These are three figurative ways of referring to the elements of human life that resist and oppose the accomplishment of God’s purpose for each of us. The first figures the seductions of the social milieu within which we find ourselves. The second figures the seductions of the animal appetites. And the third, the devil, personifies the most venomous seductions of all, those deriving from self-consciousness, and the prideful desire for self-sufficiency it entails.
The parable of the sower and the seed illustrates each of these: the thorns of the world; the energetic superficiality of animal desire; the intransigence of self-esteem.
The parable of the temptations in the wilderness focuses entirely on the third, because it is the stronghold – the strong man’s house – that shelters all the rest.