Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungry.…
As this subject will yield both motives and measures for obedience, so too will it supply us with directions for the due resisting of temptation. The Commander suffered Himself to be tempted, that He might teach His soldier to contend, says ; He taught thee to bear, and He taught thee by bearing. A broad light is thrown by it on every part of temptation.
1. We see the need of watching alway. No height of piety is a sufficient safeguard against danger. We must, therefore, be prepared for conflict, not merely with the principle of evil, but with an actually living, subtle, and most powerful enemy. The principle of evil can mean nothing else than our own inward inclinations to it. By this our Master could not have been tempted, for He had no evil inclination; either, therefore, He could not be tempted, or it must be by a spirit external to Himself, and having, therefore, truly a separate existence.
2. We see the sort of wiles against which we must watch. The evil which seems farthest off is often the nearest. The fast of forty days had surely shown the absolute dominion with which the flesh was curbed in Him to whom the tempter came; yet is His first temptation a suggestion that He should turn the stones around Him into bread.
3. We see, too, with how prompt a readiness the forms of temptation are exchanged. It is not one, and then rest. From sensuality and doubt, how easily did Satan turn to presumption, and from that pass over to the baits of earthly glory, as instruments wherewith to beguile that human heart which only was for ever proof against his snares! And so, when we have resisted the coarser temptations of sensuality or a thirst for worldly advancement, how readily do self-applauding thoughts spring up to poison the purged soil of the heart; or, when we have shut out the louder solicitations of evil, are we drawn unawares, and, if need be, by the very words of Holy Writ, into an attempt to worship God in some new way, and so to approach His altar with an abominable offering of a party-zeal or self-taught service! Conclusion: And so, all through the struggle, how full of teaching is our blessed Lord's example! With what a perfect patience did He endure the struggle to the end; not, as we are wont to do, fretting under it, and peevishly longing for the "rest of the garner," while it is God's will that we should still be "planted in the field." And yet, with this entire patience, how prompt was His resistance, never yielding for a moment to that which He endured to the end. How directly was the sword of the Spirit raised against each following temptation, and how did it pierce through the fraud! And as there is here full instruction how to resist the evil one, so is there, too, a sure earnest of our victory. Satan dared, indeed, to assault our Lord, but He did not triumph over Him. He overcame the devil in our nature, that we might be partakers of His triumph. From us He took flesh, that we from Him might have salvation. In Him we were tempted; in Him we vanquish Satan. He has passed through the battle; but He will not forget those whom He has left to follow Him. He is God over all; but He has not ceased to be the Virgin's Son. Let us trust more in His sympathy, and cast ourselves more on His care.
(Bishop S. Wilberforce.)
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.