“Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, One does not live on bread alone.’ Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, ‘I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.’ Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and: With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus said to him in reply, ‘It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’ When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.” (Luke 4:1-13)
At the start of his mission as Savior, our Lord fasts and is tempted by Satan (vv. 2-3; see the note of Mt 4:1-11). The three Synoptic Gospels say that this episode took place in the “wilderness” (v. 1).
This word (see also 3:2) probably refers to the low valley on the banks of the Jordan, to the north of the Dead Sea.
However, it also has a theological significance: it was in the wilderness that Moses and Israel succumbed to temptation; and it is in the wilderness that Jesus is tempted, but he is not defeated as others were: the devil wants to deflect Jesus from his mission, but Jesus defeats him. Since this Gospel in its genealogy of our Lord traces the line back to Adam, Christian Tradition has read this account as describing a victory of Jesus as the antitype of Adam, thus inaugurating a renewed humanity: “As the first Adam was cast out of paradise and driven out into the wilderness, the second Adam came out of the wilderness and entered paradise. The damage is repaired by walking back over the same steps, and the divine order is restored by the return to origins” (Saint Ambrose, Exposition Evangelii secundum Lucam, ad loc.).
In the first temptation (v. 3), the devil puts Jesus’ divine sonship to the test (God the Father proclaimed it a short time earlier: cf. 3:22); in the second (vv. 5-7), he offers Jesus power over the world in exchange for worship of Satan; in the third (vv. 5-7), he offers Jesus power over the world in exchange for worship of Satan; in the third (vv. 9-11), which takes place on the pinnacle of the temple, he suggests that Jesus' escape death in a spectacular way because he is Son of God.
Luke’s account is very similar to Matthew’s, but the temptations are given a different order: the order of the second and third miracles is reversed.
Given that the order in Matthew is the same as that of the temptations of Israel in the book of Exodus (see the note on Mt 4:1-11), and that, in Saint Luke’s Gospel, Jerusalem, and particularly the temple, have a very high profile (they appear at the end of the infancy narrative, and at the end of the book itself many scholars think that Saint Luke has charged the order here in order to give more prominence to the Holy City: Jerusalem is where our salvation will be accomplished, and it is also where Jesus conquers “every temptation” (v. 13).
“As Ambrose says […], Scripture would not have said that ‘all the temptation being ended, the devil departed from him’, unless the matters of all sins were included in the three temptations already related. For the causes of temptation are the causes of desires – namely, ‘lust of the flesh, desire for glory, eagerness for power’” (Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, 3, 41, 4 ad 4).
Jesus defeats the devil here, and the text says that Satan afterwards waits for an “opportune time” (v. 13). This must be a reference to Christ’s passion and death; Saint Luke says that Satan “entered into Judas” (22:3) and precipitated the events of Holy Week (see the note on 22:1-6).
But in the passion, too, Jesus will win victory through his filial acceptance of the Father’s plans; he will deliver mankind from the one who wielded the power of death, that is, the devil (see Heb 2:14).
Unlike Matthew and Mark, Luke does not mention that angels ministered to Christ after the temptations; but he will say later that an angel strengthened him during the agony in the garden of Gethsemane (22:43): “The Master wished to be tempted in every way as we are; he wished to suffer death as we suffer death; and he wished to rise from the dead so that we too may rise from the dead” (Saint Augustine, Ennarrationes in Psalmos, 90, 2, 1).