Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
The Temptation of Jesus - February 17, 2012 - First Sunday in Lent - Text: Luke 4:1-13
Today is the First Sunday in Lent. We began our Lenten Season Wednesday, which was Ash Wednesday, and now we begin the Sunday’s of Lent by beginning with the temptation of Jesus. Certainly this is fitting, meat, right and salutary, we might say, because the reason Jesus came to earth was to do for us all things that we are unable to do and one of those all things is to resist temptation and not sin. First, then, we want to put our text into its proper context. This text of the temptation of Jesus comes immediately following the genealogy of Jesus which declares Jesus to be the son of Adam, a true human being, and the son of God, truly God. This order of events is very important, because it establishes the fact that Jesus was tempted as a human being, as one of us. His being tempted as one of us is how He is our substitute, that is that He was tempted for us, in our place. He resisted temptation for us, in our place, because we are unable to do so. This morning we walk with Jesus as He suffers temptation, temptation like we suffer and even worse temptation, for you see, the weight of the salvation of the whole world is resting on Jesus’ shoulders as He undergoes His temptation.
Luke describes this first temptation, “1And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ 4And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’” (v. 1-4).
Notice that it was for the whole forty days that Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. What we have before us are the “greatest hits” (if you will) of the devil’s temptations. In this first temptation we see the devil has not come up with any new temptations, he is merely reusing the first ones he used years ago, in the Garden of Eden. These temptations worked in the Garden so why not use them again and he does, but with a new twist. The deception and lie told to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was, “Did God really say...,” and now is translated and used on Jesus as, “If you are the Son of God...”
Notice the devil’s attempt to plant seeds of doubt in Jesus’ mind and heart and notice the challenge to Jesus. Today we, you and I, hear such temptations with questions like, “Does the Bible really say that?” or “Did God really mean that?” or “Do you really trust in God?” or even “I dare you to trust in God.” Today we live in a society which continually challenges us to live by faith. We know and believe that God has provided for all our needs up to this point in our lives, our physical needs and our spiritual need, but, and here is the temptation to doubt, will He continue to do so and how do you know? Can you trust God in His Word? For Jesus the temptation was even greater. The devil was challenging Him as to whether or not He really is God and can He really save us? Satan is suggesting that Jesus can rest assured that He is God by simply telling the stones to become bread. A simple miracle and one which would also provide food for Him to eat, yet at the heart of this temptation is a lack of trust in God the Father.
Jesus’ answer is Scripture, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” And with those words of Scripture the devil’s first temptation is dismantled. Here we are reminded of Paul’s description of the armor of the Christian (Eph. 6:10-18) and the one offensive weapon which we Christians wield, the sword of the Word of God. The devil cannot stand up to the Word of God and so He is summarily defeated in this temptation attempt. But, although Jesus has won this battle, the war is not yet over.
Luke describes the second temptation, “5And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6and said to him, ‘To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ 8And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve”’” (v. 5-8).
In this second temptation we see the audacity of the devil, thinking he is God himself. He takes Jesus up to a place where, in an instant, he shows Him all the kingdoms of the world. Actually these kingdoms and all things already belong to Jesus, yet the devil’s temptation is that he will give up his rights to all these kingdoms if Jesus will worship him. This is a temptation to Jesus to forgo the suffering and death on the cross. Suffering and death which, most certainly, were always on His mind. The devil’s temptation, “Why go about saving the world the hard way? Why not do this one little thing of bowing down to the devil and he will give up all his rights to all the kingdoms of the world?”
How often do we find ourselves tempted to do the easy thing in life, to take the easy way out? We are tempted to compromise our faith, to suggest that the Christian religion is only one way of many ways to heaven. We are tempted to “just get along.” We are tempted to be tolerant of other people’s lifestyles, religions, habits and sins. We are tempted to believe that there is a difference between a big sin and a little sin and that a little sin might be okay. We too are tempted to bow down and worship the devil with his promise that he will then make it easy for us. Satan’s deception to Jesus is his deception to us. He would have us believe that he is God.
