Summary: “Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘if you are the Son of God throw yourself down from here…’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘it has been said, ‘you shall not tempt the Lord your God’” Luke 4:9-
Theme: You must not put the Lord your God to the test
Text: Deut. 26:4-10; Rom. 10:8-13; Lk. 4:1-13
Today is the second Sunday in Lent and we at Covenant have been observing this holy season by meditating and reflecting on the Word of God and by prayer and fasting. It is following the example of Christ to prepare us deal effectively with the temptations of the devil. The Devil made me do it appears to be a very convenient excuse or defence all around the world when caught doing something we are not supposed to do. The story is told of a woman who used the family savings to buy a very expensive dress. She told her husband about it saying how sorry she was and that it was the devil that made her do it. The husband not understanding how she could be so extravagant when they had such little money asked, “Why didn’t you just say to him get behind me Satan?” The woman replied, “I did and he told me that it looked even better from the back”. Just as we may laugh at this there have been many reports in our papers of laughter in the courts when the accused person pleads ‘the devil made me do it.’ There is, however, one problem: the Devil cannot make us do anything. He may appear to be clever but he does not have the power to force us to do anything. This is the reason why he has to rely on different tricks and strategies to get us to do what he wants. He always uses the type of bait that fits the person and the situation. Satan knows people in a way that a skilled angler knows fish. He studies our habits and observes where and how we spend our time. Then he prepares suitable bait and drops it right in front of us. He cannot force us to bite but the bait, by appealing to our fleshly nature, begins a struggle within us. Our conscience immediately warns of the danger and the consequences of yielding to the temptation but the decision is left to us. Very often the bait is something we see or hear as happened in the case of Jesus and in the case of Adam and Eve. Luke in narrating the temptations of Jesus begins by first tracing His genealogy all the way to Adam and Eve and thus links the two temptations. Where Adam failed, Jesus would succeed. Where sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, one man would bring salvation and eternal life. If Satan were to defeat Christ as well then there would be no hope of redemption for the human race and death would have been victorious. But he failed because Jesus depended totally on God. His trust was so total that it was not necessary for Him to put God to the test. Our trust should be the same. You must not put the Lord your God to the test.
The temptations of Jesus Christ in today’s Scripture Reading reveal Him as the promised Messiah. They come straight after His baptism and after the Holy Spirit had descended on Him and He was identified as God’s beloved Son. These temptations were specific to Him and His role as the Saviour of the world as only He was capable of turning stones into bread. He would not do anything to please the devil but later on He would feed 5000 men with five loaves and two fish to glorify God. It was as though Jesus was being tested to see whether He could totally rely on God and whether He is worthy of the role of the Messiah. Jesus Christ is often referred to in Scripture as the Second Adam and by overcoming these temptations proves that He is worthy of that title. He resisted all the temptations and succeeded where Adam failed. God used the hostility of the devil to Jesus’ ministry to show not only who Jesus is, but also the kind of ministry that he had come to fulfil - the ministry of freeing mankind from slavery to sin by overcoming the devil.
The mission of Jesus Christ was to free mankind from slavery to Satan so that they could serve the Living God. His mission is clearly portrayed in the history of the Israelites. They were God’s chosen people but found themselves in slavery to the Egyptians. The Lord preserved them and delivered them out of Egyptian bondage with many signs and wonders. He used Moses to defeat the magicians of Egypt, to strip Pharaoh of his power, to humiliate the gods of Egypt, and to bring the Israelites out from slavery into freedom. He instructed them to celebrate important events relating to God’s intervention in their affairs to remind them of the faithfulness of God so that they would continue to rely on Him. They, however, when confronted with problems forgot about the faithfulness of God. Although they had witnessed the greatness and power of God, instead of relying on Him in the wilderness, they sinned by grumbling when they were hungry and thirsty. Jesus brings about a greater deliverance – deliverance from captivity to sin and to Satan. He gave up the glory of heaven to live a life of humiliation and self-sacrifice. Rather than looking after His own personal needs and rights Jesus was more concerned about relying on God, loving God and loving other people. He spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness, the place where obedience to God is tested, patiently waited for God to provide for His needs. The consequences of disobedience would have been disastrous - disastrous for Jesus’ relationship with God the Father – and disastrous for the salvation of the world that Jesus had come to save. Disobedience to God was the sin Adam and Eve committed and Jesus had be a sinless substitute on the cross. As Christians we should look up to God and trust Him to provide for our needs. This does not mean that we do nothing. It means that whatever we do, we should do it in such a way that God’s name is glorified. God can use times of testing to build up our trust in him and to make us see where our loyalty truly lies. Temptation itself is not a sin – it is only a sin when we give in to it and therefore should not be discouraged when we face temptation but be determined to continue resisting it. Martin Luther once said that he could not stop the birds flying over his head, but he could stop them from building their nests in his hair.