The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." (Luke 4:4)Jesus' answer, if understood, clarifies the meaning of his forty-day fast, and even who the "devil" really is.
In answering, Jesus indicates that "it is written." What does this mean? It means that Jesus is quoting from scripture. In particular, he is quoting Moses' statement to his students after they had traveled through the desert in search for what has been referred to as "the promised land."
Here is the text from Deuteronomy, Chapter 8, that includes this statement:
"Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." (Deut. 8:1-3)We can see here the reason that God led the Israelites through the desert, and why they ate manna - a seed-grain pulverized into a meal made into wafers. It explains that the purpose of the journey was "to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart."
Why would God need to test them?
We can understand this when we understand relationships. Let's say we had a close friend that, after many years of friendship, suddenly betrayed us and took off, and for several years stayed out of touch with us. Then suddenly they call us out of the blue and want to be friends again. What would we do?
Most people would be a bit careful. Before re-establishing a trusting relationship with that person we would want to go slowly. We would want to gradually rebuild our relationship. We would also test that friendship over time to see if the person was really serious about being friends again.
For example, we might call the friend and ask them to do something for us that might be a bit difficult for them to do. If they do it, we would know that they are committed to being friends again. If they don't, we know they have an ulterior motive, or they just want to be friends out of convenience (they call this a "fair weather friend").
God, on the other hand, does not need to test us in order to understand whether we are committed to a relationship with Him. He already knows how committed we are. He can see our hearts.
However, He will still put various tests in front of us should we seriously pray to Him and ask to return to Him. Why? Because these tests tell us whether we are really committed to Him or not. They indicate whether we are serious about returning to Him or not.
And what is the value of that? The value is that if we understand our lack of seriousness, we can then work towards becoming more serious about re-establishing our relationship with the Supreme Being. It is like a litmus test for us.
For example, many people will say in passing that "Oh, I love God." But do they really? Do they even know who God is? Have they really committed their lives to doing what is pleasing to God?
Who tempted Jesus and why did he fast?
And we can see from Jesus' forty-day fast in the desert that he was also being tested:
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. (Luke 4:1-2)The word "tempted" is being translated from the Greek word πειράζω (peirazō) means, according to the lexicon, "to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining his quality, or what he thinks, or how he will behave himself." We can thus understand that Jesus was being tested.
Furthermore, it says "he was tempted by the devil." Who is the "devil"?
The concept of the "devil" as promulgated by so many sectarian teachers and popular lore, is that the devil is some bad guy who goes around tempting us all. The idea is that we are all "good" but this guy the devil sits on our shoulder and tempts us with "bad" "sinful" stuff. Or he gets us to sign a contract in blood that then corrupts us.
While there is certainly truth to these symbolic descriptions of the devil, we would be living in cartoon-land if we thought that this was the physical reality of things.
The word "devil" in these verses from Luke is translated from the word διάβολος (diabolos). Here is the entire text from Thayer's lexicon defining this word:
1) prone to slander, slanderous, accusing falsely
a) a calumniator, false accuser, slanderer,
2) metaphor - applied to a man who, by opposing the cause of God, may be said to act the part of the devil or to side with him
Thus we can see that the word διάβολος (diabolos) does not actually refer to a physical person, the "devil." It is describing being slanderous or falsely accusing, or when used metaphorically, a person who is "opposing the cause of God." Remember that the term "metaphorically" (metaphor) refers to symbolism.
Thus we can see that the translation to "devil" as a person in these verses is incorrect. The early translators - who were paid professional translators intent on following the edicts of the politically-derived Synod of Nicene driven by the Roman Emperor Constantine's desire to control the Christian world - simply did not portray the meaning of διάβολος (diabolos) with correct context.
This is because they themselves were not dedicated to the teachings of Jesus. They were not devoted to the Truth. They were simply "doing their job" and they knew that if they didn't translate the texts to the satisfaction of the early Church leaders then they would lose that job and/or be imprisoned or even burnt at the stake.
And the early Church leaders wanted to promote this idea of the "devil" or "satan" because they wanted to scare people into coming to church and paying their alms.
As for later Biblical translators - those with advanced degrees from divinity schools - they also needed to protect their reputation and their professional positions within their institutions - typically financed or supported by churches that also drew upon the Nicene Creed. Thus these later translators also had to maintain the status quo of translating these texts as if a person called the devil was following Jesus around the desert tempting him with stuff.
No. As seen from the definition, the word διάβολος (diabolos) refers to, in this context, opposing our natural state of being a loving caregiver of God. By opposing our natural position - as we were each created to be one of the Supreme Being's caregivers - we are thus "opposing the cause of God" or "falsely" considering ourselves not one of the Supreme Being's children. We are rebelling against God in other words.
So instead of Jesus being "tempted by the devil" Jesus was being tested by the promises of the material world. The nature of the physical world is such that it tests anyone who enters it and takes on a physical body. Why?
The physical world was created by the Supreme Being in order to provide some of His children a place where they could seemingly get away from Him.
