Come Follow Me: Matthew 4; Luke 4–5 “The Spirit of the Lord Is upon Me”

Jesus begins his mission with solitude and fasting

In Luke 4:1-2, we read that Jesus prepared for his mission by going alone to the wilderness too fast for 40 days. Note that the time period of “40 days” is used over and over again in the Bible to indicate a pretty long time of hardship or a pretty long spiritual challenge, and may or may not have indicated a literal number of calendar days. (See Why Do So Many Things Take “40 Days and 40 Nights” in the Bible? and What is the significance of 40 days in the Bible? and What Is the Significance of 40 Days in the Bible?)

1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was aled by the Spirit into the wilderness,

aBeing forty days btempted of the cdevil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.

Luke 4:1-2

  • Why is it important to have a time of preparation before doing God’s work?
  • What you do to feel close to God? How does this prepare you to do God’s work?

Although Jesus was “led by the Spirit,” he found himself “tempted of the devil.”

  • Why is it important to remember that even Jesus was tempted?
  • Why might we experience temptation even while we are following the Spirit?

A key element in the plan of salvation is experiencing trials and temptations during our earthly sojourn. We need not feel guilty when tempted to sin. As we learn in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13, even the Savior was tempted.
—Paul Jarvis, April 2022, Jesus Christ’s Perfect Character and Example in Resisting Temptation, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Canada Blog

The Temptation of Christ

The First Temptation: Physical Gratification

And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.

And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That aman shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Luke 4:3-4

President David O. McKay called this temptation, “a temptation of the appetite or passion.” (See David O. McKay, A Test of One, General Conference, October 1911.)

  • Can you think of temptations of physical gratification or passion that afflict us today?

Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:2-3 as he resisted this temptation.

And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to ahumble thee, and to bprove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.

And he ahumbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with bmanna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that cman doth not live by dbread only, but by every eword that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

  • How can the words of this scripture help us overcome temptation?

Elder D. Todd Christofferson drew a parallel between gathering manna and our modern efforts to spiritually nourish ourselves. Watch the video: Daily Bread: Pattern

  • What do you do for daily communion with God?
  • How have you established your routine?
  • How do you recognize when you need spiritual sustenance?

The Second Temptation: Vanity? Demanding miracles? Abandoning your mission?

Note that I am following the chronological order of the story as written in Matthew, with this temptation coming second (Matthew 4:5-7). Luke places this temptation last, but he is not using chronological order. Scholar Ian Paul explains Luke’s choice of a nonchronological structure for his narrative this way:

But it is also clear that Luke has changed the order of the three temptations from Matthew. I think we can see that Luke acknowledges this, though the evidence is hidden in most English translations. Matthew uses the connections ‘then’ (tote) and ‘again’ (palin) in the second and third temptations, but Luke avoids these temporal succession markers, and simply says ‘and’ (kai) to link them. This reminds us that the gospel writers are not always offering us a chronological account of events, but are happy to organise their material in thematic and narrative ways that communicate something not just of the events of Jesus’ life, but of their significance.

…For Luke, the central place of ministry and conflict in his narrative is the temple. The first revelation of the gospel happens to Zechariah in the temple; the final conflict for Jesus takes place in the temple precincts in Luke 19; and the life and ministry of the apostles continues after the resurrection in the temple (Luke 24.53), with the temple remaining the focus of the early community of Jesus’ followers in Acts 2.46.

—Ian Paul, March 8, 2019, Why are Jesus’ temptations in a different order in Luke?, Psephizo

This temptation is less straight-forward than the other two, and I have heard a variety of interpretations of this one.

aAnd he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence:

10 For it is written, He shall give his aangels charge over thee, to keep thee:

11 And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

12 And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not atempt the Lord thy God.

13 And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.

Luke 4:9-13

President David O. McKay called this temptation, “an appeal to his pride, to his vanity.” (See David O. McKay, A Test of One, General Conference, October 1911.)

  • How might giving in to this temptation have been an act of pride or vanity?

President Howard W. Hunter echoed this interpretation and explained it this way:

There lurked in this appeal from Satan another temptation of the human side of mortal nature—the temptation to perform some dazzling feat, some astounding exploit which might bring crowds of amazed and attentive onlookers. Surely leaping from the dizzy heights of the temple turret and landing in the courtyard unhurt would be such a feat. This would be public recognition that Jesus was a superior being and did have a message from on high. It would be a sign and a wonder, the fame of which would spread like wildfire throughout all Judaea and cause many to believe that the Messiah had indeed come. But faith is to precede the miracle; miracles are not to precede the faith.

