From: All God’s Angels
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,
‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and, ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”
Jesus said to him, “Again, it is written,
‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. (Matthew 4:1-11)
The writer to the Hebrews says that even as Jesus bears the full divinity of God, at the same time he takes on just as fully the limitations of human morality. This, he says, makes Jesus the perfect source of help in our weakness: “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all – all but the sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
Jesus’s handling of temptation in the wilderness is the model for our own spiritual conflicts with God’s chief adversary – the antidote for the poisonous wound inflicted by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. A less familiar element of the story, mentioned in Matthew and in Mark (1:13), is the arrival of angels to care for Jesus at the end of this terrific fight. These Heavenly beings would have known the Son of God in all his divine splendor. They would have known him as the Logos, the eternal Word of God, in whom and by whom and through whom all things have their being. From the beginning, their existence is entirely dependent on his. Yet here he is, self-contained by the limitations of human flesh, as hungry and thirsty as any man, weakened by his fasting, exhausted from his face-to-face encounter with the devil. Perhaps these angels are used to worshiping him in the glory of Heaven; today, they are feeding him amid the dust of the Earth… and he is depending on them.
One artistic image of this event presents Jesus at the center, standing on a mountain, at the moment he drives away the devil. Jesus is surrounded by the signs of his trial: the rocks, the towers, the Earthly cities. After days of hunger and thirst in the wild, he has successfully fended off each of Satan’s devious attacks. Unlike the tragic story of lost paradise where the devil took the form of a serpent, the Gospel writer does not tell us in what form the devil presented himself to Jesus. The artist directs our imagination by picturing Satan as a fallen angel complete with wings, now blackened and deformed. As he turns from Jesus, it is clear that he has been defeated, though not destroyed – Luke tells us he will wait for another opportunity to strike (4:13). That will be in another garden rather than the desert. Contrasted with the devil, two angels stand just behind Jesus, close by but not yet actively involved. The hand of one is raised in anticipation. They have been watching everything… and waiting.
If we have a Savior who is in touch with our reality, who has suffered the same weaknesses and tests, then surely we also share the same aid and comfort. Angels watch… and wait to come to our aid as well.