Biblical Numerology: NUMBER FOUR – Part IX

 Christ’s Forty-day Fast and Temptation

A.D. 27: John the Baptist, Christ’s prophesied forerunner, yielding to Christ’s gentle yet firm request, buried Him beneath the waters of the Jordan. “And straightway coming up out of the water,” Jesus “saw the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit like a dove descending upon Him.” (Gabriel told Zacharias the priest, John’s father that the child would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb, and would go forth in the spirit and power of Elijah “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1: 8-17).

The voice of the Father in heaven was heard, saying. “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”  Here we have the first New Testament introduction of the Godhead, where, in the gospel commission Jesus instructed His disciples for all time: “All power  has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” Matt. 28: 18-20, N.K.J.V.

Temptation. [Heb. masah, “proving,” “trial,” “test”; Greek generally peiramos, “test,” “trial,” “temptation,” “enticement.”]. The terms thus translated generally describe any situation that confronts a person with a test of character. In Deut. 4: 34; 7: 19; 29: 3, masah is used of testing with a view to strengthening of character.  In Luke 4: 13, the devil tempts, or tests Christ with the intention of breaking His will to obey God. Elsewhere in the New Testament, generally speaking, ‘temptation’ refers to any trying experience that might conceivably weaken a person’s hold on God, but which, patiently endured, strengthens faith and character. Thus the Christian is to ‘overcome with all joy’ when he ‘falls into diverse temptations’ (James 1: 2), that is, when he encounters difficulties that test the reality of his Christian experience.” – SDA Bible Dictionary, Commentary Reference Series, Vol. 8.

The site of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4: 1; Luke 4: 1), and of the mountain to the top of which the devil took Jesus (Matt. 4: 8) has not been revealed, although there are conjectured spots such as the so-called “mount of temptation in the Wilderness of Judah near Jericho. Ellen G. White wrote in Story of Redemption, pp. 198-201:

     “After the baptism of Jesus in Jordan, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil. The Holy Spirit had prepared Him for that special scene of fierce temptations. Forty days He was tempted of Satan, and in those days He ate nothing. Everything around Him was unpleasant, from which human nature would be led to shrink. He was with the wild beasts and the devil, in a desolate, lonely place. The Son of God was pale and emaciated, through fasting and suffering. But His course was marked out, and He must fulfill the work which He came to do.

     “Satan took advantage of the sufferings of the Son of God and prepared to beset Him with manifold temptations, hoping to obtain the victory over Him, because He had humbled Himself as a man. Satan came with this temptation: ‘If Thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.’ He tempted Jesus to condescend to give Him proof of His being the Messiah, by exercising His divine power. Jesus mildly answered him, ‘It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ Luke 4: 3, 4.

          “Satan was seeking a dispute with Jesus concerning His being the Son of God. He referred to His weak, suffering condition and boastingly affirmed that he was stronger than Jesus. But the word spoken from heaven, ‘Thou art My beloved Son; In Thee I am well pleased.’ (Luke 3: 22) was sufficient to sustain Jesus through all His sufferings. . . .  Christ had nothing to do in convincing Satan of His power or of His being the Savior of the world. Satan has sufficient evidence of the exalted station and authority of the Son of God. His unwillingness to yield to Christ’s authority had shut him out of heaven.

     “To manifest his power, Satan carried Jesus to Jerusalem and set Him upon a pinnacle of the temple, and there tempted Him to give evidence that He was the Son of God, by casting Himself down from that dizzy height. Satan came with the words of inspiration: ‘For it is written, He shall give His angels charge over Thee, to keep Thee: and in their hands they shall bear Thee up, lest at any time Thou dash they foot against a stone.’ Jesus answering said unto him, ‘It is said, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.’ Luke 4: 10-12. Satan wished to cause Jesus to presume upon the mercy of His Father and risk His life before the fulfillment of His mission. He had hoped that the plan of salvation would fail; but the plan was laid too deep to be overthrown or marred by Satan. [Amen!]

      “Christ is the example for all Christians. [1 Pet. 1: 21-25]. When they are tempted, or their rights disputed, they should bear it patiently. They should not feel that they have a right to call upon the Lord to display His power that they may obtain a victory over their enemies, unless God can directly be honored and glorified thereby. If Jesus had cast Himself from the pinnacle of the temple, it would not have glorified His Father, fornone would have witnessed the act but Satan and the angels of God. And it would have been tempting the Lord to display His power to His bitterest foe. It would have been condescending to the one Jesus came to conquer.

    “’And the devil, taking Him up to a high mountain, shewed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto Him, All this power I will give Thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be Thine. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind Me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.’ Luke 4: 5-8.

     “Satan presented before Jesus the kingdoms of the world in the most attractive light. If Jesus would there worship him, he offered to relinquish his claims to the possessions of earth. If the plan of salvation should be carried out and Jesus would die to redeem man, Satan knew that his own power would be limited and finally taken away, and that he would be destroyed. Therefore it was his studied plan to prevent, if possible, the completion of the great work which had been commenced by the Son of God. If the plan of man’s redemption should fail, Satan would retain the kingdom which he claimed. And if he should succeed, he flattered himself that he would reign in opposition to the God of heaven.

