Luke 4:3-4 (NIV) The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.'”
Jesus had what pretty much anyone would consider to be a legitimate need: He had not eaten for forty days and nights, and was hungry (verse 2). He had been undergoing a constant barrage of temptations during this long fast (again, verse 2), and really needed some strength. That being said, there was no “normal” way for Him to meet that legitimate need. He was in the wilderness, far from any possible supply of food, or any market from which He might be able to purchase some.
So the tempter approached Him with what seemed like a perfectly natural and legitimate solution: use the power He had been given by the Holy Spirit to transform one of the many stones that lay all around Him into a loaf of bread. The thing is, this was a real temptation for Jesus because He could actually have done it. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus had the power to heal the sick, cast out demons, and even raise the dead. He could absolutely make food out of non-food if He needed to.
Thus the temptation was not to try to do something impossible. It was to see if Jesus would use His power on His own initiative instead of seeking the Father’s will in the situation. Later on, Jesus would tell a hostile crowd after He had healed an invalid on the Sabbath, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19 NIV) The seeds of that complete obedience and submission to the will of the Father were already bearing fruit, even before Jesus began His public ministry. If Jesus could be trusted to not use His power for His own purposes (even perfectly legitimate needs, like providing food for Himself) out there in the wilderness where not one would see or know, then He could be trusted to use His power legitimately, and only at God’s command, when he was in the public eye.
Adam and Eve failed this test in the garden by using their legitimate power of free will to choose to fill a legitimate need, hunger, in ways that ran counter to God’s command. (Note in Genesis 3:6 when the woman evaluated the fruit, and deemed it to be “good for food.”) Jesus, the last Adam, was unwilling to make that evaluation on His own. He would not live “on bread alone,” but was willing to wait patiently, even with an empty stomach, for God’s word, God’s permission to eat, and for His direction on how to meet that legitimate need.
Father, we face this temptation every day, and don’t even see it as the test that it really is. We have a need, and we set about meeting it in the best way that we can figure out. We don’t turn to You if we can see a way to meet the need with our own resources and strength. We only bring to You those needs that are beyond our ability to meet ourselves. How different we are than Jesus, who is supposed to be our model! Help us, Lord, to allow ourselves to be transformed to be like Jesus in this as in everything else. Amen.