My wife and I were discussing Jesus’ trials, and one thing led to another, and lo and behold, we found ourselves involved in a really rewarding little study. It is a bit difficult to convert our conversation to paper, but I’ll give it a go. We discovered that there are a number of things that tie together which unveil more and more first, about what Jesus’ trials consisted of, and secondly, their significance. Jesus’ trials are found in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. In Matthew Jesus’ first temptation concerns turning stones into bread, the second concerns Jesus casting himself off the pinnacle of the Temple and depending upon God to save him from harm, and the third and final temptation concerned outright worship of the enemy in order to receive the kingdoms of the world and reign as king over all. Luke says the same but reverses the second and the third—and my wife, Kay, and I found this also to be significant.
I used to believe that Jesus’ trials involved: 1) satisfying the needs of the world (poor); 2) serving God in the flesh and demanding that God support one’s work; and 3) using worldly power to influence the world for God. While there may be a literal value to this appraisal, I no longer hold to this as the primary significance of Jesus’ trials, as a result of my discussion with my wife. We began the discussion with Kay’s asking me if I ever thought that these three trials of Jesus reflected his three trials before the Sanhedrin, Herod and Pilate on the day he died. The truth is that I never did put the two together, but I thought about it, and we discussed some similarities. Kay also brought into the discussion what John says in his first letter:
1 John 2:16 KJV For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
I explained that John’s thoughts in his letter reflect the three temptations of Eve:
Genesis 3:6 KJV And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
Eve saw the tree (John’s world) was good for food (answering to John’s lust of the flesh); she also believed it was pleasant to the eyes (answering to John’s lust of the eyes); and finally Eve saw the tree was to be desired to make one wise (answering to John’s pride of life). Eve, of course, ate of the fruit of the tree and gave also to her husband who was with her during the whole episode. Now what does this have to do with Jesus’ three trials? Well, Kay originally asked: since Jesus was tried in every way that we are (Hebrews 4:15), how would 1 John 2:16 be seen in his trials in the wilderness as told in Matthew 4 (or Luke 4) and could either 1John 2 or Matthew 4 (or Luke 4) reflect the three trials Jesus experienced on the day of his crucifixion?
I never thought to apply all three together, so we discussed the matter and discovered they reflect Jesus as Priest (Matthew 4:3), Prophet (Matthew 4:5-6), and King (Matthew 4:8-9). Now, we didn’t see this at first, but when we tried to see any parallel with Jesus three trials on the day of his crucifixion, we saw the stones and the bread had to answer to his being our (High) Priest and therefore his trial before the Sanhedrin, composed of priests. His trial to throw himself off the pinnacle of the Temple had to answer to his being the Prophet and his trial before Herod. His third and final trial of receiving the kingdoms of the world through worshiping the enemy, which is to say, Jesus could accomplish his Godly mission through use of this world’s system (its power and its ways etc.), which would answer to his being King and his trial before Pilate.
Long-story-short, in the 1st year of his public ministry, Jesus declared the Temple, made of stones, was unclean. He said it was to be a house of prayer, but they, i.e. the priests, made it a den of thieves. When asked for a sign, Jesus said if they destroyed this Temple (i.e. Jesus’ body) he would raise it up after three days. He stood as a living Temple alongside a Temple of stones. Stones do not live and cannot give life, but Jesus declared he was the Bread of life in John 6. He is the Showbread for our nourishment in our service to God. The showbread within the Temple of stones had to be replaced with fresh, but Jesus said, if we partake of him, we will never hunger. Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin, a court of priests. He was the Righteous One, the Bread of Life, but they declared him unrighteous, saying he blasphemed.
A prophet under the Old Covenant always went before the kings of Judah and Israel to give the message of God, and God usually performed miracles through them to show he had sent them. For quite awhile, Herod wanted to see Jesus to see some miracle performed. As the Prophet, Jesus was brought before Herod who demanded a miracle or a sign, but the Prophet neither said nor did anything, because Herod mistook him for his court fool.
The King appeared before Pilate, the representative of the Emperor, the king of the kings of the earth. Jesus told him he (Jesus) was not the King over this world’s system. That is, this whole world lay in the wicked one (1John 5:19) and, as John claims above, is not of (i.e. does not belong to, was not created by) the Father. However, as the representative of the king of the kings of this world, Pilate had Jesus killed.
Now when comparing Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness to his three trials on the day of his crucifixion, I found it interesting that the trial before the Sanhedrin was first (cp. Matthew 4 & Luke 4); the trial before Pilate was second (cp. Luke 4) and the trial before Herod was third (cp. Luke 4), but was completed second (cp. Matthew 4), and Jesus was sent back to Pilate and though begun second (Luke 4), his trial before Pilate was completed third (Matthew 4).
Psalm 1 speaks metaphorically of a tree as a righteous life. As I consider what I’ve written here, and as I look again at Eve’s temptations, I am able to see the Tree of Life (Jesus) is good for food (our true High Priest; he is our Bread of Life). The Tree of Life (Jesus) is also pleasant to the eyes. That is, as our Prophet and our Truth, the hope he offers is a pleasant hope, a vision worth waiting for. I am able to rest in his promise of a good future for me. I desire nothing more. Finally, the Tree of Life (Jesus) is to be desired to make one wise—Jesus is made Wisdom unto me according to 1Corinthians 1:30. That is, I am ruled by my thoughts of him. “What would Jesus do?” is the rule of my life. I need no other law; I need no other king but my King, Jesus!