Before He began His ministry, before He turned the water into wine and called His disciples to follow Him and raised Lazarus from the dead, Jesus Christ was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. When He came up out of the water, the heavens were opened, and the Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
After that, Jesus went into the Judean wilderness, where He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. He didn’t take with Him any food or water. He didn’t carry any weapons or tools to build a shelter with. All He had were the clothes on His back and a small blanket to kneel upon while praying.
During this time, Jesus became weak with hunger, and Satan saw an opportunity to exploit the Son of God.
Thus began the 40-day temptation of Christ.
As Jesus prepares His forthcoming ministry, He reflects upon His youth with Mary and Joseph. Through these flashbacks, we see that His parents faced many moments of confusion and turmoil in raising Him. On the one hand, they knew that He was the Son of God and Savior of the world. On the other, He was still just a small child—their child—and it was their duty to protect Him until His time came.
Joseph, especially, struggles with this concept, because technically, Jesus isn’t his son, but God’s. However, Mary comforts and praises Joseph for carrying a burden that no other man in history has ever had to carry. The two of them encourage each another, and Joseph ultimately makes the decision to raise Jesus as his own, honoring God by teaching Jesus all that he knows and preparing Him for the future.
40: The Temptation of Christ primarily relies upon passages from the biblical books of Matthew and Luke to shape its story, often quoting Scripture directly.
Among those biblical touchpoints are Jesus’ baptism and temptation in the desert. The film also references the angel’s appearance to Joseph after he learned Mary was pregnant; the angel, of course, urges him not to abandon her.
We hear about Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt with Jesus to escape Herod’s wrath. The story especially emphasizes the time that young Jesus frightened His parents by staying behind in the Temple after the Passover festival. And an adult Jesus also sees flashes of His destiny to die on the cross.
Jesus prays throughout His time in isolation. He makes requests for guidance, and He offers up praises to the Lord. He quotes Scripture to comfort Himself, and He uses the Word of God as a weapon against Satan.
Satan uses his powers to pop in and out of thin air (sometimes accompanied by a flash of light). He appears to Jesus in the forms of Mary and Joseph in an attempt to confuse the Savior and tempt Him. He also ignites a fire spontaneously and teleports Jesus to the top of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Satan also uses mockery, flattery, deceit, threats, guilt and shame in his attempts to tempt Jesus into sinning. He blames Jesus for the suffering of mankind and threatens to make things worse if Jesus won’t bow down and worship him.
Though Satan strives to trick and tempt Him at His most vulnerable moments, Jesus refuses to give in and even offers to save Satan. Satan grows increasingly angry at Christ’s refusal to obey and ultimately rejects Jesus’ offer to save him, insisting that Jesus is a fool who will regret His actions.
In a final stand against Satan, Jesus resurrects a sheep that Satan had killed, claiming, “I am the resurrection.” After Satan leaves, Jesus collapses, still weak from hunger and injury, and an angel appears to tend to his needs.
Jesus is sometimes seen in a loincloth. Joseph and Mary embrace each other a few times.
We see brief flashes of Jesus covered in blood as He is whipped and then nailed to the cross. We see the motion and hear the sound of Lucifer snapping a sheep’s neck. Jesus falls and hits His head on a rock, rendering Him unconscious and causing Him to bleed. Mary wraps the heavily bleeding hand of a young Jesus.
We see the graves of hundreds of children, murdered by King Herod’s men in their quest to find Jesus as a child. Mary and Jesus weep as Joseph passes away.
As Jesus wanders through the wilderness, he grows increasingly weak, often stumbling and looking worse for wear. He has nightmares about His future upon the cross which wake Him from His slumber and frighten Him.
When Jesus was at His weakest point, His most vulnerable state, He was tested and tempted by Satan. And although Christ never gives in, it’s easy to see why He might have wanted to. Satan is cunning and imposing. He uses instances from Jesus’ past to get under His skin. He makes threats against humanity in an attempt to manipulate Him. But it’s all in vain.
“Get away from me, Satan,” Christ says defiantly.
The film offers a dramatized glimpse of what Jesus went through to save us (including what was to come on the cross). And while these moments come nowhere near the brutality of, say, The Passion of the Christ, it’s still difficult to watch as Jesus suffers.
But the ultimate takeaway from 40: The Temptation of Christ is that we have a Savior who can understand and sympathize with our suffering because He faced temptation when He was on Earth. He calls us to share the Good News because the world needs to hear it now just as much as it did when He walked among us.
And while we, too, might find ourselves tempted by Satan, we simply need to remember His words: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.