The Temptation of Jesus
Luke 4: 1 -13
To live in this world means that you will encounter temptation.
Some, like playwright Oscar Wilde, don’t even try to fight it. He said, “I can resist anything except temptation.”
Others want to be delivered from temptation, but they would like it to keep in touch from time to time.
But if we want to be godly people, we must learn to resist the temptations that come at us from the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Jesus Christ is our great example and teacher when it comes to resisting temptation. He was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). If we want to be like Jesus, we will be eager to learn from Him how He resisted the devil.
Temptation is a powerful force in our lives. I don’t know the specifics of how Satan tempts you, but we all face temptation on a daily basis, and today we are going to watch how Jesus faces and conquers or overcomes temptation in hopes of learning how to avoid sin in our lives.
1. The Devil is real
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.
The name “devil” literally means “slanderer.” Another name for him is Satan, which means “accuser” or “adversary”. Today many do not believe in the existence of the devil: a huge number of people who think the devil is nothing more than a fairy tale or some invented myth meant to scare Sunday School children into behaving. As we see from these verses, if the devil convinces us he doesn’t even exist, he already got the upper hand. He can easily take us down.
Let it never surprise us, if we are tempted by the devil. Let us rather expect it, as a matter of course, if we are living members of Christ. That mighty spirit who did not fear to attack Jesus himself, is still going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
That murderer and liar who vexed Job, and overthrew David and Peter, still lives, and is not yet bound. If he cannot rob us of heaven, he will at any rate make our journey there painful. If he cannot destroy our souls, he “will at least bruise our heels. (Gen. 3:15.) Let us beware of despising him, or thinking lightly of his power. Let us rather put on the whole armor of God, and cry to the strong for strength. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7.)
2. The devil will attack your weaknesses.
As Luke begins to record the narrative, his emphasis is on the human nature of Jesus. Jesus is placed in a time of distress and weakness. Jesus is not facing Satan during good times. Jesus is not sitting on a couch in an air conditioned home, watching television after a wonderful lunch.
Jesus is in the desert. Jesus is fasting. Jesus is very hungry. Satan is throwing his temptations at Jesus in a time of vulnerability. We are expected to read this event with concern because the conditions are not ideal. This is not like when Satan came to Adam and Eve in the garden where everything was paradise and perfection. Jesus is in the desert. Jesus has been fasting and now Jesus is quite hungry.
The devil knew Jesus was hungry. He knew Jesus had been out in the wilderness by himself for 40 days. The devil was aware and used it to his advantage. He customized his temptations of Jesus to match those circumstances.
Further, Luke gives us a detail that we miss from the Matthew account. Jesus has not been fasting for 40 days and now Satan comes to Jesus at the end of those 40 days. Rather, Jesus was tempted for the entire 40 days. The ESV do says. “…and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil”. These three recorded temptations either are the culmination of the temptations or are representative of the temptations Jesus faced. Forty days of Satan throwing all that he has at Jesus. Forty days of Satan causing Jesus problems, not leaving him alone, tempting him over and over again. How we can feel the weight of a temptation press us hour after hour, day after day! Jesus endured that also. Now Satan continues his attack on Jesus.
3. The exceeding craftiness of our great spiritual enemy, the devil.
Three times we see him attacking our Lord, and trying to draw Him into sin. Each attack showed the hand of a master in the art of temptation. Each attack was the work of one acquainted by long experience with every weak point in human nature. Each deserves an attentive study.
a. Satan's first device was to persuade our Lord to question God’s provision and care.
Verse 3: The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
He comes to Him, when weak and exhausted with forty days' hunger, and suggests to Him to work a miracle, in order to gratify a carnal appetite. Why should He wait any longer? Why should the Son of God sit still and starve? Why not command this stone to become bread?
Satan’s first temptation was for Jesus to question God’s provision and care. Satan tempted Jesus to meet His needs in His own power. Understand that this temptation is not a challenge to be strong, but to be independent. Such independence from God is the essence of spiritual defection and desertion. Satan is incredibly smart and his ways are subtle.
The temptation is for Jesus to act independently of God. Satan presents a challenge against God’s provisions. The temptation is to no longer depend upon God to take care of him while in the desert. “You need to look out for yourself and not trust in God.” The devil is making the suggestion that God was abandoning Jesus and, therefore, Jesus needed to look out for himself.
