Close Your Church for Good, Chap. 1, Sec. 5.
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In the first temptation, turning stone into bread, Satan wanted Jesus to act selfishly. Satan wanted Jesus to become self-reliant, self-centered, and to seek His own self-provision. When Jesus multiplies the loaves and fish later in His ministry, it is not for Himself, but for others. God’s will is done by putting the needs and interests of others above your own. So the first temptation is about selfish individualism: what I want and getting my needs met.
The second temptation focuses on authority and power. Jesus came to reclaim authority over the nations, but He had to gain it through death and suffering, not through a deal with the devil. And furthermore, the devil’s idea of authority is at odds with that of God. When the devil exerts authority, he does so with money, glory, power, riches, and fame. This is contrary to the quiet and gentle authority of Jesus. This temptation is also about control. Satan wants to control people. He wants to control the world and the universe. He wants to control God. This temptation was a power grab. In offering Jesus power, Satan positioned himself to gain even more power. Jesus is not opposed to power, but knew that it must be gained through sacrifice and service, and used for the benefit and blessing of others.
Finally, Jesus is offered the chance to receive praise and recognition from men. He is taken to the pinnacle of the temple, and told to throw Himself down. God would be forced, Satan suggested, to rescue Jesus by sending angels to catch Him. Since the temple courts were nearly always filled with people, this angelic rescue would take place in the sight of them all. They would be in awe of Jesus. Many would recognize Him as the Messiah. They would praise Him and welcome Him. All would see that God was truly with Jesus, watching over and protecting Him. It was an opportunity to be recognized. It was an opportunity for Jesus to make His name great, and receive His due glory.
So the three temptations were about selfish individualism, power, control, riches, fame, recognition, and glory. These were offered by Satan as a means to accomplish the mission of Jesus. But Jesus turned them all down, knowing that such things would not help, but would only hinder the goals of God on earth.