Nobody likes a cynic. They suck the air of hope out of a room. Hopeful people of reason, even if partly sympathetic to their points will not want to be around them.
Such is the encounter of Satan in the wilderness when he tempts Jesus.
The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written:‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:3-4).
Just because we can do something does not mean that we should. In medieval times a common saying by those in power was “Might makes right”. In the pride of man there can be even a presumption in the name of religion that God must approve of what we do or want to do or we are not as destined for greatness as we think. Plus God has us as his favorite and therefore if use of our power on a whim is what we want then there is so be it.
If you are the Son of God—- Satan thinks Jesus is a mere man and Son of God is just for someone with a kingly bearing. Good guess in terms of those of the line of David but wrong. The deeper things of God are beyond simple logic. If we discern the things of God with no humility we might occasionally see what is meaningful. But to discern something of mystery that is tethered in the heavens? Entirely a case of spiritual blindness.
One does not live by bread alone— Jesus is God become flesh on earth but in this response he makes it clear that he is far beyond earthly in what defines him.
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God— There is a fuller context here. Jesus was fluent in the Old Testament like any good rabbi would be. Quoting this line is like a shorthand for a larger truth.
He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your ancestors, so you might know that it is not by bread alone that people live, but by all that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3).
Jesus is under no illusion that Satan, the father of lies, is about to convert. But Jesus is Truth and speaks thus as a witness for all who want to discern who he is. As we read this story there is a pointer to us that he is meant to be the one who makes the unknown known and the unenlightened to be enlightened in grace. How much grace? All the grace! This is why Paul wrote of “the light of the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ”. What comes forth from God the Father that is pointed to by Jesus is a word of grace for those who acknowledge their dependence of Jesus. The truth of Jesus in the face of Satan’s dare points to that very freeing life that we have in surrender to the Father’s will. And Jesus in his humanity took with him to the cross that knowledge when he sweat blood and died on a Roman cross.
And for the reader here who would be a disciple of Jesus and takes a gulp about such reckless dependence, keep in mind that there is a word for you if you take up your own cross. What it sounds like to encounter that word of grace is between you and God. And it is good.