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Matthew 4:1-11: Jesus' Temptation
Individuals: Take time to think back about your past week. Where have you seen God work in your life or answer prayer? Write down any prayer requests you have.
Group: Open the study by sharing life updates, reviewing highs and lows of your past week, or sharing prayer requests and praises.
Icebreaker: Time to be a bit vulnerable. What is the temptation you struggle with most? How do you usually respond when faced with this temptation? What thoughts go through your mind when you are most successful at NOT giving in to this temptation?
All: Begin the study with a word of prayer, asking God to open your heart for today’s study. You can also pray for any prayer requests now, or save that for the end.
Read today’s passage: Matthew 4:1-11.
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do 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 splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
What is the context for this passage?
This passage comes at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, even before he had done any teaching and healing. Jesus had just been baptized by John (Matthew 3:13-16), and the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove. A voice came from heaven saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Jesus goes from this high moment at his baptism into the low moment of his temptation.
Read the passage again.
Explore a different version if you have one available. If you are online, here is Matthew 4 in NIV through Bible Gateway. You can change the version by using the dropdown menu at the top right of the page.
Try to summarize the passage in your own words.
Answer these three questions about the passage:
1. What does the passage say about God?
Jesus depended on the Holy Spirit for guidance. The Holy Spirit was the one who led Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted. This seems like a poor choice, but God knew that if Jesus was going to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins, he would need the experience of being tempted and enduring against that temptation.
Jesus knew Scripture and could apply it to his life. Each time Satan tempted Jesus, Jesus was able to quote Scripture to counteract Satan’s attacks. Jesus had memorized Scripture, and he knew exactly when to apply each verse. This is evidence of Jesus’ intimate familiarity with God’s word.
Jesus didn’t take the easy way out. Satan gave Jesus the opportunity to own all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would bow down and worship Satan. This seems like an easy alternative to death on a cross. But Jesus saw this for the lie it was and was able to resist this temptation.
2. What does the passage say about people?
Jesus experienced temptation just like we do. Jesus was both fully God and fully human. As a human, Jesus experienced temptation, just like all humans past, present, and future. We can take comfort in the fact that Jesus knows what a struggle it is to fight against temptation.
Jesus experienced human feelings such as hunger. As a human, Jesus had basic needs, including food and water. When our basic needs are not met, we are more likely to fall into temptation. Jesus was able to resist temptation even when his most fundamental needs were not being met—even after he was reminded that he had the power to miraculously fulfill those needs.
We are supposed to get our sustenance from God’s word, not from food. As humans, we physically need food in order to live. However, this passage tells us that our spiritual needs are even more important. If we don’t feed ourselves with God’s word, we will not have spiritual life.
We are commanded to worship God alone. At the culmination of Jesus’ temptation, Satan tries to get Jesus to worship him, and Jesus gives the final word—we are to worship God alone. Satan knows that he’s lost this battle. If we are firm on our commitment to worship God alone, we can also defeat Satan’s attacks in our lives.
3. What does the passage say about God’s plan?
God’s plan was for Jesus to experience temptation. Without the experience of temptation, Jesus would not be fully human, because temptation to sin is a human experience that is common to all. God needed Jesus to experience this temptation in order to be the most effective sacrifice and the most effective intermediary between humans and God.
God’s plan was for Jesus to win the battle over Satan. If Jesus had given in to a single one of Satan’s temptations, especially the last one, this would be a very different world. Satan would have Jesus, one part of the triune God, under his rule, and there would be no redemption for sin. By facing off with Satan in the wilderness and overcoming, Jesus was able to fulfill his destiny of being the sacrifice for our sins and conquering sin and death.
God’s plan is for us to have everything we need to overcome temptation. In every temptation, Jesus used Scripture to counteract Satan’s attacks. God has given us the Scriptures—his word—to use in our battle against Satan. If we stay committed to knowing God’s word, we too can be successful in defeating temptation.
How does the passage fit into the overarching story of the Bible?
Sometimes it’s easier to understand a passage if you have a little outside knowledge from other passages in the Bible. This section will help provide that outside perspective.
The story of the Bible is about humankind sinning and Jesus redeeming us. Jesus was able to be the perfect sacrifice because he lived a life without sin. He wasn’t able to live this perfect life because he never faced any temptation. Instead, he was able to live this perfect life because he depended on God to help him endure the temptation.
Throughout the Bible, we see so many stories of humans who faced temptation and failed. We see Adam and Eve being tempted by Satan in the garden, and they ate of the fruit that God told them not to eat (Genesis 3). We see David succumbing to his lust for Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). We see Judas Iscariot betray the Son of God for a few silver coins (Matthew 26, Luke 22). The Bible is filled with these stories.
And then we come to Jesus, who was able to face every temptation and was still able to endure. His temptation both gives us an example of how we can endure temptation and gives us someone we can go to who understands what we are going through when we are tempted.
Individual: Answer the following questions thoughtfully for yourself.
Group: Pose these questions for discussion.
All: If you are willing to share, I’d love to hear your thoughts to these questions. Feel free to use the comment section to start a discussion about this passage.
What else strikes you about this passage?
How does the passage affect how you view God? How you view yourself?
How does this passage affect how you will live your life?
For Bible Essential studies, you can use my thoughts as your devotional, or you can download and use the journaling sheet to work through the passage on your own. If desired, you can then compare your thoughts to mine. Journal sheets can be downloaded and used now or later. They can be printed and filled in by hand or saved and filled out electronically. Journal sheets are available for individual or group use.
If you plan to lead a group study, a PowerPoint presentation is also available.
You can access these resources by clicking here: Matthew 4 Resources