Why we are here
Those of us within the physical world are here because at some point we rejected the Supreme Being and became self-centered. We rejected our position as God's loving servant. We wanted to get away from Him. We wanted to be like Him. We wanted to be the master instead of the servant. So we wanted to get away from Him.
And because the Supreme Being is always present everywhere, in order to satisfy our desire to get away from Him, He created a virtual dimension where we take on physical bodies that cannot see Him. This has allowed us to pretend that He doesn't exist, or doubt His existence.
Thus the physical world is full of promises and desires for seeming pleasure. For this reason, it is also a place of entrapment. By becoming immersed in our desires we become entrapped by the physical world. We become hooked to its sensual nature.
The physical world also has another feature: We are tricked into thinking that these physical bodies are us. We occupy these bodies for a few decades, and then they die and we have to leave them. But we think they are eternal and we think we are them. We thus struggle to keep them alive, not realizing that we are simply driving these bodies around much like a person sits down in a car and drives it for awhile.
But once inside the body we begin to identify with it (much as people identify with their cars). We think this body is us, and we search for pleasure within this physical world.
We are not satisfied in the material world
But the things of the physical world will not satisfy us because we are spiritual by nature.
This might be compared to us driving our car, and becoming hungry, and thinking that if we fill up the car with gas we will become full and no longer hungry.
But it doesn't work that way. If we fill the car's gas tank with gas it will not affect our stomach, because we are occupying the car. We are not the car.
In the same way, the things of this world will not satisfy the spiritual being - us - within the physical body.
This is what Jesus is teaching as he makes this statement. He is being tested by the promise of the things of the physical world - in this case food that will break his fast - and he is stating that the things of this physical world will not satisfy us.
The statement, "Man does not live on bread alone" incorporates several important lessons, both on a symbolic and practical way. When Jesus uses the word "live," he is not referring to keeping the body alive. Otherwise, it would be a false statement, because bread does keep the body alive. Thus we can know by the word "live" that Jesus is talking about spiritual life. He is talking about the life of the spiritual being.
And he knows that the spiritual being - each of us dwelling within these physical bodies - will only be able to truly live when we are in our natural position of loving and serving the Supreme Being.
But the idea that the devil is responsible for our self-centered (sinful) nature is not correct. We are responsible for our self-centered nature. We are the only ones who can decide that we want to change our consciousness. But as long as we remain self-centered, then the "devil" of the physical world will continue to tempt us with so many plans, physical goodies, wealth, fame and so on so that we become mired within the web of the physical world.
The fact is, the devil symbolizes our desire to enjoy life in a self-centered way. The devil is a self-centered outlook that sees everything around us as objects for our enjoyment. This means that the devil, in fact, is an element of our current consciousness.
In our pure state, each of us is a loving caregiver of the Supreme Being. This is our natural position. Each of us is a spiritual entity: A spiritual person. And we come from the spiritual realm.
But because we became self-centered, and became envious of the Supreme Being, we were tossed out of the spiritual realm and forced to take on physical bodies. These temporary physical bodies are like vehicles: We get in them and drive them for a while.
This means that we are not these bodies, and our true nature is spiritual. This is the meaning of Jesus' statement that "Man does not live on bread alone." Each of us needs spiritual food.
And what is spiritual food? Moses indicates that "man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD."
How can a person "live" "on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD."
It is love for the Supreme Being. It is a loving relationship with God. When such a devoted person hears from their Beloved, they are happy.
This combines with doing what pleases God. Then when that person follows through on something God says, (translated in Deut. as "commands") they become fulfilled. What God says indicates what pleases Him. If a person does what pleases God out of love, their love is complete, bringing complete fulfillment.
This is what each of us is eternally hungry for. And this is why we are never satisfied with the physical stuff of this world. We are not satisfied with material things, whether it is wealth, fame, power or sensuality. Even the richest, most powerful people in the world are still empty for this reason. We can only be fulfilled when we are lovingly seeking to please our Best Friend and Soul Mate - the Supreme Being.
This is what Jesus is communicating. Yes, Luke clearly indicates that Jesus was tempted by a desire to eat while he was fasting. He was fasting as a sacrifice to please the Supreme Being, and this desire to eat came upon him, but he refused it by commanding that his need was spiritual food, not physical food.
Where is the 'promised land?'
We can also know from this and Moses' statement that "the promised land" was not never about a physical piece of land to be possessed by the Israelites. This is an erroneous translation by sectarian translators who wanted entitlement to a piece of land that was never theirs - as everything is owned and controlled by the Supreme Being.
The real "promised land" is the spiritual realm. It is resuming our natural position as eternal loving caregivers of the Supreme Being. This is where the Supreme Being wants us to return to - not out of force, but out of our own volition. He loves us without condition, and wants us to return home to Him because He knows that only this will make us happy.
This is why both Jesus and Moses taught the most important commandment is:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'" (Luke 10:27 and Deut 6:4)