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3 Temptations of Jesus Before His Ministry

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


This article is a detailed study about the three temptations Jesus encountered after fasting when He was tempted by the devil. Most Bible readers, biblical scholars, preachers, and Christian educators know about this encounter recorded in all three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. However, there are often some overlooked details that might have been missed.

The intent of this article is to shine some light on some of those overlooked details.

The Spirit Led Jesus Into the Wilderness to Be Tested

The devil just did not go after Jesus, and Jesus just didn't approach the devil. The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tested (Matthew 4:1). Why?

The answer is simple when we put on our biblical scholarly cap. Jesus needed to experience temptations because He is our perfect example. That way we will know what to do when we are tempted.

Jesus had just come off of a forty-day fast when He was tempted in the same three ways Adam and Eve were tempted in the Garden of Eden and in the same ways that we are also tempted.

  1. the lust of the flesh (Matthew 4:3-4)
  2. the pride of life (Matthew 4:5-7)
  3. the lust of the eyes (Matthew 4:8-10)

1. Tell Stones to Turn Into Bread

Jesus had not eaten during His fast. Therefore, He was hungry. That's why the devil tempted Jesus by suggesting He do something to satisfy His flesh (Matthew 4:3-4). Most people say the devil told Jesus to turn the stones into bread. However, the devil told Jesus to tell the stones to turn into bread. In other words, the devil suggested that Jesus use His voice to perform a miracle.

Matthew 4:3 in most versions of the Bible says:

"The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

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Notice that the stones were on the ground. The settings for the next two temptations go higher and higher.

Jesus didn't need to prove He was the Son of God by telling stones to become bread. Therefore, He used His voice to quote what is written in Deuteronomy 8:3.

“It is written: "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."

Pinnacle of a temple

Pinnacle of a temple

2. Jump from Pinnacle of the Temple

According to Matthew 4:5-7, the tempter took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple which was a higher place. The tempter said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down." He also quoted Psalms 91:12 which states the angels would protect Him during the fall.

Jesus again replied with scripture to indicate that He would not do what the tempter requested. This time He quoted Deuteronomy 6:16, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test."


3. All the Kingdoms of the World

The third and final temptation is found in Matthew 4:8-10. This time the tempter takes Jesus to a very high mountain to show Him all the kingdoms of the world. The devil told Jesus:

“All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me."

Jesus said what we should say to the devil when he tempts us: “Away from me, Satan!" Then Jesus quoted, "For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only'" (Deuteronomy 6:13).

After Jesus did not give in to any of the temptations, the devil went away. Angels ministered to Jesus. Then Jesus returned to Galilee to begin His public ministry. He was indeed ready because He had been baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan river, fasted for forty days, and passed all three tests that the tempter suggested.

  1. Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted. He showed us what to do when we are tested. We should say like Jesus, "It is written."
  2. The tempter did not tell Jesus to turn the stones into bread. He told Jesus to tell the stones to become bread. The devil knew Jesus could perform miracles by using His voice.
  3. Jesus quoted scriptures from Deuteronomy after all three temptations because He knew the appropriate scriptures to quote. The tempter also knew those scriptures.
  4. The devil quoted scriptures to persuade Jesus to do what he asked Him to do. In other words, Jesus and the tempter took turns quoting the Old Testament scriptures.
  5. The settings of the temptations went from the lowest to the highest: stones on the ground, the pinnacle of a temple, and a very high mountain.
  6. The temptations included the phrase "if you are the Son of God" indicating that the devil wanted Jesus to prove He was the Son of God. However, Jesus refused to perform miracles to prove to the devil who He was.

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