Are you ever tempted to take matters into your own hands?
Are you ever tempted to “help God out” and just do things yourself instead of waiting on God to provide?
Same temptation for us. We are tempted strongly in the very same way. Satan is always coming in during our difficult times, encouraging us to rely upon ourselves, trust in ourselves, and accept that God is not providing for us this time. We fall into this temptation all the time.
We lose our job and Satan tells us that we have to take matters into our own hands because God is not with us.
You are suffering and God is not going to take care of you. We hear this thinking come out in our language. We ask, “Where is God?” when things are difficult.
The money is tight, so give up on God. We think that we cannot trust God to provide.
This is the temptation that Satan is giving to us and if we are honest, I think we will admit that we repeatedly fail when presented with this temptation.
Jesus’ response is very important. Jesus does not agree that the Christian life is about being happy, having things, being wealthy, and serving God. Carefully examine Jesus’ answer. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3.
4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”
Life is defined by doing God’s will and depending on God, not in personal satisfaction or living independently.
To put the quotation into common words for today: Life is not about the physical, but the spiritual.
Spiritual life is what matters most. This is the response to the attack of Satan. When things are falling apart in this life, realize that our life does not consist of this world. Life is in God, not in the things of this world. Jesus is telling Satan that his hunger is not important. It doesn’t matter. The word of God matters.
Trust God to provide. Satisfying our physical yearnings is not as important as trusting and obeying God.
b. The second temptation is Satan’s attempt to get Jesus to abandon his loyalty to God.
5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and 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. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”
Satan is offering Jesus a shortcut. Jesus can leave behind the rejection and the suffering that is going to come and be the promised king. Satan is saying, “If you are the Son of God, then you should not have to suffer to receive the kingdom in power. Take a shortcut and avoid the pain. Worship me and I will give you the kingdoms and their glory.” How powerful this temptation must have been! Jesus could avoid the suffering and become king. “Have an easier, more comfortable life. Abandon your loyalty to God and worship Satan.”
The concession was small. The promise was large. Why not by a little momentary act, obtain an enormous gain?
Satan’s second temptation was for Jesus to put Himself before God. Satan told Jesus that he could give Him all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would just bow down to him. Satan’s biggest desire is to receive the worship that only God deserves, but he is still quite satisfied as long as anything receives glory other than God.
But catch this extraordinary truth: God’s pattern is to start with suffering and end with glory; Satan’s pattern is to start with glory and end with suffering.
Satan uses a selfish tactic. He wants us to sacrifice the eternal for the temporary. Satan tries to subvert our walk with God by offering shortcuts to spirituality, which are really dead-ends, BUT SOMETIMES WE MUST WALK THE HARD ROADS WITH GOD.
Jesus’ response is instructive again.
8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’”
We only can worship God. We have a mentality that we must avoid suffering at all costs. We think that things ought to be easy for us in this life. When things do not go the way we want or think they should go, we are confused. But this shows that we are worshiping someone or something other than God. God alone is worthy of our allegiance. Avoiding suffering cannot be our idol. Our work cannot be our idol. We cannot worship our children, by making sure they are always happy and giving them everything they want. We want to bypass the difficulties of life that come from serving God. But seeking the things of this world shows that we are idolaters. We worship our health, thinking it is the most important thing. We think we need to stay alive as long as possible because it is so important to us. We think and are often taught that as long as God is number one, we can have all of these other idols in our life. We might say, “What about our family?” We do not make our family number two, as if it were another idol! We love our families because that is part of what it means for God to be number one. God is number one and that is it. Everything we do in life is because it is our worship to God (Romans 12:1). God alone is worthy of our allegiance. We must have no other gods or idols. So if I am called to suffer in this life, so be it and I will worship God in my suffering. If I am called to poverty, so be it and I will worship God in my poverty. If I am called to lose my family, so be it and I will worship God in my loss. If I must go the difficult road, I will still serve my Lord and serve none other. This is the mentality we need to fight Satan’s temptation to worship our idols to receive material, physical benefits now.
c. Satan's last device was to persuade our Lord to test God’s protection.
