Summary: As he resists the devil’s temptations Jesus gives us the answer to overcoming our temptations.
Regis Philbin has become a household name because of his familiar and often repeated question, “Is that your final answer?” from his popular, primetime television game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? This probing question amplifies the suspense and adds to the drama of each answer, turning up the heat on the contestant in the “hot seat” with the reality that one wrong answer usually means forfeiting a large portion of the accumulated prize.
As disciples of Jesus, Satan loves to light a hot seat underneath each one of us in this life. He loves to hit us with probing questions, taunting questions, misleading questions. He turns up the heat on us by posing those questions at inconvenient times or in uncomfortable circumstances. But Satan’s goal in asking these questions isn’t dramatic effect. His earnest desire is to tempt us to choose the wrong answer every time so that we ultimately lose out on the eternal prize Christ has won for us. Thankfully when Satan’s got us on the hot seat of temptation, as our status as disciples of Jesus hangs in the balance, our Savior does not leave us squirming without a lifeline. In fact, Jesus is our lifeline – because Jesus gives us the final answer to temptation! He gives us the final answer 1) to Satan’s temptation of casual discipleship. He gives us the final answer 2) to Satan’s temptation of daredevil discipleship. He gives us the final answer 3) to Satan’s temptation of carefree discipleship.
Jesus’ answer to the temptations we face isn’t some hypothetical meandering of a self-appointed know it all, but from one who has been there and faced that. In fact Jesus shows us in the text for this morning that his answer to temptation is the only one that actually works. It’s the answer that chases away Satan and all of his devilish lies and deceits. It worked for Jesus. It will work for us too!
Shortly after his baptism Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Though God was not tempting Jesus, it was God’s will that Jesus be tempted. It was God’s will that Jesus be tempted so that he could triumph over the devil and his temptations as our perfect Savior. But Satan wasn’t willing to be a patsy. He would use every trick, every maneuver, every deceit he had in his bag to try and lead Jesus to sin and thereby destroy Jesus’ work as our Savior. Though Satan is eager, he is also a master of timing and waits until Jesus is weak and perhaps seemingly more susceptible. It’s not until Jesus had gone forty days and nights without food that Satan comes to him and tries to put Jesus on the hot seat and test his discipleship.
The devil’s first temptation doesn’t seem all that evil at first glance. “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3). Jesus is the Son of God. He certainly had the power to turn those stones into bread. He’s incredibly hungry – so why not? What would be so wrong about that? Because this was not his Father’s will. His Father’s will was that Jesus would go without food these 40 days and nights and counting. His Father’s will was that Jesus would drink the cup of human suffering brought on by sin to the dregs and triumph over that suffering as our Savior, not only here in the wilderness, but throughout his life and ministry, culminating at the cross. So what Satan is really suggesting is that Jesus would start being selective about when he would follow his Father’s will. Satan wants Jesus to be a casual disciple. A casual disciple is someone who does what God wants but only when it suits their comfort level, or their own interests, or their timeframe. Surely this whole ordeal was a bit uncomfortable for Jesus. Going hungry these 40 days hardly seemed to be in Jesus’ best interest. “Jesus, no reasonable person would think any less of you as one of God’s followers if you just made yourself a little bread,” Satan is whispering under his breath. “This part of God’s will for your life doesn’t suit you real well, so don’t worry about,” Satan’s suggesting.
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus knew full well that true discipleship is not a casual commitment but a full time way of life. To guard himself against Satan’s dangerous and tempting way of thinking Jesus uses God’s own Word as his sure and strong defense. Jesus quotes the words of Deuteronomy 8:3 – words that God himself shared with his disciples, the Israelites after he had sustained them in the desert for forty years with manna from heaven. What is Jesus’ point? A disciple’s life consists in more than just his physical existence. His real life, the one that matters most, is the life he enjoys in communion with God, the spiritual, Spirit-filled life, that is created and sustained through the Word that has come from the mouth of God. As God’s Son, as the preeminent disciple Jesus was not about to sacrifice his perfect communion with God in the misguided hope of finding some temporary relief for his suffering here upon this earth. While this was certainly a temporarily attractive temptation that Satan had offered, Jesus remained firm in his faith, content to follow God at all costs, confident that God would provide all that he needed as he did his Father’s will.