Tell These Stones To Become Bread- Matthew 4:3
In our next series of posts, will we undertake an examination of the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness in Matthew 4, examining why Jesus was tempted in these particular ways, and what we can learn from these three separate temptations which is applicable to our lives as believers. This immediately gives rise to a question: Were these temptations solely for Jesus and have no bearing on anyone else, were they unique to Jesus as God’s one and only Son? Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was “Tempted in all ways as we are, yet was without sin”. This does not mean that Jesus was subjected to every specific individual temptation we are in this age, i.e. no temptation to online gambling or pornography, but that He was tempted in a similar manner as we are, that these three temptations here represent the general categories into which all temptations ultimately fall. So why just these three temptations here, and how do they apply to all of us? For the answer, we turn to 1 John 2:16, which reads as follows: “For everything in the world- the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life- comes not from the Father but from the world”. This verse tells us that all of the temptations and resulting sins to which human beings are vulnerable can be included in one of these three general categories of temptation, and we will examine the temptations of Jesus in light of this verse in 1 John in order to answer the question at hand. The first temptation to which Jesus is subjected is the temptation to “tell these stones to become bread”. It must be noted that in Matthew 4:2, we learn that Jesus had fasted for forty days and nights, and in one of the great understatements of all time, we learn that He “was hungry”. Of course we understand that hunger is a human universal, that everyone has been hungry and that the need for food becomes more and more intense as we become more and more hungry. So the picture being painted here is one of Jesus being extremely hungry, likely hungrier than anyone who reads this has ever been, with an extreme bodily desire for food. It is at this point that we turn to 1 John 2:16 for enlightenment into what is going on here and why this temptation is relevant to all. The first category of temptations in 1 John 2:16 is the “lusts of the flesh”. John uses the word “flesh” here (sarx in the Greek) to refer to the human body, as opposed to Paul, who commonly uses this word to refer to the fallenness of human beings. For Paul the flesh is used as a metaphor for our human proclivity toward sin, for John, the flesh is used literally to refer to the physical body. The “lusts of the flesh” then refers to the basic desires we all have as human beings, desires generated by our bodies, and maybe the most fundamental of these is the desire for food. Now the desire for food is perfectly normal and natural, and this desire ultimately comes from God. We must note here that John refers not to desires of the flesh, but rather uses the word lust. So what is the difference between what is merely a desire and what is referred to as lust? The difference can be best understood through the concept of control. These desires of the body remain merely desires when we control them, and become lusts when they control us. This is the bottom line issue involved in this temptation or Jesus. Will He be able to control His bodily desire for food, or would he let that desire control Him? Would what He chose to do be ultimately determined by His bodily desire for food or His spiritual desire to obey His Father, to live not by bread alone, but by “every word that comes form the mouth of God”? So we find that Jesus is first tempted in all ways as we are in the appeal to live according to the “lusts of the flesh”, to be controlled by the needs and appetites that come as part of living in a physical body, and to be tempted to satisfy those needs in a way which would be disobedient to the Word of His Father. This temptation is common to all in that we are all tempted over and over to be controlled by our own physical needs and desires, rather than to control them, to be so controlled by those desires that we satisfy then in ways which lead us to live by “bread alone”, rather than by “every word which proceeds for the mouth of God”.