passage is a familiar one. Some think it does not pertain to them; after all,
this is the temptation of the Christ. But Christ is human, completely human
like the rest of us. The temptations were put in human terms, and we shall see
that the defenses used are available to all of us.
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And
the tempter came and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command that
these stones become bread." But He answered and said, "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT
ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'" Then the
devil *took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the
temple, and *said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down;
for it is written, 'HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU'; and 'ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU
WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'" Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT PUT
THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'" Again, the devil *took Him to a
very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory;
and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down
and worship me." Then Jesus *said to him, "Go,
Satan! For it is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM
ONLY.'" Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.
(Mat 4:1-11 NASB)
us first examine the preliminary actions of this engagement. We should first
note that Jesus is in the wilderness after a spiritual “high” – baptism in the Jordan. Satan has good reason to attack at this time:
as other accounts make clear, Satan has been working up to this point. We
are seeing only the final assault.
consider the value of victory for Satan. If he can tempt you successfully
after a spiritual victory, it is very discouraging. “If I couldn’t resist
then, when could I?”
a time when Satan might find his victim overconfident.
thing is certain: you should expect it.
is a spiritual discipline’ it carries with it the slight disadvantage of
hunger. If you’re hungry enough, you might just do anything for food. People
have turned cannibal before.
see Satan’s attack; it is indirect. He doesn’t tell Christ what to do, he
flatters Him (“if you are the Son of God…) first. Even in the temptation of
the flesh, Satan couches his words with flattery, appealing to pride.
has an interesting side effect: it makes you sympathetic with the hunger of
others. It also reminds you of the obligation of the rich (that’s us, American
Christian) to feed the poor. You may not think much of this, but do you not
see that Satan is tempting Christ to feed himself? “Me first.” If the
Son of God were to convert stones to bread (He won’t, but we’ll see that
later), surely he should do so to feed the poor.
are almost immune to this issue in our society. But may I share a passage of
Scripture I had never thought through before.
It concerns the city of Sodom. Ask anyone in the church today what caused the
downfall of that city, and you will be told, “Homosexuality.” But hear the
word of the Lord:
this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance,
abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.
(Eze 16:49 NASB)
picks his geography well.
the wilderness, yielding to temptation is done without anyone observing
it. So we minimize the impact of the sin. Satan, however, delights in
the fact that he now has a juicy “guilty secret” – which can only be
protected by more sin.
also gives Jesus an excuse – hunger in the wilderness, let’s be
reasonable. That sets in motion the sin of self-justification – another
handle for Satan.
is training his young wrestlers by letting them see how the Master does it.
follows now is rather traditional in interpretation. You’ve seen it before (I
hope). You might ask why no brilliant flashes of extraneous rhetoric are in
this; the answer is that the traditional answers are the right answers. They
play Beethoven’s Fifth more than once, too.
with regard to lust, modern man has been taught that failure to give in to
temptation will result in terrible psychiatric problems. Give in, and enjoy,
and see your shrink to get over the guilt feelings. (Does not apply to holes
in your head due to wife finding out.) Think this through. You experience
fear; giving in is cowardice. You experience the desire for more; giving in is
greed. All our natural desires are intended to be suppressed (the right word,
not repressed) by a self-control which we are to develop. All, that is, except
sex – and that exception is broadening into the other seven deadly sins.
order given here is that which Luke uses; it is the order of the magnitude of
the temptation. We shall see that Satan likes to use the lowest level
temptation he can.
of the flesh
will use these if he can:
– the desire for forbidden sexuality. This produces guilty secrets quite
easily. It also leads to a great deal of self-justification and bitter,
bitter divorces. It has no saving virtues, and is greatly aided by the
physical side of life – male hormones, for example.
– the ravening desire for more, in the physical realm. This is usually
restricted to eating, and in particular stuffing yourself while those
around you starve. In a nation where even the beggars are rich, it’s hard
to see this. Try fasting, and see if you immune to gluttony.
– That furious rage which comes when you believe your own
self-justifications. Anger is greatly honored in our society – when it’s
used to motivate the voters. Where would environmentalism be without
three piece gray vested oil company presidents? Anger is a favorite of
Satan’s; things said in anger may need to completed when sober.
of the world
come and go; age may conquer lust, and doctor’s orders may conquer gluttony.
Bitter experience may conquer anger. But there is another class of
temptations, greater than those of the flesh. If the flesh won’t work, Satan
will try the sins of the world:
Why should that other guy be so rich? It is the principle weapon of
American liberal politics. Envy touches many; if allowed to ripen into
anger, it produces votes. This also works, usually without the anger, to
sell retail items. Why should the cheerleader have a beautiful face while
I have acne?
If you don’t have envy, there is always greed. Greed says that I should
have more – whatever the consequences to anyone else. It is the principal
weapon of American conservative politics. It is the chief method by which
we obtain poverty-stricken multimillionaires.
Yes, laziness. The habit of doing nothing about anything. Usually
associated with good intentions, it means that we approve of righteousness
in theory, but not so much that we would do anything about it.
great sin – Pride
great tool of Satan is pride (also translated “arrogance.”) If you are serious
about sin, this is Satan’s chief weapon. Have you ever heard someone use shame
as a technique for achieving self-control? “Another chocolate fudge triple
syrup banana split? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” We appeal to pride to
deal with the other sins – and Satan laughs.
is the sin of the Pharisees; recall that Christ called all other sinners to
repent, but the proud he rebuked in anger. Dealing with pride is difficult,
but not impossible.
are a few lessons we should take away from this incident.
key thought is this: Christ is human, fully so. He was tempted, as we are.
His defenses worked for Him; they will work for us, if we will but use them.
Christ was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. His life
was governed by the Spirit, and therefore He was prepared.
His verbal defense comes from knowing the Scriptures. The virtues of
frequent reading and memorization are hereby proclaimed.
– denying the body to strengthen the soul – has its desired effects.
not mentioned in this context, but equally valuable:
– the life of constant prayer is constantly well guided.
– Christ took comfort of the angels; we should not neglect fellowship with
obedient heart – you’re not smart enough to outsmart Satan, let alone
God. But you can triumph through obedience. I don’t need to know how the
air pump works if I’m using it to pump up the tires.
Adam, Second Adam
is interesting to note how many writers have made the comparison between the fall
of man in Adam and the triumph of Man in Christ. They see in this the
fulfillment of this prophecy:
I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her
seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel."
(Gen 3:15 NASB)
Paul used this concept:
also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The
last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
(1Co 15:45 NASB)
the failure of Adam in the garden to the triumph of Christ in the Wilderness –
what a Savior we have.
shall we walk away with?
see that even the greatest of temptations can be overcome – by men. He is
human; such temptations as He had are in human terms. He triumphed; we
knows what temptation is like. He’s been there, done that and bought the
t-shirt, as the saying goes. Which means He can assist us in resisting
is clear: there is no possible alliance between Christ and Satan.
Anything that presents itself that way is a deception of the Father of