Many a layperson and theologian have read this particular passage and seen Jesus’s temptation in the desert as an act of malice from the devil, as an attempt to misguide the Redeemer and thus destroy mankind’s chance at redemption.
I believe that it is just another example of Lucifer acting as Adversary and Accuser, of challenging Christ to prove his worth as his Father’s reflection on earth, of preparing him for the role he was meant to fulfill, and of testing his dedication to his cause. In challenging Christ in a similar fashion to how humanity is challenged, the devil’s temptations also strengthened the ties between Shepherd and flock (“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” Hebrews 4:15).
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
Already this first line suggests that Jesus willingly went to face the trials set by the Accuser and Adversary of man, to which not even the Son of God, equal parts divine and human, was exempt. And not merely that he went of his own free will, but that he was led there by the Holy Spirit of God himself, that his Father would want the Son he has sent to earth as his representative to face the challenges of the devil.
And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
In my opinion, this goes beyond the ‘sees starving man in the desert, offers food’ concept popularized by the Good Guy Lucifer meme. It asks the question of: ‘Why should a divine entity, much less a son of the Most High God, hunger?’, or rather, ‘Why should he know and endure the pangs of hunger when a simple request could transform the smallest of stones into a feast?’
Nevermind the fact that Jesus was undertaking a religious fast, which is already an act that if broken would suggest that he held his physical desires in higher regard than his devotion to God, but this could also be taken as a trial to test the endurance, the willingness of Christ to suffer for both his God and for all mankind. For if he could not endure hunger, would he have the strength to endure the sacrifice that awaited him on Calvary?
Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,
And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
Having successfully passed the first trial, Christ’s faith in his Father is thus challenged, as well as his resolve to bear the weight of the task set before him.
It could also be said that this particular trial is in foreshadow to Christ’s musings at Gethsemane, in which he presents the idea that he could easily pray to his Father to send twelve legions of angels to stop his arrest and spare him his agony on the cross.
To fulfill the role of Morningstar/Mourningstar, humility in sorrow and suffering is crucial. If Lucifer himself would not plead for a reprieve from his own suffering, what value would Christ’s sacrifice have if he had given in to his fear and asked for an easier oblation to fulfill?
Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him
The last of the three trials is perhaps the most heavy-hitting. The final test to ascertain Christ’s worth could be seen as the very trial that Lucifer was cast down for.
When asked to prostrate himself and worship a created being, man, he refused. He rebelled against a lesser law so that a higher one would be upheld—‘Though shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve’. For this, he was deemed unworthy in the eyes of his creator.And yet, when the same temptation is brought before Christ in the desert, that same such refusal is praised and glorified.
This final temptation makes me wonder whose benefit these trials were for, however. Were they a method in which Lucifer could test the worthiness of he who claimed to be his Father’s beloved son? Or were they requested by God himself, to prepare his son for the greater trials ahead?
If the latter, well, then this final trial seems more like a slap in the face to Lucifer than anything else, a cruel humiliation meant to capitalize on his shame and ‘failure’.
If the former, then this third trial to me exemplifies Lucifer’s own strength of character, in that he would be willing to reopen past wounds and to bare his own weakness in the eyes of his God and the Morningstar whom he has chosen to replace him, all for the sake of trying to discern whether or not this Christ figure is worthy of being seen as his Father’s reflection and earthly representative, as his Father deserves nothing but the best.