The Temptation In The Wilderness -- By: William A. Stearns

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 011:41 (Jan 1854)
Article: The Temptation In The Wilderness
Author: William A. Stearns


The Temptation In The Wilderness

William A. Stearns

In attempting to explain the transaction recorded in Matthew 4:1–11, Mark 1:12-13,, and Luke 4:1–15, we do not forget that the subject is mysterious, and should be approached with awe. It comprehends a deep spiritual philosophy. Its interpretation is beset with difficulties. We have never met with any satisfactory commentary upon it. Nor shall we be disappointed if our own explanation should fail of commending itself to all. The subject, however, is exceedingly important, and invites study. If we are able to make even a small contribution towards a proper understanding of it, we shall not feel that we have labored in vain.

1. The circumstances under which the temptation occurred. It took place at the commencement of our Lord’s ministry. In the history of his experience, it followed a season of high spiritual exaltation. He had just received baptism; the heavens had been opened unto him; the Spirit had descended upon him; the Father had said, in a voice from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” and, according to Luke, he was at that time full of the Holy Ghost. These are the circumstances, and such was the state of mind, under which he was conducted to the scene of temptation.

2. The time occupied with this event. It is commonly spoken of as forty days and forty nights. But the record shows that

forty days and forty nights elapsed since he was led up into the wilderness, before the three special temptations here mentioned, commenced. “And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights,” says Matthew, “he was afterward an hungered.” Luke is equally explicit. He says, that when the forty days and forty nights “were ended, he afterward hungered.” We have no means of exactly limiting the time. The three temptations may have occurred on the fortieth day, or the first on that day, and the second and third at intervals of some days after. Nor are these three temptations the only ones to which our Lord was subjected. As he was led into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil, the natural inference is, that the whole forty days was a scene of conflict. Accordingly Marks says, that he was “in the wilderness forty days tempted of Satan: “and Luke says, that he was forty days tempted of the devil, after which time the three great master-plots were brought to bear upon him. Nor is there anything in the record to indicate that the first of these three temptations was the first of all the temptations to which our S...

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