Matthew 4:1-4; Luke 4:1-4; Mark 1:12-13
“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
Immediately following his baptism, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness in order to be tempted by the devil. He spent the next forty days there, alone among the wild animals, eating nothing the entire time. At the end of the forty days, when Jesus was literally starving, the devil came to tempt him, saying, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
It’s interesting that the devil uses the word “if.” Was he trying to cause Jesus to doubt who he really was, or was it the devil himself who was uncertain? Either way, Jesus refused to engage him, but instead rebuffed him with a quote taken from the book of Deuteronomy, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” When we go back and read that verse in context with the rest of the passage, we can see some striking parallels between what Moses said to the people of Israel and what Jesus was currently experiencing in the wilderness:
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord [emphasis added]. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you . (Deuteronomy 8:2-5)
Although Jesus was alone in the wilderness and isolated from other people, he was not isolated from his heavenly Father. He was still able to commune with him. And Jesus knew that this was the time appointed by his Father for him to be tested.
So then, why was Jesus led into the wilderness to be tested by the devil? The writer of Hebrews gives us this answer: “It is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:16-18)