan by saying, “I am able to impose My might upon you.” He came, and won, with a simplicity of yieldedness that says, “O God, here is an utterly, empty vessel. Fill it with Thyself.” Luther understood that when he wrote, “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing.”’1 Lord, here is emptiness. Fill it with Thyself. As God later said to Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). That is the principle that Jesus set forth here.

‘A Mighty Fortress, Martin Luther, 1529. Translated by Frederick H. Hedge, 1853.


  • What sin did Lucifer first commit?
  • How does Christ fight against Satan?
  • Does Christ ever prevail of Satan? How?


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