9 And 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, 10 for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to guard you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
The significance of the temptation is that the tempter, who had been twice repulsed with Scripture, used Scripture, albeit out of context, to tempt Jesus.
He began with: “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.” If He was the Son of God, He should have no fear – furthermore, He should have complete trust in God as demonstrated from the Scripture cited.
Satan introduced two passages with “For it is written…” (v. 10)
First, he said, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ The quotation is from Ps. 91:11. The angels of God would look after Him.
Then he said in verse 11, “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” The quotation is from Ps. 91:12. The psalmist was confident that God had commanded the angels to look after him, especially preventing him from stumbling on a stony path.
The temptation, then, was for Jesus to prove He was the Son of God, by forcing the Father to decisively act in protecting His Son. While this seems like faith, it is in fact a lack of faith. To force a situation and to demand God to respond by quoting His promise is to show a lack of faith. Furthermore, it is the opposite of submission. Those who force God to act are, in effect, telling God how to act within given situations.
PERFECT RESPONSE (V. 12).
Jesus answered, 12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” The OT condemns putting God to such tests (Dt 6:16) – it is one thing to trust God in the normal, everyday, providential situations of life, it is quite another thing to force God to act through a careless and daring act. Jesus demonstrated that He is the obedient Son. Israel faithlessly put God to test in the wilderness by demanding Him to supply. Jesus valued His relationship with the Father; He would not harm such a relationship by giving in to the devil’s temptation.
Do you trust God or tempt God? Do you demand God keep His word according to your timing and your expectations? Or do you patiently wait for God to fulfill His promises according to His timing and His will?
13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.
The paragraph concludes with the notification that Satan was not done. He was going to come back and try again at another opportune time. This reminds us that Satan is looking for our weak moments to strike against us. Satan does not wait for when we are strong, but in our moments and times of weakness. Then he brings the force of his temptations against us. Satan is never done. He will never give up against us. We must continue to fight his lies.
The manner in which our Lord resisted Satan's temptations.
Three times we see Him using the same weapon, in reply to his temptations—"the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (Ephes. 6:17.) He who was full of the Holy Spirit, was yet not ashamed to make the Holy Scripture His weapon of defense, and His rule of action.
Let us learn from this single fact, if we learn nothing else from this wondrous history, the high authority of the Bible, and the immense value of a knowledge of its contents. Let us read it, search into it, pray over it, diligently. Let us strive to be so thoroughly acquainted with its pages, that its text may abide in our memories, and stand ready at our right hand in the day of need.
Satan is able to rationalize, justify, and misuse the scriptures to tempt us to sin. Know the scriptures to be able to defeat him.
4. Our Lord Jesus Christ's ability to sympathize with those who are tempted.
This is a truth that stands out prominently in this passage. Jesus has been really and literally tempted Himself.
Jesus went into the desert for a reason. It wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a mistake that put him there. Jesus “was led by the Spirit into the wilderness” (Luke 4:1) Jesus didn’t have to do any of this. At least for himself. He was flawless when he left his throne in heaven. He could have stayed at home in comfort without exposing himself to these very real attacks at his weakest moments. But Jesus went through this all for you. He put himself at risk for people who fall and fall frequently.
Satan had more than just a few mistakes in his scope. He was a careful sniper taking aim at the entire reason why Jesus came down to this earth. Jesus faces the challenge from his most fearsome enemy head on. He directly takes on the worst of the devil’s schemes. Jesus refused to let the devil get inside his head. Jesus stands his ground and won’t take the shortcut. Jesus may have been human just like us. Jesus may have faced all the same weaknesses we do. But there is one important difference: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus is obedient in all his ways in every day.
Jesus takes the tough way, going to the cross.
Jesus knows his Father will provide for him every step of the way without providing bread from rocks.
Jesus knows all kingdoms and power and glory will be his. But first he has to go through suffering and death. Once he accomplishes his perfect sacrifice for the world’s failures to stand up to temptation, then he will take his rightful place on the throne.
Jesus will get the Father’s protection, but first he must face the wrath of God. On the cross he must feel the full brunt of the world’s sin, the punishment deserved by every sinner. Then the Father will send his angels after he has been lifted from the grave.
Now Jesus’ victory is yours. His struggle was for you. His defeat over the devil gives you victory. The reward he earned he shares with you.