Matthew 4:1–11 (NIV)
4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. 3 The tempter came to Him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took Him to the holy city and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If You are the Son of God,” he said, “throw Yourself down. For it is written:
“ ‘He will command His angels concerning You,
and they will lift You up in their hands,
so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. 9 “All this I will give You,” he said, “if You will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from Me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’”
11 Then the devil left Him, and angels came and attended Him.
I've sometimes been tempted to allow anything to be included in worship services in our church so that we can be more attractive to the world and gain lots of people who would contribute to the budget and make life easier for us here at St Matthew’s.
I've been tempted to leave out the law of God in my preaching so that everyone would think that God wouldn’t judge and punish sin and that I was a nice bloke. Thus saying what people wanted to hear and thinking no one would really be hurt by not preaching the full counsel of God.
I've even been tempted to be a “yes” man and even twist the truth so I could take everything that was offered to me to enhance my personal standing and power in the church and community.
We all face temptation. It's a reality in our daily lives. And when we're honest, we have to admit that we're all vulnerable to temptation. Jesus recognised this human vulnerability.
That’s why, when He taught His disciples to pray with the Lord’s Prayer, He included the line, “Lead us not into temptation”. We need help from outside ourselves.
Now, God often allows us to be tempted. How we respond to temptation is up to us. God’s desire is that we turn temptation aside, walk away from it, so that we don’t sin. God always provides a way out of temptation for us. When we give in to temptation, we actually make a conscious decision not to do the right thing by God.
To understand more of the nature of temptation and the best way to overcome it lets examine how Jesus dealt with it.
When Jesus was Baptised, the Spirit of God led Him into the wilderness to be tested by the devil. God allowed this testing to take place. It was part of God’s plan.
After going without food and water for 40 days, Jesus was hungry (who wouldn’t be) - this means that He was vulnerable, as we all are, when we have been deprived of essentials for life - food, clothing, rest and company we tend to be more gullible, make compromises and do things we ordinarily wouldn’t do.
We see that when Jesus was tested His strength is revealed. But first we have to ask the question: "Can there really be a temptation if success seems to be assured beforehand? Jesus was really tempted.
There was really temptation, just like the temptations we all experience. In Jesus' situation there was no sin. In our case there doesn't have to be sin either – what we're tempted with, can, with God's help and through complete devotion to Him be resisted.
The first test was to do with Jesus’ relationship with God – it was about Jesus’ Sonship. Satan presumed that since Jesus was God’s Son, then perhaps He could be persuaded to act independently of God the Father.
Satan’s test was subtle. As the Son of God, Jesus, had the power to turn the stones all around Him into bread. But that wasn’t God’s will for Jesus.
It's a bit like when we're tempted to take short cuts in business transactions or on our tax returns.
God’s will, was, that Jesus was to go hungry in the wilderness with no food for 40 days. To follow Satan’s encouragement and meet His own desire for food, Jesus would have had turn His back on what God wanted for Him.
Jesus, knew the Scripture He quoted from Deuteronomy in 8:3, which affirms that man does not live on bread alone, but by God’s Word. Jesus acknowledges that it is better to obey God’s Word than to satisfy human desire.
How often do we succumb to our human desire for self gratification at the expense of what God commanded or desires?
Jesus’ second test by Satan appealed to the human desire for popularity. Since Jesus is the Son of God then, nothing can physically harm Him. The devil took Him to . . . the highest point of the temple.
Then, as with Eve in the Garden of Eden, Satan tried to mis-use the Word of God and use it out of context. By implication Satan reminded Jesus of God's Word through the prophet Malachi’s prophecy
“See, I will send My messenger, who will prepare the way before Me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His Temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 3:1, NIV).
This text led to the common belief of the Jews that the Saviour would suddenly appear in the sky, coming down to His temple.
The Devil was saying, “Why don’t You do what the people are expecting and put on a glitzy show for them? After all, the Bible says God’s angels will protect You and You won’t even hurt a foot as You come down.”
Satan deliberately left out part of the text. According to the Psalmist, a person is protected only when he or she is following the Lord’s will. For Jesus to throw Himself down from the top of the Temple in a dramatic display to make Himself more popular with the people was not God’s will.
Jesus quoted again from Deuteronomy (6:16), that it is improper to test God and expect Him to do something when one has stepped outside of God’s will.
It's like the ship-wrecked sailor waiting for God to rescue him. A helicopter comes and asks if he'd like to be winched up. The sailor says no – God will rescue me.
A submarine comes up beside him and he's invited aboard. He declines and says he's waiting for God to rescue him.
Then finally a ship comes alongside him and lowers a rope ladder, "Climb aboard" is the invite which he declines with "I'll wait for God to rescue me." He drowns because he declines God's invitation to be rescued.
Satan’s final test concerned God’s plan for Jesus. God’s ultimate plan has Jesus ruling the world. The devil showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world with all their splendour.
These kingdoms were under the control of Satan, as he is, the Scriptures tell us, “the god of this Age” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; cf. Eph. 2:2).
The devil could have given all these kingdoms to Jesus—if only Jesus would bow down and worship him. The devil was saying, “I can bring about God’s will for you right now.”
If Jesus had accepted the devil’s terms then He wouldn’t have gone to the cross and died. This would have cancelled out God’s plan for salvation and would have meant Jesus was worshipping someone less than Himself.
Jesus again quotes from Deuteronomy and highlights the first commandment that God alone should be worshiped and served.
Our temptation is to sell our soul to Satan, forget about worship, integrity in business, and rely on our own efforts to a happy and successful life.
Jesus wasn't taking short cuts – He resisted all three temptations.
The devil’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness parallels those of Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Firstly the devil appealed to Eve’s physical appetites - the lush fruit (Genesis 3:1-3; Matthew 4:3), then her desire for personal gain – special knowledge (Genesis 3:4-5; Matthew 4:6), and finally to the desire for an easy path to power or glory - like God (Genesis 3:5-6; Matthew 4:8-9).
In each temptation the devil twisted God’s Word (Genesis 3:4; Matthew 4:6). His temptation of us today falls into the same categories For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. (1 John 2:16, NIV).
Jesus identified Himself with sinners by Baptism and gave us His righteousness. He proved His righteousness by resisting temptation. God the Father revealed His approval of Jesus with the Baptismal proclamation.
At His baptism, the voice from heaven declared that Jesus was the Messiah. God's beloved Son, with whom He was well pleased. The outcome of temptation hinges on the relation of that Son of God to God Himself.
The outcome of temptations we experience also hinge on our relationship with God.
The devil left Jesus because Jesus could answer the temptations with the Word and power of God. When we're immersed in God’s Word and will, we too, are equipped to cast aside the temptations of the devil and follow Jesus in doing God’s will.
As we travel the Lenten road to Easter the lectionary Bible readings will help us resist temptation. As Jesus was immersed in the Word of God the Father I encourage you to immerse yourselves in that same Word. ( You might like to use the Devotion book Bishop Mark left with us yesterday, Deliver Us: Jesus Sets Us Free.
As Jesus was ministered too by God’s angels, we in our fellowship here are ministered to - supported and encouraged in leading God pleasing lives in the Grace and Word of God. Our needs can be met for healthy bodies and minds, for personal assurance and a place in God’s Kingdom.