Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil.—
The first step in exegesis is an examination of the grammatical/logical elements of the text:
This scripture giveth us the history of Christ’s temptation, which I shall go over by degrees.
In the words observe:—
1. The parties tempted and tempting. The person tempted was the Lord Jesus Christ. The person tempting was the devil.
2. The occasion inducing this combat, Jesus was led up of the Spirit.
3. The time, then.
4. The place, the wilderness.
Following this outline of the elements, he proposes an observation of what is to be learned from the text:
From the whole observe:—
Doct. The Lord Jesus Christ was pleased to submit himself to an extraordinary combat with the tempter, for our good.
Next he provides the elements of his sermon, which will be both an examination of the elements and an exhortation based upon the same:
1. I shall explain the nature and circumstances of this extraordinary combat.
2. The reasons why Christ submitted to it.
3. The good of this to us.
Now the examination:
I. The circumstances of this extraordinary combat. And here—
Manton looks at the Who, What, How, When
A. The persons combating—Jesus and the devil, the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. It was designed long before. Gen.3:15 ….
B. The manner of the combat. It was not merely a phantasm, that Christ was thus assaulted and used: no, he was tempted in reality, not in conceit and imagination only. It seemeth to be in the spirit, though it was real; as Paul was taken up into the third heaven, whether in the body or out of the body we cannot easily judge, but real it was. I shall more accurately discuss this question afterwards in its more proper place.
He emphasizes that this was a historical reality. Even though it involved at one non-physical being (the Devil), we should not consider spiritual engagements as less real. Next he considers, how did this come about:
C. What moved him, or how was he brought to enter into the lists [who arranged for this combat to take place] with Satan? He was ‘led by the Spirit,’ meaning thereby the impulsion and excitation of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God. Luke 4:1.
From this, Manton draws a deduction:
He did not voluntarily put himself upon temptation, but, by God’s appointment, went up from Jordan farther into the desert.
At this point, Manton begins to draw a lesson. He presumes that the life of Jesus is exemplary for the conduct of our life. This is consistent with Peter’s teaching that Jesus’ conduct [at the passion] is exemplary for our life. 1 Peter 2:21. Paul writes that we are being conformed into the image of Jesus. Col. 3:10. Paul applies this in particular to our response to difficulties. Rom. 8:28-29. And so, Manton’s application in this manner is warranted.
We learn hence:—
1. That temptations come not by chance, not out of the earth, nor merely from the devil; but God ordereth them for his own glory and our good.
He then provides examples, Job 1:12; Luke 22:31; Matt. 8:31
If we be free, let us bless God for it, and pray that he would not ‘lead us into temptation:’ if tempted, when we are in Satan’s hands, remember Satan is in God’s hand.
2. Having given up ourselves to God, we are no longer to be at our own dispose and direction, but must submit ourselves to be led, guided, and ordered by God in all things. So it was with Christ, he was led by the Spirit continually. Luke 4:1; Romans 8:14.
From the factual conclusions, Manton draws a conclusion as to our conduct:
3. That we must observe our warrant and calling in all we resolve upon. To put ourselves upon hazards we are not called unto, is to go out of our bounds to meet a temptation, or to ride into the devil’s quarters. Christ did not go of his own accord into the desert, but by divine impulsion, and so he came from thence. We may, in our place and calling, venture ourselves, on the protection of God’s providence, upon obvious temptations; God will maintain and support us in them; that is to trust God; but to go out of our calling is to tempt God.
And finally an observation as to human will and the power of God:
4. Compare the words used in Matthew and Mark, chap. 1:12, ‘And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.’ That shows that it was a forcible motion, or a strong impulse, such as he could not easily resist or refuse, so here is freedom—he was led; there is force and efficacious impression—he was driven, with a voluntary condescension thereunto. There may be liberty of man’s will, yet the victorious efficacy of grace united together: a man may be taught and drawn, as Christ here was led, and driven by the Spirit into the wilderness.
Manton now come to when this took place.
D. The time.
1. Presently after his baptism. Now the baptism of Christ agreeth with ours as to the general nature of it. Baptism is our initiation into the service of God, or our solemn consecration of ourselves to him; and it doth not only imply work, but fight. (Rom. 6:13, 13:12 ….).
Which raises the question of why would Jesus be baptized?
….His baptism was the taking of the field as general; we undertake to fight under him in our rank and place.
What is the connection between the baptism and the temptation? The temptation comes immediately upon the baptism and the Father’s recognition of Jesus as the Son (Mark 3:16-17)
2. Thus many times the children of God, after solemn assurances of his love, are exposed to great temptations.…God’s conduct is gentle, and proportioned to our strength, as Jacob drove as the little ones were able to bear it. He never suffers his castles to be besieged till they are victualled.
Why does the temptation come immediately before his public preaching ministry (his prophetical office):
3. … Experience of temptations fits for the ministry, as Christ’s temptations prepared him to set a-foot the kingdom of God, for the recovery of poor souls out of their bondage into the liberty of the children of God: … Christ also would show us that ministers should not only be men of science, but of experience.
4. The place or field where this combat was fought, the wilderness, where were none but wild beasts: … In this solitary place Satan tried his utmost power against our Saviour.
This teacheth us:—
a. That Christ alone grappled with Satan, having no fellow-worker with him, that we may know the strength of our Redeemer, who is able himself to overcome the tempter without any assistance, and to ‘save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him,’ Heb. 7:25.
b. That the devil often abuseth our solitude. It is good sometimes to be alone; but then we need to be stocked with holy thoughts or employed in holy exercises, that we may be able to say, as Christ, John 16:32, ‘I am not alone, because the Father is with me.’ Howsoever a state of retirement from human converse, if it be not necessary, exposeth us to temptations; but if we are cast upon it, we must expect God’s presence and help.
c. That no place is privileged from temptations, unless we leave our hearts behind us. David, walking on the terrace or house-top, was ensnared by Bathsheba’s beauty: 2 Sam. 11:2–4. Lot, that was chaste in Sodom, yet committed incest in the mountain, where there were none but his own family: Gen. 19:30, 31, &c. When we are locked in our closets, we cannot shut out Satan.