Summary: Did Jesus make a mistake during His three temptations? This message examines these three temptations.
ARE YOU CONFUSED?
INTRO: Did Jesus make a mistake during His three temptations? The Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevski’s novel “The Brothers Karamazov”, tells Jesus that he made a serious mistake in that encounter with Satan. Jesus came to set people free, but the Inquisitor insists that people need or want mystery, miracle, and authority, not freedom. The Inquisitor even hints that Jesus was confused or misunderstood the issues presented by Satan.
Of course, Jesus was not confused, but He recognized that the three temptations were attempts to confuse Him about His mission. The Cotton Patch version of this story appropriately identifies Satan as the “Confuser.” Temptation then and now often involves the attempt to twist something good into something bad or to substitute the good for the best. Let’s look at the three temptations as potential confusions for Jesus and us.
I. JESUS WAS TEMPTED TO CONFUSE PHYSICAL NEEDS FOR SPIRITUAL NEEDS (vv. 2-4).
Jesus was genuinely concerned about His own hunger and the hunger of the needy masses. After forty days of fasting, He was hungry, yet He recognized the temptation of Satan as an invitation to make meeting physical needs the primary focus of His ministry. Jesus did feed the hungry (5,000 in one miracle and 4,000 in another) and encouraged His followers to help the hungry (Matt 25:35).
Jesus realized, however, that our deepest needs are not physical. In addition to physical bread, He offers Himself, the bread of life (John 6:35). Many people were willing to follow Him only because He met their superficial physical needs (John 6:26-27).
Jesus wanted people to follow Him because they hungered and thirsted for righteousness, not mere food (Matt 5:6). We can exist on mere physical nourishment, but true life or abundant life requires the spiritual nourishment Jesus supplies.
Jesus would not confuse physical and spiritual needs yet He also did not separate them into neat compartments. He came to minister to the whole person. Unfortunately some Christians still divide ministry into the “hot” gospel (revivals, evangelism) and the “social” gospel (social concern, social action). Jesus came to preach a “whole” gospel for the whole person. Jesus did not neglect human physical need in His effort to bring people into the kingdom.
What are you and I doing in light of this first temptation? Are we concerned only about physical needs and desires? Are we confused about our church’s priorities?
II. JESUS WAS TEMPTED TO CONFUSE CURIOSITY WITH COMMITMENT (vv. 5-7).
Satan acted like he wanted to help Jesus attract followers. Jumping off the pinnacle of the Temple would certainly attract attention! If offering bread helped the Romans control the masses, why couldn’t Jesus use bread and circuses as well?
Jesus did many miracles, but He realized that miracles did not always produce genuine faith. Some attributed His supernatural powers to Satan rather than God. Others were attracted by the lure of the spectacular, but their interest never moved beyond the level of curiosity.