The Temptation of Jesus
Luke 4:1-13 6 March 2022
Lent is a season where Christians strengthen their faith and grow in their walk with Christ Jesus through living out spiritual disciplines such as fasting, abstinence, and reserving more time for prayer and Bible reading and study. As you become more disciplined in your walk with Christ Jesus, you will strengthen yourself against temptation which will come your way. Is there anyone here who has not at one time or another been tempted to do something they ought not do or not do something they should do? Maybe I could ask the question this way: Is there anyone who has not been tempted in some way this morning? Temptation is part of life. Everyone deals with temptation. The big issue is not whether we are tempted but whether we pass the test of faith when we are tempted.
Even Jesus was tempted. After the spiritual high of his baptism and the voice from heaven honoring him as God’s beloved Son, the Spirit led him into the wilderness of Judea for a period of fasting and prayer. Luke writes that the Spirit led him into the wilderness. Another Gospel reports that the Spirit drove him, pressed him into the wilderness. Jesus began his ministry with a long period of fasting and prayer away from civilization in the rocky desert of Judea. Luke clearly reports that the Spirit led him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. The purpose of his wilderness experience was to be tempted by the Adversary, Satan. Imagine this! Jesus begins his work with a time of testing conducted by the evil one.
He fasted forty days and forty nights and was not just hungry, but famished. He was starved. After this long period of fasting, he was truly physiologically hungry. His body craved nourishment. Jesus was in a vulnerable position. What happened to him in his vulnerability? Satan came with a proposal. He came to tempt him when he was most vulnerable. In the Judean wilderness one finds round rocks shaped like loaves of bread. Satan said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” If he is the son of God? He was just affirmed as such by the Lord God. Satan challenges him to stanch his hunger by using his creative powers for selfish purposes. He was in the wilderness to get strengthened for his mission. Now Satan challenges him to give up his fast and transform stone into bread. How does Jesus respond? He quotes Scripture (Deuteronomy 8:3): “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” He is in the wilderness to be nourished by the Word of God, not bread. Jesus resisted the first temptation.
The devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their entire splendor. And those kingdoms were splendid. Imagine the wealth that existed in Rome, Greece, Persia, Egypt, China and elsewhere. Jesus saw the spectacular cities and palaces. He saw the abundance of the wealth of nations. The evil one said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” The devil offers Jesus all the wealth and power of the world. Of course there’s the big “if.” Jesus would have to be a devil worshipper. There is always a price to pay for wealth and power. He again responded with Scripture ( Deuteronomy 6:13 ): “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Jesus recognizes that the Lord God is Supreme and is only worthy of our worship, not the evil one. Nothing is worth the price of idolatry, of worshipping anything other than the Lord God.
The devil then took him to Jerusalem and placed him on the very top of the temple. He challenged Jesus to jump off and said that God would send his angels to catch him so that he would not be hurt. This temptation was one which challenged Jesus to create a spectacle that people could see and admire. If someone jumped off the pinnacle of the temple, hundreds would observe him. Jesus would have developed quite a following had he done so. However, he responded to the evil one with Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:16): “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” At this point Luke tells us that the devil had finished every test and departed from him “until an opportune time.”
In what ways are you tempted? When I think of the temptations that come our way, I believe the biggest one might by the temptation to sell out to the trivialities of life. God calls us to be people who are part of his mission and ministry and not spend our lives caught up in trivia. When I was in seminary, I had a professor who was convinced that frittering away one’s life in trivia is one of the greatest sins of our time. Think of the millions of hours a day that people spend watching television, reading worthless books, playing the various sports, messing around on the internet and pursuing all kinds of meaningless activities. One of the biggest temptations we face is selling out for the trivial, for things that lead nowhere.
Years ago I visited my mother in Ohio and read an article in The Canton Repository newspaper about a man who had chosen to live on the streets. He makes some money working in the Fall because he does not like living in the streets in cold weather. Consequently he makes just enough money to rent a room for the winter. He is able to work. He could lead a safer and a higher quality life but he chooses to live on the streets. Instead of accepting a good quality life, he accepts the life of a vagrant. When I was thinking about some of the most serious temptations that come our way, I thought of this man. How many times will we except second, third, or even fourth best and reject God’s best. God offers us a banquet and many settle for a few drops of drink and some crumbs. Instead of the contentment and peace God offers, we get caught up in the rat race. Even now the rat race has become so normal that people don’t call it the rat race. Instead of enjoying life, we rush here and there. Instead of receiving all the grace we can from God, we accept a pittance. God offers us the richest blessings and many resign their lives to living in spiritual poverty. How it must grieve our heavenly Father who wants to pour on people blessing after blessing and they accept second, third or fourth best. God wants to bless you beyond your imagination. Resist the temptation to accept less than what God wants to give you. God offered Jesus the greatest of glories. Satan challenged him to settle for a loaf of bread. But Jesus resisted all the temptation the devil presented him even though he was in a terribly vulnerable state.
In a similar vein, we are tempted to minimize God, to see God as less than God. Our Lord is powerful, high and exalted. The devil wants us to see God as less than he is. Our Lord tells us that all we have to do is ask with faith and we will receive. He offers us deliverance from our sins. He offers to break the chains that bind us. He offers us healing. Instead of seeing his promises as real, people minimize him. Instead of seeing that God’s promises are for today, many say that only First Century disciples could do what Jesus did. As a consequence of minimizing God, we don’t see much healing, deliverance and even salvations. Instead of seeing him as a Big God, people see him as a little one. One of the older contemporary Christian songs of revival affirms God’s power. What is the title? “Great Big God.” The song affirms that “we have a great big God and an itty bitty devil.” God is a great big God. We serve a great big God.
Jesus went into the wilderness for the express purpose of being tempted by the devil. As Jesus was not immune to temptation, we also are subject to such times. Every time you take a stand for Jesus, the evil one is going to come your way to tempt you to accept second best. During this season of Lent if you decide to practice spiritual disciplines, I guarantee that the evil one will come and test you right at your place of vulnerability. When you give into temptation don’t say like Flip Wilson’s character Geraldine said, “The devil made me do it.” The devil cannot make you do anything. Like the song says, he is an itty bitty devil. The only power he has is to lie to you and try to deceive you. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you have the power to resist him. God gives you the power you need to resist temptation.
In Ephesians 6, Paul speaks about putting on the armor of God. He says, “So put on God’s armor now! Then when the evil day comes, you will be able to resist the enemies’ attacks; and after fighting to the end, you will hold your ground (TEV Ephesians 6:13).” What is the Christian response to any kind of temptation? We are to resist it. There is nothing passive about resisting. We are in a battle. When the enemy comes, by God’s power, do everything you can to resist him. Don’t listen to his lies and deceptions. Resist temptation when it comes your way and you will be strengthened for future battles.
The big issue in our walk with Christ Jesus is not whether we have temptations but how we live when we are confronted by temptation. You will be tempted. The more you walk with Christ Jesus, the more the evil one will try to deceive you. Another way to look at temptation is that they are tests which can strengthen us. You cannot pass the tests or resist temptation on your own strength. Through the power of the Holy Spirit working within you can you pass the tests. Through the power of the Holy Spirit you can live victoriously. Accept God’s very best—ask to be filled again and again with his Spirit so that you can walk with your head high with the confidence, peace and the satisfaction that comes from walking in victory with Christ Jesus.
CH (COL) Michael W. Malone, AUS RET
Veterans Memorial Chapel