Please refer to Luke 4:1-13: Jesus fasts and is tempted in the wilderness

If Son, stone to bread > Kingdoms for you, if you pay me [Satan] homage > If Son, throw yourself, God will protect you.1

From Catholic theology, what is the explanation of the devil tempting Jesus with these temptations, and presenting them to him in a particular graduation?

1. Actual chronology may be as in Matt 4:1-11.

Related: Why Mathew and Luke Presented a Different Order of Satan's Temptation.

Just to clarify, this question is not seeking the Catholic explanation of why Jesus was tempted but why he was tempted with these temptations and in a certain order.

Explaining further, the devil might tempt one man with a certain sin - in the case of David it was adultery - and another man with a different one. The [Catholic] explanation being sought is why these particular temptations were presented to Jesus and in a particular order.

  • You are asking a very complicated if interesting question. Maybe you should fill it out and make it even more specific if possible. Otherwise there is going to be a lot of 'preachy' answers. Oct 3, 2014 at 13:11
  • I have been working on your question but have made little progress. I think Zechariah 3: 1 is important. Also: I worked on trying to get to the simplest possible answer. Fasting is done to show that one's own sins (that for many people are of the flesh) can be overcome. Jesus fasted for forty days and knew he could not be tempted with sins of the flesh. But he could be tempted with bringing material good to the world. Unlimited food, prevention of accidents through miracles, justice for the whole world. Utopia. That is as far as I got. Oct 4, 2014 at 18:13

3 Answers 3


I imagine Catholics and Protestants are pretty much united in the way they look at Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, since both "camps" hold Scripture in high esteem and believe it to be God's word.

There is perhaps no better answer to your question, then, than the one found in Hebrews, especially chapter 2, verses 17 and 18, as well as chapters 4 and 5, beginning with the section from 4:14 ("Therefore, . . .") to 5:10, which ends with Jesus being referred to as a "high priest according to the order of Melchizedek" (5:10).

Of seminal importance are 2:17-18 and 4:15, which say:

"Wherefore, it behoved [Jesus] in all things to be made like unto his brethren, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest before God, that he might be a propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that wherein he himself hath suffered and been tempted he is able to succour them also that are tempted" (Douay-Rheims).


"For we have not a high priest who cannot have compassion on our infirmities: but one tempted in all things like as we are, without sin" (Douay-Rheims).

Just as the ancient Hebrews were tested (and tempted) in the wilderness for 40 years, so too was Jesus tested (and tempted) in the wilderness for 40 days. There is significance in the two 40s, but that is not the point of the passage. The point of the passage is simply this:

The reason Jesus can be an empathic high priest to His children is because He experienced every temptation we experience, yet He did so without sinning.

In other words, no one can say Jesus' time on earth was a walk in the park. He, like us, learned obedience to the Father's will through suffering. Unlike us, however, He never stumbled in His obedience and never once gave in to the devil's blandishments and half-truths, whether in His wilderness experience or at any point in His earthly ministry.

Despite Jesus' perfection, He knew firsthand what it is to be tempted. True, there was nothing in His character which was attracted by, or drawn to, sin. Nevertheless, His temptations were real, raw, and most significantly, perhaps, redemptive for us, particularly in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there in His prayer to the Father that He expressed His desire to be exempted from the bitter cup He was about to drain on our behalf, yet He concluded His prayer with these words:

"My Father, if this chalice may not pass away, but I must drink it, thy will be done" (Luke 22:42 Douay-Rheims).

Jesus, having emerged successfully from being tempted by the devil, despite the harshness of the wilderness, and despite being weakened by His 40-day fast, became an empathetic and compassionate high priest to all those who

". . . go . . . with confidence to the throne of grace . . . [to] obtain mercy and find grace in seasonable aid" (Hebrews 4:16 Douay-Rheims).

Moreover, Jesus emerged from His temptation steeled by having defeated His arch enemy, and in so doing was prepared for His greatest temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane (i.e., "olive press"), where the pressure became so great that "his sweat became as drops of blood, trickling down upon the ground (Luke 22:44 Douay-Rheims).

As for the significance of the temptations themselves and the "graduation" of them, as you put it, the three temptations seem to fit the pattern laid out for us by the disciple Jesus loved (viz., John) in 1 John 2:16-17 (NASB, Updated):

"For all that is in the world [i.e., the kosmos], the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever."

  • The lust of the flesh corresponds to the temptation for Jesus to turn stones to bread.

  • The lust of the eyes corresponds to the temptation for Jesus to worship the devil in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world. (Notice that the devil showed Jesus these kingdoms in a moment of time, obviously not long enough for Jesus to see the corruption that existed in all those kingdoms.)

  • The boastful pride of life corresponds to the temptation for Jesus to cast himself from the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem.

In each temptation, the devil wanted Jesus to be and to act autonomously. Jesus chose instead to be obedient to and dependent on His Father. To Jesus, his food was to do only the will of his Father, and to complete the work His Father had laid out for him (see John 4:34).

From eternity past Jesus had determined to humble himself. As Paul tells us in Philippians chapter 2:

". . . although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (vv.6-8 NASB, Updated).

