The Temptations of Christ

Christ is baptized to show us the way back to home to our Heavenly Father.  He leads by example.  After Christ was baptized he went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights.  At the end of his fast, Satan appeared and tempted him three times.  Christ again leads by example and shows us how we can avoid temptations.  

This week I wanted to dig into the story a little deeper and look for some symbolic teachings showing me how to do this.  I decided to explore being in the wilderness, fasting, and the temptations. 


The baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of His ministry.  What does he do first?  He withdraws Himself from society to commune with the Father.  We observe Jesus doing this many times.  Frequently He left His disciples and followers to pray and be alone. 

He went to the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36) 
He went to the Sea of Galilee (Mark 1:16) 
He went to the mountainside (Matt. 14:23) 
He went by boat to a solitary place (Matt. 14:13) 
He went to a high mountain (Mark 9:23) 
He went to the Mount of Olives (Mark 14:26)
He went to the grainfields (Mark 2:23)
He went beside the lake (Mark 2:13) 
He went privately into a desert place (Luke 9:10)

Do you see a pattern?  Many times when Christ retreated from others it was out in nature, whether it was a lake, a sea, mountains, or desert.  

Christ chose places that were away from distractions of urban life.  Even today, people like to getaway into the mountains to escape daily living.  

But I don't think Christ was doing it necessarily to escape, but for a specific purpose.  Often these scriptures will tell us that Christ went alone to pray—to talk to His Father in heaven.  

Do we?  Do we take time from our busy days to turn off the noise from the world to communicate with our Heavenly Father?  

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we have the opportunity to retreat to a special kind of wilderness, the temple.  This is where we can leave the world behind and enter into Heavenly Father's world, a celestial world and commune with Him.  Are we regularly taking advantage of this opportunity as Christ did?  

When we take the time to ponder and commune with our Father, we can be strengthened to resist temptations.  

Christ in the Wilderness by Ivan Kramskoi
The LDS Bible Dictionary describes fasting as "a voluntary abstinence from food."  In Biblical times there were different types of fasts.  

The Daniel fast is mainly only eating nuts, fruits, vegetables, and drinking water.

A full fast, like what Esther asked the Jews to do for 3 days, was no food or water.

A regular fast is no food but can drink water.  
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints set aside one day for full fasting.  Once a month, usually the first Sunday, is designated as a time for a 24-hour period of no food or water.  This is also known today as dry fasting.  

When I was little and heard this story about Jesus fasting in the wilderness, my question was always, "How did he go 40 days without water?  How did he not die?"  The answer always came back, "Because he was the Son of God."  

Did Jesus do a full fast, or a regular fast?  I don't know if it really matters; however, I do find it interesting that Matthew and Luke tell us that Jesus was hungry but says nothing about His thirst.  I personally think Jesus did a regular fast and went without food but had water.

Note: We should never try to fast for extended periods of time without seeking a medical professional.  Dry fasts should not go for more than 3 days.  

I've researched what prolonged fasting does to a body.  Once the body realizes that it isn't getting a food source, it starts to use its own reserves for energy.  This can cause a person to lose muscle and become very weak.  At around 35 to 40 days the body is considered to be in starvation mode.  
For more information about the effects of prolonged fasting, click here.  

I've also researched what prolonged fasting does to the mind.  After a few days the intense hunger goes away.  The person then starts to feel energetic.  Many report a feeling of mental clarity and spiritual awareness.

Note: Many religions, not just the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, utilize fasting in order to feel closer to God.  

So while I can't say for sure what was happening to Jesus Christ at the end of his 40 day fast, I feel fairly confident in saying that while His body was weak, His spirit was strong.  He most likely felt closer to His Father than ever before.

Regular fasting gives us an opportunity to be more spiritually in tune, helping us to recognize and resist temptations. 

I realize this is the opposite of fasting, but I like the picture so I'm pretending they are just ending a fast.  


Then his younger brother shows up.

It's easy for me to forget when I read about the devil that this was Lucifer, the second born of Heavenly Father.  This was Jesus Christ's brother in heaven.  They knew each other really well.  When was the last time Jesus had seen him?  What was it like for them to reunite?  

Anyway, let's look at the temptations one by one.  

Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness by James Tissot

Jesus has been fasting for a long time and we know he is hungry.  Satan tries to tempt his older brother to turn a stone into bread.  

Jesus answers the devil with scripture:  

It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matt. 4:4)


detail of Three Temptations of Christ by Sandro Botticelli
The devil and Jesus now go to the top of the pinnacle of temple.  Satan tries to tempt him to throw himself off the temple so that the angels will catch him and he won't even touch a single stone on the way down.  All of Jerusalem would have seen this great feat and marveled at the miracle.  

Jesus answers the devil with scripture: 

It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. (Matt. 4:7)


detail from The Temptation of Christ by J. Kirk Richards

Next the devil shows Christ all the kingdoms of the world.  Satan tempts Christ to worship him and all the kingdoms would be His.  

Jesus answers the devil with scripture: 

...for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.  (Matt. 4:10) 
As I think about these temptations, I realize that Christ is teaching us how we can overcome the temptations of appetite, pride, power, and wealth.  We can't do it alone, but we can resist these temptations with Christ.  

I think this temptation encompasses quite a few challenges we face today.  Addictive behavior is all around us whether it is social media, pornography, food, etc.  Society is trying to entice to "feast" on these pleasures.  
Jesus says that He is the bread of life (John 6:35) and that those come to Christ will never hunger.  

While the devil was trying to tempt Christ to satisfy His hunger by turning stone into bread, Christ teaches us that we should partake of the Bread of Life.  

If you or someone you know if struggling with an addictive behavior, the February 2019 edition of the Ensign has an article written by a therapist who gives tools for relying on the Lord to overcome addiction.

You can view the article by clicking here.  

One day I might write an article about this, but I believe that both high and low self-esteem are different forms of pride.  Pride can look down in the form of arrogance, but it can also look up in the form of jealousy.  We want to feel important; we want to be famous.

Christ did indeed perform many miracles.  His fame grew as a result.  But we see that the miracles were preceded by faith, the miracles didn't cause the faith.  He did not act out of arrogance or jealousy, but rather doing what it was His Father desired of Him.  

So while the devil was trying to tempt Christ to gain fame and glory by showing his great power, Christ teaches us that all glory belongs to Heavenly Father and we are just instruments in His hands.  

To read President Benson's talk titled Beware of Pride, click here.  

You don't have to watch the news for very long before you find an example of someone trying to gain or keep power and/or wealth.  They are enticing mistresses.

Jesus said, "What does it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36-37). 

Christ Himself was not a wealthy man.  As an itinerant rabbi he had to rely on the generosity of others for his food and shelter.  He told us when He ascended into heaven that He was preparing a mansion in heaven for us.  

The devil was offering Christ all the wealth in the world, but Christ teaches us that we can have far more through Him—everything the Father has. 

To read Elder Maxwell's talk about submitting to the will of the Father, click here. 

Since resisting temptation is an ongoing process, I think I'm going to keep my action plan fairly simple for this week.  

1. Recognize that temptations come from the adversary and not because I'm a bad or weak person.  If even Christ can be tempted, I shouldn't beat myself up just because I feel tempted.  

2. Identify what category the temptation falls under and look to Christ's example.  I think just about everything we are tempted with falls under either appetite, pride, power, or wealth.  Once I identify what the temptation is really about, I can learn from what Christ said and did in that particular instance.  

This post coincides with the Feb. 4 - Feb. 10 in  the Come Follow Me 2019 Individual Study Manual

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This is not an official publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

All photos are from unless otherwise sourced.