Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungry.…
There can be no question as to the reality of the temptation. Without contending for the strictly literal sense of the passage, we do maintain that the temptation was a very real thing to our Lord. It constituted a serious struggle through which he went, out of which he came forth victorious, by passing through which he was our Exemplar. We cannot afford to lose this aspect of his life, this view of our Lord himself; but we must beware lest we do; for "if we shrink from believing that he really felt the force of temptation... we make that Divine life a mere mimic representation of griefs that were not real, and surprises that were feigned, and sorrows that were theatrical. But thus we lose the Savior." It was a real conflict that is here depicted; and the first stage of it was that through which we have all, in our time, to pass - the stern contest with the temptation of the flesh.
I. THE SEVERITY OF THE TEMPTATION. "He hungered" after long fasting. Hunger, in its severer forms, is unknown to us. In a country like this we have no experience of it. We can only judge of it from the testimony of those who have endured it; and, thus judging, we are sure that it is a very urgent, imperious, almost irresistible craving. The extremities and inhumanities to which it has driven men who are not naturally inhuman tell their own tale with terrible force. Our Master was suffering, we may well believe, from the most severe pangs of want. There were stones of the size and color of such a loaf as he would have given everything (it would be right to give) to obtain. By an easy exertion of his miraculous power he could turn the one into the other. Why not do so? Because to do that would be to take himself out of the hands of that heavenly Father to whose care he was committed, and manifest distrust in his providential goodness. Or because to do so would be to employ his Divine power first on his own behalf, instead of using it, as on the occasion of its first exercise it behoved him to employ it, on behalf of others. Or because to do that would be to give present and bodily cravings precedence of the great concerns of the kingdom of God. For some such reason our Lord thought that it would be wrong or, at any rate, undesirable for him to act on the suggestion, and he forbore. Temptation of the fleshly kind comes to us in the shape of hunger, or thirst, or sexual passion.
1. These trials of our moderation and self-government are more or less severe according to
(1) our temperament and
(2) our circumstances.
2. They may lead us into errors and evils which are
(1) mistakes to be avoided; or
(2) indiscretions to be condemned and regretted, and, of course, forsaken; or
(3) vices and sins which are shameful and deadly,
which stain the conscience, which ruin the reputation, which lead down to swift destruction.
II. THE WAY OF VICTORY. When the hour of conflict comes we must gird ourselves for the fight; and though the peril may be great because the enemy is strong, yet have we great resources, and there is no reason why we should not win the battle. We should call to our help our regard for:
1. The will of God as revealed in his Word; that "sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God," should be at hand with us as it was with our great Leader: "It is written."
2. The penalty of disobedience - a very heavy one in its ultimate issues.
3. The example of our Divine Master, calmly putting aside the false suggestion, preferring to suffer rather than to sin.
4. The consideration that sin excludes us from other and higher blessings. Better far, in the thought of Christ, to rest in bodily hunger, committing himself to the faithfulness of the holy Father. And how much better than any physical enjoyment is the satisfaction of spirit which attends purity and piety! Not the bread of bodily comfort, but the sense of God's abiding favor, the continuance of the friendship of Christ, the cherishing of a heavenly hope, - that is the good thing to prize and to pursue. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.
WEB: for forty days, being tempted by the devil. He ate nothing in those days. Afterward, when they were completed, he was hungry.