Summary: We learn from Satan’s tempting of Christ two things: 1. How Satan will tempt us. 2. How Jesus will defend us.
When I was about 10 years old, my favorite cartoon was G. I. Joe – A Real American hero. I looked forward to watching G. I. Joe every day after school. This was a show where the good guys, the G. I. Joe team would fight against the bad guys, the forces of evil Cobra Commander. And though the odds always seemed stacked against Joe, he always found a way to beat Cobra Commander. At the end of every Joe episode, they would always have something like a public service announcement…a way that kids could be good like G. I. Joe was good. For instance, they might show a scenario where a child is tempted with drugs, and right as he is wavering and thinking about giving in to the drugs, a member of the G. I. Joe force comes out of nowhere and tells the kids about the dangers of illegal drugs. And after the anti-drug speech from the G. I. Joe character, the child would say, “Gosh, Sgt. Flint, I didn’t realize how dangerous drugs could be…but now I know!” And at that point the G. I. Joe character would always say in a heroic voice, “and knowing is half the battle.”
It’s a lot easier preparing for an attack if you know what’s coming. This morning, Jesus does battle with a snake, not the evil Cobra Commander from G. I. Joe, but the ancient serpent, the devil. And as we see how Satan attacked Jesus, we will get a good idea about how he attacks us…and how he can be defeated in the same way that Jesus beat him. Knowing is half the battle, so 1. Know how Satan will attack you, and 2. Know how Jesus will defend you.
Don’t look now, but George Foreman might stop selling his George Foreman grills and come out of retirement for one more fight, at the age of 55. I guess for 20 million dollars, there would be a lot of 55-year-olds willing to jump into a boxing ring. The devil had a lot to gain by jumping into a ring with Jesus for the biggest boxing match the world has ever seen. And we see here that Satan is a dirty, cheating, player.
Look at his first jab at Jesus. Here our Savior was starved. He had gone 40 days without food. Now I’m not a big eater, but if I skip breakfast and then lunch, well, you’d better not get in my way when supper rolls around. Jesus had gone over a month without eating. Our reading says how the Holy Spirit led Jesus out into the desert where there was no food. It kind of reminds you of the Israelites being led out into the desert by God. 2,000,000 people, and God provided food for them. God had wanted the Israelites to trust that he would provide for them, and God the Father wanted Jesus to trust that even though he was going to be in the desert for 40 days without food, God would take care of his Son.
And this temptation seems so innocent. “Tell this stone to become bread!” The devil almost acts like Jesus’ buddy, Jesus’ caregiver here. He says, “oh, you poor thing, Jesus. Did your Daddy lead you out into this desert with no food? Well, good thing you can take care of yourself. Good thing you can make this stone turn into bread…that is, if you ARE God.” At first, this suggestion doesn’t seem to be a huge sin. I mean, how is Jesus turning a stone into bread much different than his miraculous feeding of the 5,000 a little later on? In both cases, he would make food for someone who was hungry.
What this sin boiled down to was really a lack of trust on the part of Jesus. The devil wanted Jesus to say, “you know devil, you’re right! I’ve been waiting over a month for my Father to take care of me, and look where that has gotten me! Starved and weak! This is ridiculous. It’s time for me to take care of myself, so…Zap! Stone, become bread, and it’s chow time! See how much better it is when I don’t have to rely on my Father for everything?”
The devil is good at setting this trap for you as well. Americans have one of the greatest work ethics of anyone in the world, at least based on how many hours per week we work. How many times does it get to the end of the year, and you have a bunch of vacation days that you were too busy to take, and so you lose them? How many times has it happened that the time came for you to go home to your family, but there was just too much to do, and so you put in a few more hours at work? Has it happened that Monday-Friday wasn’t enough time, and so you had to run into work on Saturday and Sunday? It would not have been a sin in and of itself for Jesus to turn stone into bread. And it is not a sin in and of itself to work many hours…but it IS a sin not to rely on God for every good thing in your life. It IS a sin for you to suppose that God can’t take care of you unless you work yourself like a dog week in and week out. Knowing is half the battle when fighting the devil, and so know that he is always trying to get you to think that it’s up to you to be successful in this world, even if it means sacrificing time for God and family.