Russell Moore wrote a book titled Tempted and Tried, in which he discussed the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. One of the things that sticks out is his discussion of the contrast between Israel’s failure in the wilderness and Jesus’ victory in the wilderness. Jesus, as the True Israel, did what national Israel failed to do: love and obey God. For that matter, Jesus did what we failed to do: love and obey God.
Too often we look at Matthew 4:1-11 as a “how to” guide to overcome temptation. I have been guilty of this myself. If we just fast and pray, and make sure we read our Bibles and quote Scripture, we can overcome temptation. While these things are certainly true (who would deny the value of fasting or the importance of Scripture in overcoming temptation?), Matthew 4:1-11 is not primarily about us or our ability to overcome temptation. Instead, it is about Jesus, who overcame temptation and lived a perfectly righteous life so that He could die for our sins and impute His righteousness to us.
So, let’s not miss the point of this narrative. Jesus is tested in the wilderness to prove He is the Son of God (Matthew 3:17), the True Israel, and the Second Adam. It’s not to give us tips on how to defeat temptation. It’s to remind us we cannot defeat temptation and need Jesus Christ to impute His righteousness to us and empower us to live holy lives. Let us focus on Christ and the righteousness He provides through His sinless life and sacrificial death.