Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
The baptism of water, to which Jesus Christ had submitted in obedience to the human nature which he had assumed, and to the conditions under which he had assumed it, is now succeeded by the more significant, far more intrinsic, inward baptism of temptation. Let us here consider -
I. WHAT THIS BAPTISM OF TEMPTATION REALLY MEANS AND AMOUNTS TO. It means a testing, practical investigation into
(1) the moral direction of a man's will; and
(2) the strength of it in that direction.
The present associations of the word and the thing temptation in the minds of us all are perhaps almost without exception of an unfavourable kind. It arises from the fact that temptation in the original example of it, and in the infinite majority of all cases from that time to the present, issued in disaster. Our way, therefore, is both to dread it for ourselves, and to attach a bad name to it. But if the issue of the original temptation had been the opposite of what it was, and had the amazing majority of all succeeding cases taken pattern of it, we can easily imagine how the mere utterance of the word would have availed to strike a joyous key-note; and the word itself been the watchword of noble endeavour and enthusiastic effort. Till Jesus, however, the word knew no association of this kind. It is, then, in this sense that Jesus and temptation are brought into relation. His moral bent and the strength of it are to be as really and as fairly tested as were those of the first Adam. Nor is it less evident that, while the temptation-test of the first Adam was presented to him in the simplest possible form, and when he was no way "a-hungred," that of the second Adam is described in brief in that threefold form which stands for all the rest as regards its matter, and with every accompanying circumstance of aggravation.
II. AT WHOSE INSTANCE THE DATE OF IT WAS DETERMINED. Though Jesus was always moved by the Holy Spirit, yet it is here with distinct emphasis said, "He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil." In that dimmest background of time to which the garden of Eden belongs, it is at present impossible to institute comparison between the age of Adam and that of Christ on the days of their temptation respectively; but it may be held that there is a ripe time, an exact time, in the life of every man, known to the Spirit and appropriated by the Spirit, for the critical temptation of life. It is true that we cannot say that temptation is, except in a few cases, the final, deciding one, so far as time is concerned; but perhaps oftener than men think it is to solemn truth the crucial one, the one on which hinge many succeeding victories, each made easier, or disgraceful defeats, each less regretted and less striven against. Surely it is legitimate and real source of comfort for all those who seek the right, and would do faithfully the battle with the tempter, to have this view of the time and occasion of the battle put before them on such high authority, that they are adapted and timed of the Spirit. It may also well be observed here that so surely as the Spirit led, so meekly Jesus followed. He followed without resistance, without murmur, and without shrinking, so far as his own conflict or humiliation in meeting such an enemy was concerned. Calm submission before conflict, steadfast determination to encounter the enemy in the path of our life, and unfaltering trust in the Stronger than self, - these are the omens that go before the successful as well as the valiant spiritual warrior.
III. THE PLACE OF THE TEMPTATION. It can scarcely be sustained that the "wilderness" (described here by the same word as in vers. 1 and 3 of the previous chapter) denotes absolutely desert tracts of country. It must probably mean the same as in the former chapter, the thinly inhabited and vaster pastoral stretches of country. There can be no doubt, however, that some point is to be understood as made in this kind of scene or theatre being appointed for Christ's temptation. In the world's actual life the occasion of temptation abounds in the crowd and in the solitary place. It is still a study and a question in which it may abound most. On the other hand, perhaps, it may be held - and in analogy with much else in matter quite different - that though in the crowded city temptation may be yielded to most recklessly, yet conflict, and the fiercer and more prolonged conflict, and remorse, and the fiercer and more prolonged remorse, find solitude to a special degree their thriving ground, and make it all their own as battle-ground. The analysis would be of this kind. In the wilderness:
1. The larger force and number of the spiritual powers of the individual will have the chance of coming into action. The calculating will be more and more manifold with the effect of making the consenting more deliberate.
2. The position will be a clearer one of antagonists just opposed to each other, the one with no help from friends on which to fall back; the other when he would do his worst, with no hindrance arising from a sense of intimidation, as conscious that others are onlookers, and they such as sympathize with his victim, not with himself. The sense of isolation will be a weakness to the assaulted; the sense of unobservedness will be added unscrupulousness to the assaulter.
3. The feelings of the tempted will be naturally and almost inevitably highly stimulated, probably often in a morbid condition. It would need a spirit to which all goodness and all strength were already native to remain uninfluenced by the associations or, otherwise put, the non-associations, of the wilderness. Nevertheless, the victory once won, these shall leave the victor stronger than if all surroundings had been in his favour.
4. Though the trial must be in these aspects severer, yet, everything considered, it will also be the fairer test of the person in his own real self.
IV. THE PERSON OF THE TEMPTER. It is stated with distinctness that Jesus was led up - was led up by the Spirit, was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness, was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness in order to be tempted, i.e. meet the ordeal of temptation, and this at the ministration of "the devil." The naturalness and very harmony of the verse and the narrative are with a ruthless gratuitousness set at nought if we are not at liberty to learn here
(1) the personality of the devil, as a thing upheld by the authority of the New Testament. We learn
(2) that our great Head and Leader, the second Adam, the Captain of our salvation, the Author and Finisher of our faith; was ordained to meet the ordeal of temptation, in what must be considered. the most direct and the most fierce and concentrated form. We may very probably be justly reminded here
(3) that both the genius of temptation at the first, as temptation is constituted in the present Life, originated with Satan, and also that it is still and always really his peculium, in whatever disguised and sugared form of circumstance, apparent accident and the like, it may seem to address us. Temptation now, like painful labour and the sweat of the brow, has in secondary and derived aspects its points of interest, its uses of advantage, and even phases to ask admiration. But primarily, none of these things can be credited to it. We may be reminded
(4) that Satan is probably never far to seek or difficult to be found. Jesus is "led up of the Spirit into the wilderness," but not in consequence of any appointment with Satan to meet him. He is sure to be found. - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.