Sermon of St. Gregory the Great, Pope
Sermon XVI on the Gospels
Some persons are accustomed to question by what Spirit Jesus was led into the desert, on account of the words a little farther on: Then the devil took Him into the holy city; And again: The devil took Him to a very high mountain. But without any question at all, it is appropriate to believe it was the Holy Spirit who led Him into the desert; His own Spirit led Him where the evil spirit would find Him and tempt Him. When, however, it is said that He, God and man, was taken up by the devil into a very high mountain, or into the holy city, the mind shrinks from believing, and the ears of man dread to hear it. Yet we know that this is not incredible when we think what was done on other occasions.
Truly, the devil is the head of all the wicked: and all the wicked are members belonging to this head. Was not Pilate a member of the devil? Were not the Jews who persecuted Christ, members of the devil, and the soldiers who crucified Him? Why, then, should we wonder that He allowed Himself to be taken up into a mountain by the devil, by whose members He even allowed Himself to be crucified? Therefore, it was not unfitting that our Redeemer should will to be tempted, who came to be slain. It was, indeed, just that He should, by His own temptations overcome our temptations, even as He came to conquer our death by His own.
But we ought to know that temptation passes through three stages: suggestion, pleasure in the temptation, and consent. And when we are tempted, we often experience pleasure in the temptation, or even give our consent; for we are conceived of sinful flesh, and in us, we carry what is subject to attack. But God who took flesh in the womb of a Virgin, and came into the world without sin, allowed no contradiction within Himself. He could, then, be tempted by suggestion: but the pleasure of sin could never force its way into His mind. And therefore those temptations of the devil were external to Him, and were not from within.