—Howard W. Hunter, The Temptations of Christ, General Conference, October 1976.

  • Can you think of temptations of pride and vanity that afflict us today?

Another interpretation is that Christ was tempted to abandon God’s plan and fail to fulfil his mission in the appointed way.

The Old Testament temple imagery is also profoundly significant here, since the highest point of the temple represents the entire history of the redemption theme of the restored Presence of God, the sanctuary sacrifices, and all that the temple represented, which would have been lost if Jesus had tested God by leaping from its highest point (see Heb 2:17-18). The True High Priest would have totally profaned his task and failed to complete his mission to enter the Most Holy Place in God’s appointed way, through the Cross. Jesus is the Old Testament Lamb that would be led to the slaughter at his first coming, and only at his second at the end of the age would he come in full glorious splendor. 

—Stephen T. Hague, August 3, 2016, Jesus’ Temptation and the Old Testament, Certitude.

Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:16 as he resisted this temptation.

16 ¶ Ye shall not atempt the Lord your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.

Deuteronomy 6:16

The way this scripture is written in the King James Bible, “Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God,” looks pretty specific to Christ, and less useful for the rest of us who are not the Lord God. But the footnote clarifies that “tempt” here means “put to the test” or in other words, demand a miracle from God.

  • Why is it sinful to test God?
  • How is testing God different from praying for a miracle? Where do we draw the line?

The scripture reminds the Israelites that they exhibited this bad behavior in Massah, or Meribah. So what happened there?

And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of aSin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the Lord, and bpitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink.

Wherefore the people adid chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye btempt the Lord?

And the people thirsted there for water; and the people amurmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?

And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy arodbwherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go.

Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt asmite the brock, and there shall come cwater out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

And he called the name of the place aMassah, and bMeribah, because of the cchiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not?

Exodus 17:1-7

  • How did the Israelites sin in this scenario?
  • Why do you think God rewarded them with water, despite their bad behavior?

The Third Temptation: Power

Again, note that I am following the chronological order from Matthew, where this temptation comes third (Matthew 4:8-10).

aAnd the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.

And the devil said unto him, All this apower will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I 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 aworship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou bserve.

Luke 4:5-8

President David O. McKay called this temptation, “a desire for worldly riches or power and dominion over lands or earthly possessions of men.” (See David O. McKay, A Test of One, General Conference, October 1911.)

  • Can you think of temptations of greed and power that afflict us today?

Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:12-15 as he resisted this temptation.

12 Then beware lest thou aforget the Lord, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

13 Thou shalt afear the Lord thy God, and bserve him, and shalt cswear by his name.

14 Ye shall not go after aother bgods, of the gods of the people which are round about you;

Deuteronomy 6:12-14

  • How can the words of this scripture help us overcome temptation?

When I think of this temptation, I think of people who want power for power’s sake, or fame for fame’s sake. I think of powerful people who have no intention of wielding their power for the common good. I think of wealthy people who keep accumulating wealth at the expense of the poor. I think of rulers who are not content with the territory they already control, but instead exert violence to acquire more.

When Jesus replied to the devil with a simple “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only,’”[4] he rejected this type of exploitative power. He actively and intentionally refused the devil’s bargain—the implication being, perhaps, that those who are tempted in a similar way can follow suit.

—Liz Cooledge Jenkins, April 24, 2022, The Gendered Temptation of Jesus, Feminism and Religion

But what if we yield to temptation?

In Luke 4, we see three examples of Jesus Christ perfectly overcoming the temptation. We can learn from his example and seek to overcome temptations in the same way, but none of us will accomplish this perfectly like he did. All of us will sin at times.

In Luke 5, we learn about how Christ feels about sinners. In Luke 5:17-26, he shows mercy and forgives a man of his sins, prioritizing forgiveness for this man even before he heals the man of his physical paralysis.

In Luke 5:30-32, he dines with sinners.

30 But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?

31 And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.

32 I came not to call the righteous, but asinners to repentance.

Luke 5:30-32

I discuss these scripture stories in more detail here:

  • How can we seek forgiveness when we sin?
  • What barriers might prevent us from seeking forgiveness? How can we overcome these barriers?
April Young-Bennett
April Young-Bennett
April Young-Bennett is the author of the Ask a Suffragist book series and host of the Religious Feminism Podcast. Learn more about April at

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