The categories of these tests fall under three headings: appetite; motive, pride and fame; greed and power. These tests are necessary because people who aren't used to power are dangerous. The same is true of people who are full of pride or can't possess their own bodies through bringing their appetites under control. These are irresponsible and dangerous people who cannot be trusted. Let us take a look at each of the tests given to Jesus.
Test of Appetite
"Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, 'If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread' " (Matt. 4:3).
This first test was a temptation to self-gratification, and it dealt with our three basic appetites: food, drink and sex. No one is truly free until he or she has disciplined all of these areas. Let me point out that this was also the first area of testing for Israel in the wilderness. They began to cry out for food—self-gratification. They quickly forgot about the miracle of the plagues and the Red Sea and concentrated on their own self-fulfillment.
One of the heaviest burdens of freedom is the self-imposed discipline you must have in the area of your appetites—food, drink and sex. Freedom demands self-control.
Test of Motives, Pride and Fame
"Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, 'If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: "He shall give His angels charge over you," and, "In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone" '" (Matt. 4:5-6).
This test was a temptation for instant fame and sudden success. If Jesus had done this, He would have become famous instantly, and thousands of people in the temple courtyard would have seen this miracle and believed in Him. However, it would have canceled and bypassed the process of character formation and growth necessary to become responsible for the freedom He possessed to free others.
The nation of Israel wanted to go instantly into their Promised Land of Canaan and freedom, but God required the process of training and development for mental transformation. To be truly free, you must go through the process of character development. True success is never instant.
Test of Greed and Power
"Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, 'All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.' Then Jesus said to him, 'Away with you, Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve" '" (Matt. 4:8-10).
When one is free from the need for power, he or she is qualified for authority. So this test was a temptation of power and greed. Its trap demanded the sacrifice of Jesus' integrity and character for power. The Israelite community failed this test in the wilderness, because they could not submit to authority or understand it. They rebelled against authority and therefore were not qualified to possess it. Whatever you compromise to gain, you will lose.
Jesus passed all three tests in 40 short days, one for each year Israel spent failing their wilderness tests. And when He had passed all three exams, angels ministered to Him. When you are free from the need for power, you are qualified for it. When Jesus came out of the desert, He was anointed in the power of the Holy Spirit. He had fulfilled God's will in His wilderness tempting and successfully passed God's tests. Jesus overcame the devil to give you and me the power to overcome him, too.
You may note that the full release of the Spirit took place after the wilderness experience. This river of anointing was the second river that ushers us into the land of freedom. Individuals, communities and nations must pass the wilderness test that leads first to independence and ultimately to freedom.