At Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a dove. No sooner was the glory over, the same Spirit “led” Jesus “into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Why should the Holy Spirit push Jesus to be tempted?
The answer is also revealed to us. God so loved the world that He sent His Only Son to be like us in all things except sin. (1Jn 4:9)
We are always being tempted one way or the other. No one on earth is exempt from temptation. In fact, our lives are jammed with temptations of all kinds – from grabbing material things to desiring praise and glory (pride). So, Jesus Christ too was tempted like us. The author to the letter to the Hebrews says that we have a High Priest (Jesus Christ) who is able to empathize with us because he was tempted in all ways like us except that he did not sin (Heb 4:15) In fact Scripture scholars say that this story in Matthew 4:1-11 is a résumé or summary of the temptations Jesus was subjected to all his life on earth.
The first temptation, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves,” is temptation to greed for material things or materialism: We are too familiar with this temptation. The second, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for Scripture says: He will put you in his angels’ charge…” is temptation to vainglory. Coming down from the height supported by angels must be a tremendous sight and with people looking on, what a glorious sight. Anyone will be filled with self-importance and glory. Here, too, we are not strangers: we want the admiration and praise of others or vainglory. The third temptation is to power. “I will give you all these (kingdoms), if you fall at my feet and worship me.” How many of us have sold our souls in order to gain power to control others and generally it is with money? Power, money and glory have conquered many souls for the devil. All our temptations can be summarized into these three categories: temptation to have lots of money, to power to control others and self-glory or self-importance.
By undergoing temptations like us, Jesus wanted to teach us two things. (1) We can overcome temptations with God’s grace. (2) Temptations are sent not to make us fall but God makes use of the temptations from the evil one and from ourselves to strengthen, so to say, the nerves and sinews of our minds, hearts and souls. They are meant not to weaken us nor to ruin us but to strengthen us for our own growth. Hence, St. James writes:
My brothers, you will always have your trials but, when they come, try to treat them as a happy privilege; you understand that your faith is only put to the test to make you patient, but patience too is to have its practical results so that you will become fully developed, complete, with nothing missing. (James 1: 2-4)
When a young soccer player in the second best team does very well, the trainer will naturally send him to the first best team. He will not be sent to the third team in which he could walk through the game and not break sweat. Sent to the first team, he will be tested again and has to prove that he is worthy of being in the first team. This is what temptations are meant to be: to enable us to become stronger and emerge victorious to become more and more beautiful persons.
You will be elected in a moment to become soon Christians. You have already passed the test of the first team and you are entering into the second team. Here again you will meet with temptations of different kinds because the devil will not let you sail through your journey without trials and tribulations before you reach your goal: to enter to bask in joy in the holiness of God. Even after your baptism, the evil one will not leave you alone. The devil cannot stand seeing people doing good and becoming holier and more beautiful. So, the devil does everything to turn you away from doing good (temptations). But God makes use of these temptations of the devil to help you grow to be adult Christians of caliber, of quality, or as St. James says: “…fully developed, complete, with nothing missing.”
Pray, therefore, at all times that Jesus Christ walks with you and helps you overcome temptations as you climb the mountain to holiness and beauty.