Summary: Understand the nature of the temptations Satan throws before you, fight them with God’s word and seek forgiveness from Jesus when you fail, knowing that he understands what it’s like to be tempted.
Do you ever wonder whether these temptations of Jesus were a fair test. After all, he was the Son of God, so Satan was out of his league really, wasn’t he? It wasn’t like you or me being tempted. I mean Satan hardly has to lift a finger and we give in. But then we’re a lot weaker than Jesus. But still, having said that, it’s also true that the setting of Jesus’ temptation was a lot more difficult than we normally encounter. He first spends 40 days and nights fasting in the desert. So he’s physically weak, hungry and presumably thirsty. Now that’s the time when we’re most prone to doing the wrong thing isn’t it? I mean think of those times when you’ve had a fight with someone. How much did tiredness or stress contribute to the nasty things you said or thought? My guess is it was a fair bit. Physical tiredness often leads to emotional and spiritual tiredness, doesn’t it? And when we’re emotionally and spiritually tired, we’re also emotionally and spiritually weak. And that’s when Satan loves to get at us.
Well, today I want us to think about temptation. Specifically, of course, about the temptations of Jesus. But we can use this account to learn about our own temptations. So we’re going to think about the nature of temptation, how we can fight it, and what we do when we fail.
First though, we need to be aware that the temptations of Jesus were specific to him and his role as the promised Messiah, the Saviour of the world. They come straight after his baptism; straight after the moment when the Spirit descends on him and the voice from heaven speaks and identifies him as God’s beloved Son; and they come as the Spirit leads him out into the desert for 40 days and night of testing. It’s as though Jesus is being tested to see whether he’s worthy of the role of Messiah. Is he worthy of the title ’the second Adam’ as Paul refers to him (Rom 5:18-19)? That is, will he resist all the temptations that Satan throws at him, where Adam and Eve failed?
But having said that, as I said, these temptations of Jesus are such that we can find useful parallels with the sorts of temptations that we all face day by day. So let’s think about the nature of temptation as we find it here. (Luke 4:1-13)
Well, first of all, notice how Satan attacks Jesus at his point of weakness. "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished." Jesus is hungry, so Satan attacks him where he’s weakest. That’s how it often happens doesn’t it? We have some area of weakness or stress in our life and Satan homes in on it and usually he scores a direct hit. The share market drops and our superannuation fund starts to look a little shaky and he tells us we’re in trouble. So anxiety starts to rise.
We have some success at work and he tells us it was all due to our hard work and our ingenuity. And pride wells up inside us.
You’ve come to the end of a big Christmas dinner and your hostess offers you a second helping of Christmas pudding with brandy sauce and you think to yourself, in the words of Samuel Johnson, "I’m not hungry, but thank goodness I’m greedy."
Satan will always attack us at our point of weakness, if he can.
But then Satan’s next ploy is to plant a doubt in Jesus’ mind. In fact we find the same thought repeated in vs 3 and 10: "If you are the Son of God". He doesn’t deny it. He just plants the doubt. Maybe you are, maybe not. Why don’t you just test it out? Put your money where your mouth is. It’s the same technique used in the temptation of Eve. "Did God really say you shall not eat from any tree in the garden?" Twisting the truth just enough to put a doubt in her mind about God’s intent. Satan’s desire, you see, is to have us questioning God’s goodness, or his righteousness, or his justice, or the truth about him. These days the temptation often comes in the form of questions about the truth of the Biblical record. Could Jesus really have healed those people or is it just that the writers didn’t understand human physiology or psychology the way we do? Or perhaps they were exaggerating for effect, just to win their case.
The next thing we find is that sometimes temptation seeks to remove us from the arena of faith to that of works or self-reliance. Why should Jesus trust God to look after him when he’s quite capable of looking after himself? Why not just turn those rocks over there into loaves? He did it with water into wine a few months later. Why should Adam and Eve trust God to lead them in the ways of righteousness, that is, to show them good things to do and guard them from evil, when they can find out for themselves what’s good and what’s evil? Why should Jesus trust God to see him through the pain and suffering of the cross, when he can achieve the same end by bowing down to Satan?