4. Jesus’ Temptations
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Luke 4:1-13 - Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’
Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone.”’
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendour; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.’
Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”’
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down from here. For it is written:
‘“He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”’ Jesus answered, ‘It is said: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’ When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
In Luke 3, we discovered that Jesus had started his public ministry at his baptism, and that he was revealed as God’s Son. However, not only was Jesus fully God, he was also human. In the other Gospel accounts of this event, Matthew (Matthew 4:1) and Mark (Mark 1:12) both tell us that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert. Luke alone tells us that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit, and that he was led in the Spirit into the desert. Luke’s phrasing and terminology makes it clearer that Jesus’ temptation experiences in the desert were all part of God’s plan at the start of Jesus’ public ministry, in order that the type of Messiah Jesus was, would be revealed.
This temptations event reveals Jesus’ perfect and full humanity. Knowing Jesus to be both God and man, satan starts his plan of attack against him. After forty days of fasting, prayer and wandering in the desert, Jesus is confronted by satan. In this event we have three temptations, and it reveals the way Christian Disciples are to handle temptations when confronted with them.
First temptation (Luke 4:3-4) - Note the way satan starts by saying “So you are the Son of God.” As if to say, “If you are really who those voices speaking at your baptism say you are, then prove it to me. You must surely be hungry by now, so why don’t you turn these stones into bread and feed yourself” (Luke 4:3). Satan wanted Jesus to disobey God the Father’s will by using His powers for selfish purposes. He also wanted Jesus to doubt God the Father’s love and care. Jesus, however, is the beloved Son who always does the will of the Father (John 8:29). Luke 4:4 shows us that Jesus answered satan by using Scripture “'Man does not live on bread alone.” (Deuteronomy 8:3). This reveals that while physical food is necessary, it is more important to be sustained by the authority of Scripture. For Jesus, instead of relying on His own power to create food, it showed His trust in God the Father to take total care of Him.
Second temptation (Luke 4:5-8) – This is satan’s encouragement for Jesus to engage in false worship, challenging him as it does to break the commandment “You shall have no other gods but me” (Exodus 20:3). Satan says it’s all yours if you just bow the knee and worship me. Of course satan is as always telling a deceiving half-truth. Though satan has great power (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4), he has no authority to be able to offer Jesus everything he said he would give. He is also not worthy of worship, as his power is always destructive and leads to wanton disobedience and unfaithfulness. This reflects satan’s self-delusion of grandeur. Jesus’ reply again is from Scripture, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only'" (Deuteronomy 6:13). Jesus here is saying that He will only serve one Master, and that is God the Father.
Third temptation (Luke 4:9-13) - Here, satan encourages Jesus to take God the Father up on His promised protection. “Throw yourself off the top of the temple. If God is faithful and true, God will catch you and protect you as you start off on this ministry of yours!” Satan also here quotes Scripture in order to make the temptation much more appealing (Psalm 91:11-12). However, this is a misquote, because he doesn’t add “in all your ways”. Jesus however, being always wise, quotes Scripture back “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deuteronomy 6:16). In quoting Scripture back, Jesus gives balance to the total expression of God’s will and not just part of it. Jesus refused to acquiesce to the lures of satan, and his demands to test God the Father’s faithfulness on his own terms.
The first temptation is echoed within us, when we try to do things in our own strength and power instead of relying on God’s power and strength to achieve much more than we can hope for or imagine.
The second temptation here echoes James 1:14-15 where desires and lusts lure the Christian Disciple into sinning against and disobeying God.
The third temptation occurs for us when we test God. Christian Disciples, who actively disobey God, subsequently fall into trouble and then expect God to rescue us, are testing God. An example of this is in Exodus 17:1-7.
Jesus emerged from the desert experience, the victor, and to continue his ministry. Satan skulked off for his next opportunity. As Christian Disciples we need to be aware of the schemes of satan, and learn to fend him off, just as Jesus did in the wilderness and in all subsequent encounters during his earthly ministry.
How satan tempts the Christian Disciple
- Accuse them (Rev 12:10)
- Devour their testimony for Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:8)
- Deceive them (2 Corinthians 11:14)
- Hinder their work (1 Thessalonians 2:18)
The Christian Disciples’ response to satan should be:
- To recognise his power and deception (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11)
- Stay with the faith (1 Peter 5:9)
- Wear the armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-17)
- Resist him openly by submitting to God and he will flee (James 4:7)
- Not to give him opportunities (Ephesians 4:27)
Probably the best way to oppose him is to grow as a Christian Disciple and submit all to God. We must remember that our love for God must always be stronger than our love for the world. If we love somebody, we do not want to hurt that person. When we go against God and sin, we are hurting our relationship with Him. He is a holy God and cannot abide any sin! Therefore, as we grow as Christian Disciples we grow more in love with God, and therefore our desire to sin grows less. By having faith & trust in God to provide needs and protection and worshipping and serving Him alone, the Christian Disciple grows in spiritual maturity and will also not succumb to temptation to sin and disobey God.
For more to think about please do read 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. Ask yourself the following questions and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.
Q1. How can these examples given by Paul help me not to disobey God?
Q2. In what areas do I think I am standing firm and do I always recognize the way of escaping temptation?
Q3. What do Jesus’ experiences of temptation tell me about his humanity and how I too can stand up when tempted?
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