Dealing With the Devil
Text: Matthew 4: 1 - 11
Richard F. Harsell firstname.lastname@example.org
The pages of Scripture are strangely silent concerning the nearly 20 - year period of
Jesus’ life prior to the beginning of His’ earthly ministry, but Matthew picks up the story beginning somewhere around His’ 30’th year when He showed up at the Jordan River and presented Himself as a candidate for baptism at the hand of John the Baptist.
Why Jesus chose to submit Himself to John’s baptism
has been a matter of speculation among Bible scholars
for centuries, but I am led to believe that He did so for three main reasons.
The first was in keeping with the Jewish tradition of totally immersing their priests in water prior to ordination, thus it served as a symbol of the beginning of Jesus earthly ministry. Secondarily, it put His’ "seal of approval" on the ministry and work
of John the Baptist, and third, it established water
baptism as a permanent public ordinance for all who would become His’followers in years to come, symbolizing leaving the old sinful lifestyle behind,
and the spiritual rebirth that had occured in their
Yet, prior to embarking on His ministry, Jesus chose to go into the desert and spend a 40 day period in
fasting - that is He went without food or water during that entire time. Which brings to mind the additional question as to why He chose to subject Himself to such an ordeal? Although Jesus never gave a specific reason for this self-imposed exile, again,we can still draw several conclusions from what
we read in our text this morning.
First, fasting is a means of denying the fleshly needs and demands of the body. We see in Scripture that Moses as well as the prophet Elijah, as well as a number of other significant people in the Bible endured periods of fasting. In addition we note that the entire nation of Israel was commanded by God to fast on the annual Day of Atonement as as sign of contrition and sorrow for their sins. Thus we can conclude that fasting was not only a means of self denial, but a tool for building strength of character
as well in the battle against fleshly temptation, and ultimately resulted in spiritual growth and maturity. It is said that John Wesley, the founder of what is today the Methodist Church, would not consent to ordain a person to the ministry who did not fast at least 2 days a week!
Several years ago while reading a book by Evangelist Lowell Lundstrom entitled "How You Can Pray With Power and Get Results" I was greatly impressed by an experience he shared where the LORD had impressed upon him the need to begin a 21-day fast during a Crusade which he was conducting. He shared how during that period that he conducted business as usual, preaching every night, and he went on to state: "during that time my spirit became so sensative to the leading of the Holy Spirit that I [felt] alive to the mind of God. My desire for food and other earthly pleasures vanished [and] God was present in power through that Crusade. Many people came to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior, and God performed miracles in their lives." Perhaps it would avail many of us a spiritual boost if we were to try our hand at fasting as well, because it is God’s way of teaching people self-discipline. It is a constant reminder that the spirit is going to be boss over the flesh, and that spiritual hunger is going to prevail over fleshly desires.