Jesus’ answer is, again, Holy Scripture, “It is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and, and him only shall you serve.’” And again, the devil cannot stand up to the Word of God and so he is summarily defeated in this temptation attempt. But, again, although Jesus has won this battle, the war is still not yet over.
Luke describes the third temptation, “9And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,” 11and “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”’ 12And Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”’ 13And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time” (v. 9-12).
Well, it worked twice for Jesus, so this time the devil turns to the Word of God to use against Him. In this temptation, along with the temptation to test Jesus faith in God the Father’s faithfulness to His Word, we also have a temptation to grandeur. If Jesus will throw Himself off the temple and everyone sees that He is not hurt, the crowds will throng after Him. And certainly Jesus believes His Father will protect Him, the devil urges.
“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull” we are told in our world today. How often do we try to be “super Christians” to our unchurched family and friends, thinking that what they need to see is how invulnerable we are as Christians, then, we think, they will want to be a Christian too. Yes, the devil tempts us too to delusions of grandeur in our efforts at sharing our faith with others, so that when we fail we get discouraged and we might lose hope as well.
Jesus’ answer, again, this third time is Holy Scripture, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And again, for the third time, the devil cannot stand up to the Word of God and so He is summarily defeated in this temptation attempt. But, again, although Jesus has won this battle and these three battles, the war is still not yet over. During Jesus’ life the devil was constantly tempting Jesus and always standing by in case Jesus should fall.
The question often comes, “so, why do we have the account of the temptations of Jesus?” As we have alluded to, Jesus came to live for us which means, suffering temptation as we suffer temptation. Yet with Jesus’ temptation the stakes were so much higher, because, if Jesus had succumb to the devils temptation our faith would be useless. We would have no hope.
Jesus resisted temptation for us, in our place, as our substitute. Jesus came as Israel’s substitute. The Israelites were God’s chosen people. They were to follow His laws perfectly and to be His people, yet they messed up. Time and again they messed up. They were not able to be the people of God that He wanted them to be. Jesus came as the true Israel. Jesus came to do what the whole nation of Israel could not do, follow God’s laws perfectly.
Jesus did not come just to save His own people, the children of Israel. Jesus came to save us also. We are called to be the children of God, Christians, and we are to follow God’s Word and yet we too fail. We are unable to live and do as we ought. And so, Jesus came for us. Jesus came to do everything perfectly for us in our place. Our sin separates us from God and left in our sin we would have no hope, only eternal spiritual death. Faith is what grabs hold of and makes God’s gifts ours. Unbelief is rejection of God’s gifts. Unbelief means eternal separation, faith means eternal life.
In our text we see Jesus’ use of Scripture as an example for us, not that we use Scripture against Scripture, but that Scripture interprets Scripture. The Bible is God’s Word. It is the sword which we use to fight the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh, the unholy three as we learned them in confirmation. We use Holy Scripture, not to justify our sin, but to overcome temptation and sin.
Finally, Jesus helps us resist sin and temptation. We do not imagine that we can overcome temptation and sin on our own like Jesus does, but understand that because Jesus overcame temptation and sin that now He helps us to overcome temptation and sin. And of course, the ultimate overcoming of sin was His suffering and death on the cross for us, for you and for me, in our place, because of our sin and our inability to resist temptation and sin.
The question is not “if” we will be tempted, but “how often” and “how great is the temptation with which” we are tempted in a day. My prayer for us, for each one of us, for you and for me, is that God the Holy Spirit will lead us to take up the sword of the Word of God against temptation and sin and that we would then faithfully confess the Lord’s name in every circumstance! Yes, we have Jesus’ example of how He overcame temptation and sin, yet we must never think that, in and of ourselves, we might be able to emulate Jesus example. Instead, we will always want to go to Jesus to seek His help in all times of temptation, knowing that as He overcame, so He will help us in our time of need to overcome. He will bring us the victory, which He has already accomplished. And when we do fail and we will fail, He is there ready to give out the forgiveness He earned for us. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.