Most people view the first temptation as tackling desires of the flesh, but there is a whole other level going on in that conversation. It revolves around manna and how the children of God are fed in the desert.
Listen the words of the first temptation. “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” “Like Father, like Son” What did the Father do in the desert and how did He do it? He fed the Israelites with manna that formed like a dew on the rocks of the desert. Let me rephrase Satan’s statement. “If you the Son of God, do what your Father did and feed yourself with miraculous bread from these rocks.”
Listen to Jesus’ response. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'” Is Jesus not the Word of God? Did He not call Himself the Bread of Life? The miracle that Christ will do is greater than manna in the desert. He will become the true bread by which men live.
Jesus spells this out much more specifically in John 6 when He compares Himself to the manna in the desert. Those who ate manna in the desert died. Yet, He radically claimed that His flesh and His blood are the new manna and that you need to eat of Him to have eternal life. Not surprisingly many people left Him at this point.
Jesus did not really explain Himself further until the Last Supper when the bread and the wine were miraculously transformed into His body and blood while retaining their outward form. He lifted up the bread and said, “This is my Body. Take and eat.” and He lifted up the chalice filled with wine and said “This is my blood. Take and drink.”
At the Transfiguration, Moses, Elijah and Jesus spoke of the new exodus that He would accomplish in Jerusalem. The Eucharist is the new food for the journey to the Promised Land of Heaven. Jesus promised we would not die like those who ate the manna. We would have eternal life.
How do we really know that the transformation is real? How do we really know that it is not still bread, or worse something evil, a deception of the devil? To answer this Jesus had another saying involving rocks and bread.
What man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him.
The stones of the desert actually look like loaves of bread. Snakes were considered unclean and the Israelites were forbidden to eat them. If we ask the Father for this living bread, that Jesus said we need for eternal life, will the Father give us an empty look-alike? Will He give us something evil or forbidden? Jesus told us to ask the Father for it.
Right in the Our Father it says, “Give us this day our daily bread.” That particular word for bread was created for only this instance. It means “super-substantial” bread. Even if you don’t agree with that translation, it is clearly not ordinary bread or they would not have had to invent a new word for it.
Listen again to Jesus’ words to Satan. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Or to phrase it another way, “That old bread is passing away. The people of God will be fed by me, the Word of God, the Living Bread which came down from heaven.
This first temptation was about so much more than Jesus being hungry!