These verses are a battle that Jesus has in respect to “who he is” His identity is challenged. “If you are the son of God?” The tempter attacks the very essence of who Jesus is. And not His humanity but His place alongside God the Father.
That is important because it is about the understanding Jesus has of His own deity and His relationship within the persons of the trinity. And relationship is an important part of God. In fact I’m more and more convinced that God requires relationship above anything else.
The bible charts God’s interaction, His intervention and His intimate contact with us, with and great love for humanity. From the very beginning, Genesis talks about God making Adam in His image and spending time in the garden with him. And then God saw that it isn’t good for Adam to be without someone like himself, a helper, so He created Eve. We are, both man and woman, created in the image of God. Created to be together, to thrive, to enjoy relationships and anything that makes that difficult, makes that fractious and causes us to doubt, that puts a limit on us.
In simple terms we only need to look at ourselves, especially at the moment, to know that without contact, without relationships and simply, not having someone in the same room as us, is not good for us. We, like God, are relational.
And the parallels of the story of Eden and Jesus’ time in the desert are striking. Within the Genesis account it doesn't take long for man to what? Yes, fall, to disobey, to break the relationship, but what was the motivation to stray? The tempter says this “ you will be like God”. In essence “man wishing to be god” was what broke that relationship. Our knowledge of who we were became distorted. And so for Jesus, in the midst of longing for relationship, that has been denied Him for 40 days, the tempter attempts to make Jesus see himself as fully human, to give up His identity as God and give in to His base needs. An assault on who He really is. God made flesh. The garden of Eden was in plenty; we still denied who we were and wished to be god. In the stark, bare and barren desert the assault on Jesus was to give in to his humanity completely.
That assault on Jesus was physical, emotional and influential. Or PEI no not PIE but PEI, which stands for Prevention and Early Intervention. The process of identifying and responding early to reduce risks or improving the effect of less-than-optimal social and physical environments. PEI at the beginning of His worldly ministry, in the desert which I’m sure most people would say the desert is as “ less-than-optimal social and physical” environment as any.