What Was the Significance of the Temptation?

G. Campbell Morgan

With regard to the significance of the temptation, refer to the gospel accounts. Matthew writes, "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit;" Mark expresses it, "The Spirit drove Him," while Luke declares He "was led by the Spirit." The one fact announced in these varied ways is of supreme importance to keep in mind if the true significance of this temptation is to be understood. A Divine plan was being worked out. It did not — to use a common expression — "happen" that Jesus met Satan and was tried. Neither is it true to say that the devil arranged the temptation.

Temptation here is in the Divine plan and purpose. Jesus went into the wilderness under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to find the devil. My own conviction is that if the devil could have escaped that day, he would have done so. It is a very popular fallacy that the enemy drove Christ into a corner and tempted Him. But the whole Divine story reveals that the facts were quite otherwise. God's perfect Man, led by the Spirit - or as Mark in his own characteristic and forceful way expresses it, driven by the Spirit - passes down into the wilderness, and compels the adversary to stand out clear from all secondary causes, and to enter into direct combat. This is not the devil's method. He ever puts something between himself and the man he would tempt. He hides his own personality wherever possible. To our first parents he did not suggest that they should serve him, but that they should please themselves. Jesus dragged him from behind everything, and put him in front, that for once, not through the subtlety of a second cause, but directly, he might do his worst against a pure soul.

Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. He was tempted of the devil during forty days, during the whole of which period He was still led by the Spirit. The Spirit took Him to the place of temptation, and was with Him through the process of temptation. Not in His Deity did He resist, but in His perfect Manhood. Manhood is however never able to successfully resist temptations of the devil save when fulfilling a first Divine intention, that, namely, of depending upon God, and thus being guided by the Spirit of God. Thus the Man Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, and was led by the Spirit through all the process of temptation.

Adapted from The Crises of the Christ, Book III, Chapter X, by G. Campbell Morgan.

Originally published September 13, 2010.

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