Summary: Struggling temptation is not uncommon to us nor was it uncommon to Jesus. See how Jesus' struggle against temptation helps us as we daily face temptation.
Do you ever feel like you’re wearing one of these (a target)? Maybe it’s that you feel like you’re being blamed for everything that is going wrong in other people’s lives, even when it’s not your fault. Maybe it’s more of the personal attacks that are being fired in your direction because of what you’ve said, what you’ve done, or even what you believe. Living with a target on your back is not a real fun experience. So, do you ever feel that you are being targeted by the devil? There just seems to be one temptation after another, the devil seemingly wanting to make your life as difficult as possible as you are just trying to live your Christian life. You feel like you are constantly living in the crosshairs of the devil. Well, if you’ve ever felt like that, you’re not alone. Jesus knew what it was like to live in the crosshairs of the devil, and rightfully so. If there was one person in all of history that the devil wanted to sin just once, wouldn’t it be Jesus? With a single sin, the devil could permanently derail God’s plan for the world’s salvation. So, you can only imagine that the devil would put every ounce of effort into getting Jesus to sin.
Today, we’re going to look at three of those attacks that the devil launched against Jesus. As we look at these three temptations, let’s learn from his glorious struggle against sin, and see how it helps us in our fight against temptation.
Last week, the account of Jesus’ transfiguration took us to the end of Jesus’ ministry. This week we are taken to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, three years earlier. Jesus spent 40 days out in the wilderness, away from others and without food. Throughout those 40 days, we’re told, “…he [Jesus] was tempted by the devil” (Luke 4:2). For nearly 6 weeks, Jesus was the target of the devil’s repeated attacks. The three temptations that the Bible records for us seem to take place at the conclusion of those 40 days. By that point in time, Jesus was certainly weak with hunger, and spiritual worn out. What a perfect time, the devil thought, to attack Jesus once again.
The devil comes to Jesus and says, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3). How appealing it must have been to think of a nice warm piece of bread after not eating for 40 days! But this temptation was much more than Jesus using his divine power to meet his own needs. At the heart of this temptation was really the question, “Can you trust God? Can you trust God’s promise to provide for you, or do you need to take things into your own hands?” Jesus immediately sees through the devil’s challenge and replies, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone’” (Luke 4:4). Jesus turns to the words of the Old Testament, where God’s people were reminded that God was faithful to all he said as he had repeatedly given evidence of.
Has the devil ever targeted you with this type of temptation? Has the devil ever come and questioned, “Can you really trust God to do what he has said?” I don’t think that the question is really has the devil ever, but how often does the devil come and tempt us to doubt what God has promised. Whether it is God’s promise to provide for all our needs when we are struggling to make ends meet, or the promise that God uses all things for our good, when life feels far from good. How quickly we begin to doubt whether God is really going to do what he has promised or if we need to start looking for other options, take things into our own hands.
The third temptation that Jesus faced is closely connected to that first one, so let’s look at that one next. The devil takes Jesus to highest point of the temple and then says to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot again a stone’” (Luke 4:9-11). The devil is no dummy. He heard Jesus quote the Bible before and probably thought, “Two can play at that game,” and quotes the Bible himself. In essence the devil says to Jesus, “Hasn’t God made the promise to protect you? Well, you say that you trust God to do what he says, prove it! Jump and let’s see if God will really send his angels to protect you.” Again, Jesus sees through the devil’s lies and manipulation of God’s Word and says, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Luke 4:12). Jesus tells the devil that trust in God is not demanding that God do what he has said when YOU choose. That’s not trusting God, that’s abusing Gods’ promises and faithfulness.