Summary: Everyone is tempted - it's part of living on planet earth. Even Jesus was tempted. But how did He resist? How do we develop similar resistance?
A little boy named Bobby desperately wanted a new bicycle. His plan was to save his nickels, dimes and quarters until he finally could buy a new 10-speed. Each night, he knelt beside his bed, and prayed, "Dear Lord, please help me save my money for a new bike; and please, Lord, don't let the ice cream man come down the street again tomorrow." (1) We all have our ‘ice cream trucks’ of temptation. There is something within us that wants to give in to our personal ice cream. Legendary star Mae West was on target when she said, “I generally avoid temptation, unless I can’t resist it.” Every one is tempted. If you are alive you are tempted; if you are living on planet earth, you are tempted. So it’s really no surprise that we find Jesus, fully human, facing temptation. Just how did He resist?
First, let’s dissect THE WISDOM OF THE TEMPTER. His primary targets are those who are most committed to Christ. In fact, he’s not worried about those not committed to Christ, or those with a lukewarm commitment. It’s the dedicated, serious followers who are the tempter’s target. The more deeply we commit ourselves to Jesus Christ the more the devil steps up his attacks against us. He is a real, true person or force, which can call all the hosts and forces of evil against us. So beware – if you choose to be more devoted to Jesus, or make a stronger commitment to Him in some area of your life, you will be tempted, perhaps as never before. And notice verse 13 – Luke wrote that when the devil was done, “He left Jesus until an opportune time.” He knows not only when to strike –he’ll also always return.
Satan always wisely CHOOSES OPPORTUNE TIMES. In Luke 4 Jesus had just been baptized and the Spirit of His Father had descended upon Him. His ministry was about to begin, so He went away by himself to prepare. It was a time of intense examination, preparation, soul-searching and struggle. For 40 days the tempter, the devil, attacked Jesus. What a great time for him to do so! The devil knew Jesus was coming down from a high moment and would be wrestling and praying; he knew this was an opportunity to get into Jesus’ heart. It was Jesus versus the devil. We, too, are vulnerable immediately after highly spiritual moments, or right after times of success. Such moments sap our physical and emotional strength, opening the door to weakness. Satan is often more aware of such moments than we are. That’s why Peter says Satan prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. (1 Pt. 5:8)
Note, too, that the devil ENCOURAGES DOUBTS. He taunted Jesus, “If you are the Son of God…” It was a brazen attempt to try to create doubt in Jesus’ mind. It was a repeat of the Garden of Eden, where this same tempter said to Eve, “You will not surely die.” In the same way he still taunts us: “Is this really true? Can you prove it? Would God really do this? Why? How can God do such a thing and still be a loving God?”
The devil also wisely UTILIZES THE GOOD. The three things he asked Jesus to do were, in themselves, not necessarily bad or wrong – and they were all things Jesus was capable of doing. The devil knows most of us would never agree to do something grossly or clearly evil. So he stays in the realm of the good and within our capabilities, and works on our motives. He tempts us to do good things for bad reasons.
Notice also THE TACTICS OF THE TEMPTER. Satan’s attack was gracious. He offered Jesus gifts. He knows what flavor ice cream we crave! Knowing most of us are greedy, selfish, and driven by pleasure he tempts us in those areas. The definition of temptation, in fact, is “the act of enticement to do wrong, by promise of pleasure or gain.” So the devil OFFERS A SUBSTITUTE FOR OUR SECURITY. Jesus was hungry and tired – it had been 40 days without food – so the devil challenged him to meet his own need: “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” “That’s why you have the power. After all, people are going to claim that you are the source of life – so be the source of your own life.” It was a plea to use his power selfishly for his own wants. In other words, Satan OFFERED JESUS INDEPENDENCE FROM GOD. The bread was, for Jesus, a symbol of the providential care of God. So the devil was taunting Jesus, “Do you really trust your Father’s care?”