Summary: Jesus is led into the desert to conquer Satan's temptations.
3.1.20 Matthew 4:1-11
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
There’s something rough and tough about this story of Jesus in the desert. It is the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise to send an offspring of the woman to crush the serpent’s head. There’s no messing around. Immediately after His baptism the Holy Spirit leads Him out into the desert and says, “Let’s get to work!” I like it! It fits with our theme for Lent, “The Son of God goes out to War!”
The Glorious Battle Begins in the Desert
Satan thought he was up for the battle as he started with a challenge. “If you are the Son of God.” There’s an underlying temptation behind the temptations, the temptation for Jesus to question who He was, and the temptation to feel the need to prove Himself to Satan: to measure up to his standards. It reminds me of what he tried to do to Job, questioning his authenticity: claiming that Job only worshiped God because he was spoiled. He’s always accusing us of being less than what he thinks we should be.
Satan still wants to set the standards yet today. Unless we know the standards, we can be misled.
A young man wants to prove himself a man, but what is the standard of a man? Is it sleeping with a woman? Is it the willingness to fight? Does it make you less of a man if you back down from someone else? Are you less of a woman if you don’t get married or have children? Who sets these standards?
Satan wants to set the standards in Christianity too. A woman from Carrollton recently questioned the Christianity of the Seminary parents because she didn’t see us praying during a basketball game. But where does the Bible say that we have to pray during a basketball game to be Christian? You have a tough day at work. You’re tired. So you come home and start snapping at people. You know it’s not very Christ-like behavior. So you question yourself. You wonder, “If I were really a loving person, I wouldn’t blow up like this. How can I call myself a Christian and act these ways?” That’s Satanic thinking in a way.
Jesus knew who He was. He didn’t need to prove it to Satan. This is why it is important for YOU to take comfort in your baptism, in what GOD says makes you a Christian. You are a sinner. You will always struggle with sin. But you have also been adopted by Jesus and bathed in His blood in your baptism. God says that you are His through faith in Jesus: weak or strong. It isn’t based on how often you pray. Your Christianity is not based on how angry or patient you are. It’s based on the fact that Jesus died for you and that He put His name on you and made you His own. That’s the standard. You are a Christian by God’s grace, not by the standard of your works. Let’s start there. Don’t get challenged into trying to be something you don’t have to be.
Now let’s look at how Satan specifically tempted Jesus. “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” It seems innocent enough. He was hungry. Why not eat? By today’s standards we would say, “He’s not hurting anyone.” Jesus was most likely starving and emaciated at this point after 40 days. It was God’s fault that He was starving in the first place, because the Holy Spirit let him in the desert. He had the power to do it, so why not do it? God helps those who help themselves. We could have come up with plenty of reasons why it was OK for Jesus to do just that.