A TEMPTATION OR A TEST? (LUKE 4:1-13)
When I was a boy in west Texas, we lived on the west fork of the Brazos River. In the summertime there was not enough water in the stream to rust a shingle nail. It was dry. In the wintertime, however, you could have kept a battleship afloat in it. One year we had a flood, and it washed out a railroad bridge over the river. Santa Fe railroad workers came immediately to build a new bridge. When the bridge was completed, they put two engines on the bridge and tied down the whistles. In our little town we had never heard two engine whistles blow at the same time, so everyone raced to the bridge, all twenty seven of us. One brave fellow in the crowd asked, ¡§What are you doing?¡¨ The engineer replied, ¡§We are testing the bridge.¡¨ ¡§Do you think it will break?¡¨ queried the young man. ¡§Of course it won¡¦t break,¡¨ the engineer said with almost a sneer. ¡§If you know it won¡¦t break, why are you putting engines on the break.¡¨ The young man wondered. ¡§Just to prove that it won¡¦t break,¡¨ said the engineer. (J. Vernon McGee, Luke (The Gospels))
Jesus¡¦ inauguration into pubic ministry was accompanied by the Spirt (Luke 3:22) and acknowledged by the Father (Luke 3:22, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased). The Spirt, specifically never left him from His baptism in Jordan in the previous chapter (Luke 3:22) to His temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4:1) and into Galilee (Luke 4:14) after the temptation.
What is a temptation? How does the devil test us? Why in the Greek language is a temptation that drowns us is no different from a test to develop us?
Be Cautious and Commanded by God
1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 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. 3 The devil said to him, ¡§If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.¡¨ 4 Jesus answered, ¡§It is written: ¡¥Man shall not live on bread alone.¡¦¡¨ (Luke 4:1-4)
Alexander MacLaren, in a sermon entitled ¡§Faith Tested and Crowned,¡¨ distinguished between being tempted and being tested or tried. He said that, ¡§the former word conveys the idea of appealing to the worst part of man, with the wish that he may yield and do the wrong. The latter means an appeal to the better part of man, with the desire that he should stand. Temptation says, 'Do this pleasant thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is wrong.' Trial or proving says, 'Do this right and noble thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is painful.' The one is a sweet, beguiling melody, breathing soft indulgence and relaxation over the soul; the other is a peeling trumpet-call to high achievements.¡¨
After Jesus was baptized but before His ministry began he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for forty days and forty nights (v 2). There are 14 instances of the verb ¡§tempt¡¨ in the gospels, but surprisingly all but one was directed at Jesus and one from Jesus to test the disciples (John 6:6), so the Lord was fully tempted and truly understands our temptations. The Bible translates temptation and test interchangeably, a temptation when it is negative to defeat and disgrace us but a test when it is positive to develop and discipline us. Unlike our temptation which could be a test in disguise, Jesus¡¦s temptation from others was all negative. Hebrews 4:15 says Jesus was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. The sources of Jesus temptation in the Gospels include the devil (Matt 4:1), Pharisees and the Sadducees (Matt 16:1), the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians (Matt 22:16-18) and scribes (John 8:3), a lawyer (Matt 22:35) and others (Luke 11:16. He was not above tempting or testing the disciples (John 6:6) , but none with the wiles of the devil ¡V his seduction, sophistication and smartness. The ¡§devil¡¨ is sometimes translated as slanderer (1 Tim 3:11) and false accuser (2 Tim 3:3). Jesus was never tempted by men but by Satan in the Bible. The wilderness suggests a barren, bleak and backward place, a place of dehydration, death (Ex 14:11), deprivation, desertion, desolation (Joel 2:3) and distance. The temptations include acting on pride, aiming for power, abusing the privilege, abandoning God¡¦s purpose and avoiding the pain.