   ”Satan exulted when Jesus laid aside His power and glory, and left heaven. He thought that the Son of God was then placed in his power. The temptation took so easily with the holy pair in Eden that he hoped by his satanic power and cunning to overthrow even the Son of God, and thereby have his own life and kingdom.  If he could tempt Jesus to depart from the will of His Father, his object would be gained. But Jesus met the tempter with the rebuke, ‘Get thee behind Me, Satan.’ He was to bow only to His Father.

     “Satan claimed the kingdom of earth was his and insinuated to Jesus that all His sufferings might be saved; that he need not die to obtain the kingdoms of this world; if He would worship him He might have all the possessions of the earth and the glory of reigning over them. But Jesus was steadfast. He knew that the time was to come when He would, by His own life, redeem the kingdom from Satan, and that, after a season, all in heaven and on earth would submit to Him. He chose His life of suffering and His dreadful death as the way appointed by His Father that He might become a lawful heir to the kingdoms of earth and have them given to His hands as an everlasting possession [Dan.7: 13, 14]. Satan also will be given into His hands to be destroyed by death, nevermore to annoy Jesus or the saints in glory.” – Story of Redemption, pp. 198-201.

    “At the Savior’s baptism, Satan was among the witnesses. He saw the Father’s glory overshadowing His Son. He heard the voice of Jehovah testifying to the divinity of Jesus. Ever since Adam’s sin, the human race had been cut off from direct communication with God; the intercourse between heaven and earth had been through Christ; but now that Jesus had come ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh’ (Rom. 8:3), the Father Himself spoke. He had before communicated to humanity through Christ; now He communicated with humanity inChrist. Satan had hoped that God’s abhorrence of evil would bring an eternal separation between heaven and earth. But now it was manifest that the connection between God and man had been restored.

     “Satan saw that he must either conquer or be conquered. The issues of the conflict involved too much to be entrusted to his confederate angels. He must personally conduct the warfare. All the energies of apostasy were rallied against the Son of God. Christ was made the mark of every weapon of hell.

Appetite—the ground of the first great temptation.  Appetite: “An inherent or habitual desire or propensity for some personal gratification, either of body or mind; craving; desire for, or relish of, food or drink. Synonyms: longing, hunger, passion.”  Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Fifth Edition, 1942.

   “Many look on this conflict between Christ and Satan as having no special bearing on their own life; and for them it has little interest. But within the domain of every human heart this controversy is repeated. Never does one leave the ranks of evil for the service of God without encountering the assaults of Satan. The enticements which Christ resisted were those that we find it so difficult to withstand. They were urged upon Him in as much greater degree as His character is superior to ours. With the terrible weight of the sins of the world upon Him, Christ withstood the test upon appetite, upon the love of the world, and upon the love of display that leads to presumption. These were the temptations that overcame Adam and Eve, and so readily overcome us.

       “Satan had pointed to Adam’s sin as proof that God’s law was unjust, and could not be obeyed. In our humanity, Christ was to redeem Adam’s failure. But when Adam was assailed by the tempter, none of the effects of sin were upon him. He stood in the strength of perfect manhood, possessing the full vigor of mind and body. He was surrounded with the glories of Eden, and was in daily communion with heavenly beings. It was not thus with Jesus when He entered the wilderness to cope with Satan. For four thousand years the race had been decreasing in physical strength, in mental power, and in moral worth; and Christ took upon Him the infirmities of degenerate humanity. Only thus could He rescue man from the lowest depths of degradation.


     “Many claim that it was impossible for Christ to be overcome by temptation. Then He could not have been placed in Adam’s position; He could not have gained the victory that Adam failed to gain. If we have in any sense a more trying conflict than had Christ, then He would not be able to succor us [Heb.2: 14, 16-18; 4: 14-16]. But our Savior took humanity, with all its liabilities. He took the nature of man, with the possibility of yielding to temptation. We have nothing to bear which He has not endured.


         “With Christ, as with the holy pair in Eden, appetite was the ground of the first great temptation. Just where the ruin began, the work of our redemption must begin. As by the indulgence of appetite Adam fell, so by the denial of appetite Christ must overcome. ‘And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’ [Matt. 4: 3, 4; Deut.8:3].

        “From the time of Adam to that of Christ, self-indulgence had increased the power of the appetites and passions, until they had almost unlimited control. Thus men had become debased and diseased, and of themselves it was impossible for them to overcome. In man’s behalf, Christ conquered by enduring the severest test. For our sake He exercised a self-control stronger than hunger or death. And in this first victorywere involved other issues that enter all our conflicts with the powers of darkness.” – E. G. White, “The Temptation,” Desire of Ages, pp. 116, 117.

(Continued next week).