Feb 9, 2019
4 min read
 

Matthew 4: The Temptation of Christ and the Vision of the Tree of Life

I’m not sure if anyone has made this connection before, but in studying Matthew 4, I noticed that there were some pretty striking similarities to what Jesus went through in the desert and the vision that Lehi and Nephi had.

The Wilderness

Both accounts begin in the wilderness.

  • Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness… (Matt 4:1)
  • I saw in my dream, a dark and dreary wilderness. And it came to pass that I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me. And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him. And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste. (1 Nephi 8:4-5)

Hunger and Fruit

In the desert, Jesus has fasted for 40 days and nights while in Lehi’s vision, he tastes the fruit of the tree after several hours (not days). This contrast between extreme hunger and the vivid description of tasting the fruit is striking.

  • And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. (Matt 4:2)
  • And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen. (1 Nephi 8:11)

Temptations

The temptations of Christ correlate with the mists of darkness in the vision. While in the wilderness, a dark presence arises in both accounts to tempt and distract and the devil is responsible for both.

  • And when the tempter came to him… (Matt 4:3)
  • And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness … (1 Nephi 8:23) And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost. (1 Nephi 12:17)

Worldly heights, vanity and pride

The great and spacious building and the great and abominable church may serve the same purpose as the exceedingly high mountain. Both were high above the earth, and the temptation was worldly glory and riches. The great and abominable church is the movement and ideology in which Satan seeks to lead the children of God astray with similar temptations.

  • Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. (Matt 4:8-9)
  • …a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth. (1 Nephi 8:26) And the large and spacious building, which thy father saw, is vain imaginations and the pride of the children of men. (1 Nephi 12:18) Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church. (1 Nephi 13:8)

The Iron Rod

Jesus withstands the temptations of Satan by quoting scripture, or the word of God which corresponds to those in the vision who hold fast to the iron rod and make it through the mists of darkness, or the temptations of the devil.

  • It is written… (Matt 4:4,6,10)
  • …the rod of iron, which my father had seen, was the word of God, which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life; (1 Nephi 11:25)

Angels and The Tree of Life

Jesus, and the people on the path to the tree of life, both cling to the word of God and push through the temptation to receive a blessing that contrasts the temptation. Jesus is ministered to by angels, and the people enjoy the presence and fruit of the tree of life; light is on the other side of darkness.

  • Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him. (Matt 4:10-11)
  • …and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree. (1 Nephi 8:24)

There may be more parallels and if you see any, point them out in the comments below.

It never ceases to amaze me how many new things I can find in scriptures that I have countless times. I love how the Biblical accounts and Book of Mormon mesh so well and emphasize key principles in their own unique way.

It’s clear that the way through temptation is to fix our mind on the word of God, to know it, to recall it and to invoke it when the darkness comes.

2 Comments

  1. Interesting. I had made a totally different connection – between the Tree of Life vision and Dante’s Divine Comedy. He begins by saying, “Midway upon the journey of our life/I found myself in a dark wilderness,/For I had wandered from the straight and true.” He also has guides/angels in the forms of Virgil, then later Beatrice. I’m not saying there’s exact correlation, but I’m pretty sure Dante was inspired nonetheless.
    The similarities are indeed striking, and this suggests that Christ, as our Exemplar, has laid a pattern which we must follow in order to enjoy the fruit of the Tree of Life. Such a lot to think on – thank you!

    • Well, to be fair, these aren’t exactly foreign ideas in the human experience, this traveling to a destination and encountering trouble along the way. The daily revolutions from day to night and the various lights we use to get through the dark are engrained in our psyches.

      I particularly like the movie “The Fountain” for all of its dark to light imagery.

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