All Scripture references are from the New Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
In Scripture we see that after Jesus Christ was baptized he was given the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16). Soon afterwards, Christ was targeted to endure a series of temptations from Satan (Matthew 4:1-11).
Satan knew that, if Christ suffered death as a sinless man, Christ's death would cover the sins of the world, destroying the grip of death on mankind (for more information on this, please see the essay on forgiveness here). Satan also knew that, upon completion of Christ's earthly mission, Christ would be given the throne of God's Kingdom to rule until all of God's enemies are defeated -- with the last enemy being "Death" (1 Corinthians 15:25-26). Because Satan is the one who has power over death (Hebrews 2:14), he knows Christ's success would mean his (Satan's) demise, and this is why it was very important -- in Satan's view -- to stumble Jesus and ruin the plan of salvation; Christ's failure would mean Satan's triumph. Satan didn't have a lot of time to waste on this, knowing Christ had a finite amount of time to walk amongst mankind. This could be why Satan targeted Jesus so quickly after his baptism in the Jordan river (Matthew 3:16-4:3). Let's look at each of these temptations one at a time:
The Actual Temptations
1 --Self-Preservation: Satan knew Jesus had been fasting for a period of forty days (Matthew 4:2), and would be very hungry. Now, Satan had been observing human nature for thousands of years, so he knew that it would be a natural thing for a starving person to crave food as an act of self-preservation. Betting on this, Satan suggested that Jesus use his newly God-given powers to transform stones into bread in order to relieve his starvation. However, Christ recognized that his God-given power was not to be used for his own self- interests; it was given to him to perform the will of the Father (John 4:34, 6:38). Therefore, not only did he refuse to listen to Satan's suggestion, but he also used Scripture (Deuteronomy 8:3) to silence Satan's attempt.
2 -- Self-Importance Next, Satan took Jesus to a high place atop the temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 4:5). He told Jesus "If you are the Son of God (sowing a seed of doubt), throw yourself down." Seeing that Christ liked to quote Scripture, Satan decided to beat him at his game and quoted Psalm 91:12 to support this suggestion, stating: "For it is written : He will command His angels concerning you, On their hands they will bear you up so that you will not dash your foot against a stone". This seemed to be a test of Christ's sense of importance: Jesus Christ knew the value of his life in relation to God's plan for salvation, and it would be logical for him to realize that God wouldn't let fatal things happen to him before it was time. So Satan was trying to sow seeds of doubt in Christ's sonship, egging Jesus on with a "prove it" attitude. However, knowing how wrong it would be to test God in such a manner, Jesus silenced Satan again by quoting Scripture, saying: "Again it is written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test ". (Matthew 4:7 in reference to Deuteronomy 6:16)
3 -- Political Power: For the next trial, Satan took Jesus to a high mountain, showing him the world kingdoms (Matthew 4:8). Then he told Jesus "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me". Satan was willing to give Christ a lifetime of political power over the entire world, all for one singular act of worship. Since Satan can't give away things that aren't his, this shows he was the "owner" of these kingdoms, as supported in Scripture (John 14:30). Knowing that Christ was in line for rulership over God's Kingdom, Satan tried to satisfy Christ's anticipation of this rulership by offering him global rulership ahead of time. Of course, this came with the stipulation that Christ must first give an act of worship to Satan in order to receive those kingdoms. Realize that, if Satan could coax Jesus into this act of worship, it would have converted Christ from a God worshiper into a Satan worshiper. However, instead of the temptation succeeding, Christ told Satan to go away and quoted Scripture , saying: "Away with you Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord Your God, and serve Him only! (Matthew 4:10 in reference to Deuteronomy 6:13-15).
According to Matthew 4:11 , it was after this that Satan left Jesus and the angels came to minister to him.
It is interesting to note that each of the above mentioned temptations focused on the attempted destruction of Christ's position in God's Kingdom. Satan didn't bother tempting Christ with women, wealth, or even wine -- which are the usual things Satan tries people with. It appears that the primary target of Satan's interest was Christ's place in The Father's Kingdom, which makes sense, since he was trying to keep his own demonic kingdom intact. However, these satanic trials obviously didn't deter Christ from his God-given mission, and Satan failed miserably in his attempts.
May we all praise God for His Son's integrity and the salvation we're graced with as a result!