Summary: A message of practical application of the principles shown us when Jesus encountered Satan on the Mt. of Temptation. One of a series about what Jesus said and did during His ministry on earth.
How Jesus Dealt With Temptation
It is always wise to define terms when a subject or topic is under consideration. Before we really consider how Jesus dealt with temptation, let us first define temptation. One of the best definitions I have seen is simply, "Temptation is the act of enticement to do wrong, by the deceitful promise of personal pleasure or some profit or gain." If we closely examine the story of Satan’s approach to Jesus on each of the occasions, it would seem this definition fits the situation aptly enough. Just think of it for a moment? Does that definition fit our human experiences in the matter as well? When we are tempted does the tempter approach us along these same lines and use the same time tested techniques? Even though they failed in the case of our perfect and sinless Savior, they all too often succeed in the lives of those who are His followers.
Let us first consider just why Jesus was tempted. Some might think the Holy Trinity’s motive was to somehow test His power and demonstrate the Son’s divine credentials to the Father and the Spirit. After all, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to face this awesome test. But this could not be the case. His claim to deity had been demonstrated in eternity past. The Father and the Spirit had both attested and authenticated this at His baptism at the hands of John the Baptist.
It would seem the primary purpose of His testing would be to forever demonstrate to all the creatures of earth and heaven that Jesus was, is and always will be the eternal conqueror and victor over sin and its author, the Tempter. Speaking of His final and ultimate triumph over the Tempter at the cross Paul had this to say, "[And] having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it." (Col 2:15) When we see Him in the Revelation with the keys to death, hell and the grave, upon His vesture, these are there only because He met the Tempter on his own ground and terms and prevailed mightily.
We should also remember that in winning this victory in the desert Jesus exercised and emphasized the human side of His God-man being. He said, "MAN shall not live by bread alone..." He did not invoke divine miraculous powers, although these surely were available to Him, but instead He relied upon the power of the Word of God and of the Spirit of God. The same sources of Godly power we have available today to do combat with the Tempter and emerge as victors rather than victims.
Let us examine this pivotal moment in the life of our Savior upon this earth and try to garner from it some principles that might be helpful to us in our daily struggle with sin and Satan in this wilderness world of worry and woe. Just how did Jesus deal with and resist temptation?
JESUS RESISTED TEMPTATION BY RECOGNIZING ITS REALITY. We are told Jesus was led of the Spirit of God into the wilderness for the purpose of being tested. It is clear our Savior was aware of the reality of the terrible tests He would face. Yet He was willing to engage His opponent face to face in deadly spiritual combat. He did not turn away. He did not pretend that sin did not exist or that there was not a price to be paid in facing the reality of temptation. The record of His physical hurt of hunger and thirst makes it amply clear that He went into the experience with eyes wide open to the reality of sin and temptation.
The first step we must take if we are to resist temptation is to realize its reality. That Satan is alive and well on planet earth is more than a cliche taken from the title of a once popular book. If we need evidence of the awesome threat of this fiend of the ages, it can be found in this story of the temptation of Jesus at the outset of His earthly ministry. We should be careful not to minimize the reality of it. The Hebrew letter tells us He was tested in all senses as we are, yet he remained without sin. Jesus did not dispute or rebuke Satan when he offered Him the kingdoms of this world as an immediate reward for rebellion against the Father. Evidently they were his to offer.
A clear demonstration of the reality of Satan can be found even earlier in the story of our Savior. That he is the god of this world needs no more graphic an illustration than the account of his desperate attempt to thwart the plan and purpose of God by destroying the infant Jesus. That he would possess the mind and life of a great king of the earth in an attempt to advance his cause and accomplish his end is something that should give each of us pause to consider our own situation in our journey through this mortal vale of tears.