This Sunday I will be preaching on Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Today, as I began preparing my message, I was again struck by Matthew’s wording, “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” This occurred right after Jesus’ baptism and entrance into his public ministry. Immediately the battle is joined. But what I so appreciate is that it’s God who takes the initiative – Jesus is led by the Spirit to be tempted.
I appreciate this so much because here Jesus is already acting as my Hero, my Substitute. Jesus did not just die for us, he also lived for us. Paul wrote to the Romans: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19) Not only did God credit Jesus death on the cross as payment for our sins, he also credited Jesus’ obedient life to us as our obedience. It is his perfect life, his righteousness that makes me acceptable to God.
That is why I so appreciate how Jesus’ temptation is recorded. Jesus is taking the initiative to do what we couldn’t do. Unlike Israel’s 40 years of repeated failures in the wilderness, Jesus experienced 40 days of victory in the wilderness – for Luke tells us that Jesus was tempted all 40 days. “Being forty days tempted of the devil.” (Luke 4:2) His successful resisting of the devil’s temptation serves much more than an example for me; it serves as a wonderful reassurance that God already sees me as successfully resisting the devil – in Christ.
For curiosity sake, I looked to see how the LDS Church talked about Jesus’ temptation. This is what I found in its manual, The Life and Teaching of Jesus & His Apostles.
Matthew 4:1: Did Jesus Go into the Wilderness to Be Tempted?
Compare the Inspired Version account of these verses with the King James.
“Then Jesus was led up of the spirit, into the wilderness, to be with God.
“And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, and had communed with God, he was afterwards an hungered, and was left to be tempted of the devil.” (Matthew 4:1, 2, Inspired Version. Italics added.)
“Jesus did not go into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil; righteous men do not seek out temptation. He went ‘to be with God.’ Probably he was visited by the Father; without question he received transcendent spiritual manifestations. The temptations came after he ‘had communed with God,’ ‘after forty days.’ The same was true in the case of Moses. He communed with God, saw the visions of eternity, and was then left unto himself to be tempted of the devil. After resisting temptation he again communed with Deity, gaining further light and revelation.” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:128; see also Mosiah 3:7.)
Both the change made by the Joseph Smith in the Inspired Version, and the explanation by McConkie, remove the idea of God taking the battle to the devil. That not only drastically changes the meaning but also, for me, dramatically weakens this account.