In conclusion, while Jesus never ceased being God the Son while he was on earth, He did veil, if you will, the glory He possessed from all eternity by virtue of being coequal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. At some point in the future, however, during the Day of the Lord, Jesus will be reveal Himself to be the King of kings, and the Lord of lords,

". . . so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11 NASB Updated).

  • 1
    The emphasized point you make halfway through this answer is exactly correct and very succinct.
    – Yuck
    Oct 2, 2014 at 12:26

Although I am not Catholic, and you question specifically asks for a Catholic response; there are no differences between the Protestant and Catholic Bibles concerning Jesus temptation. So therefore I feel like a little Southern Baptist might not pollute Catholicism, too badly.

The enigma concerning the temptation of Jesus appears to be in not fully realizing that Jesus was fully man and fully God. It was the human part of Jesus that was tempted and not the Devine. Temptations are all allowed by God:

1st. Corinthians 10:13 KJV There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

The first thing we must remember is that God allowed Satan to tempt Jesus as a man, however he also gave him an escape mode, which is having the mind and will of Christ.

Actually when we get down to bare facts, it was no different with the man Jesus than it is with us today. Man in his depraved state,( having the knowledge of good and evil), is not able to withstand the onslaughts of Satan under his own power, and it is the power of having the mind and will of Christ that gives the fortitude to resist, and just as Jesus did:

Matthew 4:2 KJV And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

Although the Scripture doesn't tell us that Jesus did a lot of praying during that forty days and nights I cannot imagine that he did not.

And just as Jesus did we need to confront Satan's temptations with Scripture, only where Jesus had to rely on his memory we have the advantage of being able to go to the Bible. So that it is not us who withstands Satan it is the power of the word of God.

Romans 13:1 KJV Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

Jesus himself promised that:

Luke 21:15 KJV For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.

So in truth it was not the man Jesus, any more than it is us, who resist Satan but in reality it is God himself, and yet just as with you and I, Jesus had to be tempted in his humanity as we are in our humanity, with all of our weaknesses, but it is imperative that we respond just as Jesus did.

And we must believe just as Martha did that:

John 11:22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

And If we ask for the power to overcome temptation as Jesus did he has promised to give it to us:

John 14:13 and 14 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

Notice: that any and thing are separate words.

The man Jesus knew that God is in control of all things at all times, and even though it was necessary that he be tempted in all ways as man can be tempted; it is not necessary that we are, and that is why Jesus admonished us to pray:

Matthew 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Hope this helps.


God is always sovereign

1 Pet 4:12-13 (RSVCE)
Suffering as a Christian 12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

The one who resists the devil glorifies God and merits in the eyes of God, leaving the devil humiliated, defeated and downtrodden.

1 Pet 5:8-10 (RSVCE) 8 Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. 10And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.

Since the devil takes a gamble whenever he tempts us and it costs him should we resist him, it makes sense, as our own experience shows, that his insinuations should start small and in small matters, getting one to engage in a dialogue, and making use of subtle suggestions.

Jas 1:12 (RSVCE)
Trial and Temptation 12 Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.

The devil is also opportunistic, using whatever is available to him. Thus Eve was tempted with the eating of the forbidden fruit, and similarly in the case of Jesus, the first temptation was molded in the circumstance of Jesus being very hungry.

Reverend Monsignor Ronald Arbuthnott Knox (17 February 1888 – 24 August 1957) [please see Wikipedia and Ingnatius INSIGHT], in addition to summarizing above, explains well why temptations differ from person to person

The temptations of Our LORD are also the temptations of his servants individually. But the scale of them, naturally, is different; the devil is not going to offer you and me all the kingdoms of the world. He knows his market; offers, like a good salesman, just as much as he thinks his customer will take. I suppose he thinks, with some justice, that most of us could be had for five thousand a year, and a great many of us for much less. Nor does he, to us, propose his conditions openly; his offer comes to us wrapped up in all sorts of plausible shapes. But, if he sees the chance he is not slow to point out to you and to me how we could get the thing we want if we would be untrue to our better selves, and not infrequently if we would be untrue to our Catholic loyalties. - R. A. Knox, Pastoral Sermons.

Please see also: Is there Significance to the Order of the Three Temptations of Jesus in the desert? SEPTEMBER 19, 2014 | FR. FORTEA.

On one Catholic commentary on the temptations of Jesus, please see this answer.

Matthew uses this episode of the temptations in the wilderness to depict Jesus as the new Israel, in contrast to the old. Jesus is tempted, as Moses and the chosen people were in their forty-year pilgrimage in the wilderness. The Israelite yielded to temptation: they complained against God on account of their hunger (Ex 16:1ff), demanded a miracle when they had no water (Ex 17:1-7), and adored the golden calf (Ex 32). But Jesus does not yield and , by overcoming the temptation, "reveals the way in which the Son of Man is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him (cf. Mt 16:21-23)" [CCC, 540].
Source - Commentary by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre on the Temptation of Jesus in Mt 4:1-11 in The Navarre Bible New Testament Compact Edition.


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