Jesus’ threefold temptation after forty days of fasting quite distinctly aimed at the three components which constitute our being. If we read closely we find that there was a progression from where Jesus was tempted. The first temptation took place in the wilderness and it suggested that God wouldn’t meet Jesus’ bodily needs as illustrated by the stones and hence the Devil enticing Jesus to act in order to improve His bodily situation by making those stones into bread, that is, going from trust to mistrust. We are all well acquainted with lack in areas pertaining to our basic physiological needs. In the midst of these afflictions some pressing questions arise: Can I trust God? Will He provide?
In the next instance Jesus is at the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem. The temple is our souls in which God found a dwelling place when we came to Christ. Here the Devil addresses Jesus’ soul needs which center on being accepted, loved and cared for. The soul also loves attention and is inclined towards self-inflating actions. There is also a hint of a legality in the Devil’s suggestion; a logic that is looking to justify itself for its own sake. “It really doesn’t matter what you do. God will always save you out of it.” In more than one sense that is true, but at the same this attitude carries with it a sort of impertinence which puts God to the test. Jesus would have nothing of it.
The mountain top is our spirits where God has joined Himself one spirit with us. “All these I will give you” meant that the Devil offered Jesus a way out which implied He could avoid the cross. On a deeper level Jesus would be given the world for Himself instead of Him giving Himself for the world. Would Jesus be a self-for-self or a self-for-others? Pick the easy way out and save your spirit, the Devil offered. However, if Jesus had backed out He wouldn’t have become a life-giving source. As our representative He didn’t yield an inch in regards to what the Devil offered Him so that when we come to Jesus we become what He accomplished through His obedience, that is, self-for-others which is spontaneously expressed in our lives as new creations. Since this part is finished in Jesus Christ the temptation we face concerning our spirits is whether to believe that this is so regardless of appearances.
God keeps us from sin, but not from temptation. Those grave clothes Jesus referred to is our false sensation of guilt and our taking of guilt thinking we have a self that needs improvement. We often falsely assume that negative reactions and emotions are not part of the life in God. Well, they are. Temptations’ basic objective is to take us from faith to unbelief, from trust to mistrust. Well, anyway, that’s the Devil’s goal. God’s aim, which overrides the Devil’s, is to fix us in Himself. When Jesus arrived unscathed on the other side of the temptation angels came and ministered to Him. However, it was Jesus Himself who ministered to Peter after his great temptation resulting in denying Jesus three times. In spite of everything that transpired Peter did not lose his faith! What Peter did (denied Jesus three times) was not the overarching issue from God’s point of view. What was on stake was Peter’s faith, and despite his apparently failures he came out of the temptation unscathed because his faith was intact. And Jesus personally ministers to you too during and after your temptations.