Last Adam from above
It is instructive to compare and contrast the temptation accounts in Genesis 3 (Adam) and Matthew 4 (Christ) with respect to their place, time, persons tempted, extent of their temptations, the tests involved and the results.
God does not tempt anyone except in the sense of bringing out the worth and fidelity of the one being tested. On the other hand, Satan, our arch-adversary, tempts man with the sole purpose of bringing about his ruin. Satan aims at our destruction, being a murderer from the beginning; God overrules Satan's perversity to the accomplishment of his own counsel. This we see both in the Garden of Eden and in the Wilderness of Judaea, where the two greatest temptations of human history took place, with vastly different outcomes.
The first man Adam was tried in a Garden, an ideal atmosphere and environment, lacking nothing that could be beneficial to his well-being; the Last Adam underwent the pressure in a barren wilderness, lacking all comfort, and all alone.
The time is worth considering: our first parents were at the beginning of history; the creation was not yet subjected to futility; death was yet unheard of in experience; all things conspired to their favour. But Christ appeared in the fullness of times, amidst turmoil, both religious and political.
What's more, Christ endured temptation during forty days, with a special assault at the end when he was hungry after having fasted for such a lengthy period of time; his physical constitution must have been weak (for the angels afterwards came and ministered to him); his mental acuteness was well-tried. Adam knew of no such deprivations.
However the persons tempted are to be noted: both were human beings, but the first was earthy, taken from the earth; the second one is the Lord from heaven. The first was a creature, albeit righteous, wise and holy by virtue of creation; the Christ is very God, the Creator (Romans 9:5).
Adam was posso non peccare (able not to sin); Christ was non posso peccare (unable to sin). Both are representative and federal heads of their own people; natural men are in (union with) Adam, to their condemnation; spiritual men are in Christ, to their justification. Both Adam and Christ affect the human race in its totality very profoundly (Romans 5:12ff).
The extent of their temptations: both were tried upon the basic issues: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Adam thought that the forbidden fruit would satisfy the bodily appetite ("The tree was good for food"); he wanted more that God had actually given him ("it was pleasant to the eyes"); and in vainglory he wanted to rule the creation apart from God ("a tree to be desired to make one wise").
A simple test which Adam failed; he knowingly disobeyed and became a covenant-breaker. Christ, on the other hand, though tempted in a similar fashion, was tempted to the utmost. He was really hungry and food would have appealed to him, yet he did not perform miracles to his own selfish advantage. He confessed that more crucial than bread is the live in conformity to God's will, even though this spells an utter lack of comfort and the absence of "needful" things. Again He did not eagerly claim what was rightfully his; though the world was under the baneful domain of Satan, it was legitimately his, and he knew that the time will come when the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of the Christ. Thus allegiance to God was mandatory: Him only shalt thou serve.
The tests involved were as follows: may we distrust God at any point? May we presume upon God's ways? May man gain sovereignty by concessions to the enemy? It all boils down to these areas.
The results are as widely divergent as could be. After the wilderness temptation Christ was proved to be sinless and thus a worthy Saviour. It is clear that He was actually and truly tempted; he felt and endured the pressure; and it is equally clear that He was sinless (Hebrews 4:15). Christ could not possibly sin; that was beyond question; but this does not imply that the temptations were a sham.
He resisted temptation all the way, even to the shedding of blood. Adam, on the other hand, yielded without a fight; he simply took the fruit from Eve's hand and ate. He sinned wilfully, bringing death and misery upon himself and all his posterity.
The temptations of Christ were for our benefit
Since the Wilderness Temptation was God-appointed (led of the Spirit), and since it is recorded for our instruction (as all of Scripture is) it is our duty to discern what and how it could be for our own advantage and benefit. Realising that Christ is our Saviour, then it must be that whatever his experiences were while in the flesh, they were for our good, since his coming into this world was not for his sake but for ours: "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
When we see our own Redeemer and Deliverer being assaulted by the Murderer, and keeping in mind that God had ordained this to transpire, we should take note no temptation comes by mere coincidence or by chance. We have the both the temptations and the failures of Abraham, Job, Jeremiah and the saints of old recorded for us so that we might learn to yield to God, for He is good and gracious, and works all things for our own good, even trails; thus we are to rejoice when we encounter them.
But Christ's temptations are placed before us as the epitome of obedience. Men often succumb to temptation; Christ went through it all and obtained the victory; where we fail; he succeeded on our behalf.
The wilderness temptation fitted Christ for his unique ministry. He came on a rescue mission: the problem was ethical, whether man, a creature, would obey his Maker or not. Since we are saved by both the active and passive obedience of Christ, the temptation threw into sharp relief the staunch moral character of the God-appointed Messiah. "He was obedient unto death." The death that occurred on Calvary would have been of no avail had the offerer been a law-breaker. But that he wasn't is clearly demonstrated from the very beginning of his ministry; thus we are comforted and have cause to rejoice that we have a deliverer who is holy, undefiled and separate from sinners, though he came and sought sinners.
His temptation, furthermore, proves him to be able to succour saints when they themselves feel the vice of temptations closing upon their souls. He walked the path of obedience before us: so that now he can say, "This is the way; walk ye in it." As our precursor and the pioneer of our faith, he has gone ahead of us, cutting a model for us, to follow in his steps.
He resisted by bringing to the issue the Written Word. It was not how he felt, it was not the reasonableness of the suggestion; what determined the outcome for him was, "It is written." "The way of man is not in himself, to direct his steps." God guides us, and He does so not by impulses and emotions and feelings and what not, but by the admonitions and exhortations of his prophets, now contained for our benefit in the Scripture.
Christ knew and exercised himself in this blessed truth: "All Scripture...is profitable for teaching...for training in righteousness." He used the weapon with dexterity and skill, and he issued victorious. Now Christ says to his disciples, "Learn of me..." Thus Christ's experience shows us who our arch-enemy is; no-one is exempt from his fiery darts; he shows us how we are to handle the adversary, and how we are to defend ourselves against his assaults.
Though we may and do fail, yet in Christ we have a sure hope of victory. "And the God of peace shall crush Satan under your feet shortly." But this will be through Christ who vanquished him, bound him, and made a public example of him by his cross.