Summary: The temptations that Satan tempted Christ with are common to each of us and we can learn from his response
Forty days, in the wilderness. Forty days, not four, not fourteen but forty. And all he took with him was what he was wearing. He wasn’t part of a tribe, had nobody to build an alliance with, it was just him, a rugged terrain and God. What did he eat? Did he hunt, or fish, he didn’t do either, because he didn’t eat. For forty days he fasted and prayed and at the end of that time he faced his foe. This would either be the beginning or it would be the end. And this is one view of how it happened. (Video clip from CBS mini-series Jesus)
One of the central pillars of our faith is that fact that when Jesus walked this earth he was 100% man and 100% God, that is he had both a human nature and a divine nature. And a part of that is the belief that even with his human nature that he never sinned. But just because he never sinned doesn’t mean he wasn’t tempted. And it’s not just my opinion the Bible says Hebrews 2:17-18 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.
The story is told in the fourth chapter of Luke. It was at the beginning of Christ’s ministry, he had just been baptized and went into the desert for forty days and during that time he fasted. And at the end of the forty days Satan came and tempted him.
So, the question is: was Jesus really tempted? There are some who say that even though the temptation was real in the sense that it actually happened, that because Christ was 100% divine that he wouldn’t have given into the temptation. If that is the case then he wasn’t a 100% man and that’s part of the mystery of the incarnation. My own theory is yes the devil tempted Christ, and yes it was a temptation. I read a great explanation from Alexander McLaren who wrote “As a true man, he could have been truly tempted; as perfect man suggestions of evil could not arise within, but must be presented from without.”
So, because Jesus not have a sinful nature to tempt him those temptations had to come from an outside source, in this case Satan.
It was at this point that Jesus would have to make a decision how he would do his work. God was saying “Take my love to the people of the world, love them, die for them if you have to, but conquer them with your unconquerable love.” Satan on the other hand was saying, “Take the power that you have and demand the submission of mankind, win the world through might and force.” And so Jesus had to decide that day, would he follow the way of God or the way of Satan.
Well we have the benefit of the book and we know that Jesus didn’t give in to Satan, that he didn’t sin. And this morning we are going to look at the story and discover what we can learn about being tempted and defeating temptation.
Every person here is tempted in one way or another, that’s part of being human. And every one of us will respond to temptation in only one of two ways. We’ll either give in or we won’t. It’s as simple as that. No in between, no ambiguity here, it’s either yes or no, win or lose. When I first became a believer my Dad told me, “Sin is black or white; grey is just a colour of paint.” That might be a little simplistic but it certainly applies to temptation. It’s unfortunate that too many people’s strategy of dealing with temptation is easy, they simply give in and get on with. They are a lot like Oscar Wilde who said “I can resist everything except temptation.”
Let’s start this morning by looking at The Three Temptations. Earlier I said that we are all tempted in one way or another. And we are, and our temptations are all different, what tempts me may not tempt you. But there is a common thread that runs through all of our temptations. When I was in Bible College I took a course called Pastoral Management, and it was taught by Rev. Charles Grant. Charles told us as a class that in our ministry we would find ourselves tempted by one of three things, “The Gold, the glory or the girls.” I thought that was fairly original but it wasn’t really. A few years back a Wesleyan author by the name of Keith Drury wrote a book called Sex, power and money, and that was no more original than the gold, the glory or the girls.