THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS
(Jesus our Big Brother)
Key Verse: 4:4
“Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man does not live on bread alone.”’”
A woman brought home a very expensive dress. The husband asked, “Why did you buy that dress, dear? You know we can’t afford it.” The wife said, “Well, honey, the devil made me do it. I was just trying it on in the store and he said to me, ‘I’ve never seen you look more gorgeous than you do in that dress. You look fabulous!’” The husband asked, “Well, why didn’t you say, ‘Get behind me, Satan’?” The wife answered, “I did. But he also said that I looked even greater from behind.” It’s a cute joke except that it makes the devil ridiculous and he is not. The devil is our ultimate enemy and has much more serious business than urging us to make unnecessary purchases. We know that this temptation is real. We often fall into temptation and blame our sin on someone else. We often say, “The devil made me do it.” But can we just blame the devil or others for our sins? What do we do now seeing as we have already made many wrong choices and failed to resist the devil’s temptations? Are we hopeless? After all, how can we actually overcome temptation in our lives? In today’s passage, we see how Jesus was also tempted by the devil, and overcame it. Let us think about why Jesus had to be tempted in how he did it. What significance does Jesus’ temptation and his victory over the devil have in our lives? How are we related to his victory?
Look at verses 1 and 2. “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.” In the preceding passage, 3:21-38, Luke described that at the time of baptism, Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit and God declared that Jesus was the Son of God with whom He is well pleased. The genealogy pointed that Jesus the son of Adam is the beginning of a new humanity. However, before beginning his ministry, Jesus confronted the devil who is the arch enemy of the entire human race. The consequence of the first man Adam’s fall in the Garden was catastrophic as Romans 5:12 describes, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Actually, I believe that Adam was a nice guy. He didn’t steal anything. He was a hardworking gardener. He never looked at other women with lustful eyes. One day, Eve asked Adam, “Adam, do you love me?” Adam said, “Who else is there?” Yet this guy failed to resist the devil’s temptation and disobeyed God’s will. And as a result, the poison of sin entered the world and death through sin. If Jesus were going to be the head of a new race, he had to prove that he was able to overcome the devil’s temptation.
In verses 1 and 2, Luke describes the settings of Jesus’ temptation. Luke describes that Jesus’ temptation in the desert was under God’s direction. Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and was led by the Spirit in the desert where he was tempted. Yet, it does not mean that God wasn’t tempting Jesus. In fact, God does not tempt anybody although God tests our faith. Jesus was led by the Spirit in order to be tested of his spiritual quality to be the Son of God. Was Jesus tempted only in the desert? Of course not. According to Hebrews 4:15, while on earth, Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are. Evidently, Jesus experienced temptation all 40 days, but the three temptations Luke described in verses 3-13 happened at the end of that period. In fact, the three temptations Jesus had to deal in the desert are unique. The devil might not apply the same temptations to us. Yet, we learn something very important from Jesus’ temptation.
Most of us eat two or three meals a day. Skipping one meal would never lead any of us to death. But if we happen to miss a meal or two, we feel so hungry and say, “Man, I am starving to death.” Especially when you pass by Dunkin Donuts, you cannot resist the temptation. You think of Delicious Boston Cream with a cup of fresh coffee. They say that forty days is the maximum period that a healthy man can withstand fasting. You also have to drink water. After forty days of fasting, Jesus must have been totally exhausted. He starved to death and was extremely vulnerable. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” How tempting that must have been to hear! Also, the devil said, “If you are the Son of God.” Of course, Jesus knew that he was the Son of God. The devil was tempting Jesus to use his messianic power as the Son of God to satisfy his stomach instead of depending on God’s provision. In his vulnerable physical condition in the desert, if Jesus doubted God’s love and provision, he could have fallen into the devil’s temptation.
But Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’” Jesus didn’t mean that he didn’t have to eat. Otherwise, he would not be a human. He was saying that he was fully a man. By saying that man does not live on bread alone, he meant that man’s goal in life should not be satisfying physical desire but following the will of God. In resisting the devil’s temptation, Jesus quoted part of Deuteronomy 8:3, in which God said to the people of Israel through Moses in the wilderness, “He (The Lord) humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” The Lord tested the people of Israel, His chosen people, in the wilderness through hunger and thirst in order to teach them that God is the sole provider of their needs, so that they might not live for survival but for the will of God as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Ex 19:5)
Jesus said to his disciples who were called for his kingdom work in Matthew 6:25-33, “Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink;…. For your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Jesus wasn’t saying that we should not work. He was saying that we should not worry. Sometimes, our circumstances make us very vulnerable. We are tempted to worry and fall into doubt and fear. But as God’s children, we should learn to trust God’s love and provision in all circumstances.
Satan tested Jesus about the most basic needs in life, bread. We sometimes desire to feed ourselves with things we feel are essential to life, things that often include a better car, a larger home, more gadgets and a host of material possessions. Someone once asked me, “Pastor, do you think it’s God’s will for me to become rich?” Do you think it’s God’s will for you to become rich? It’s hard to answer. But we are always tempted to have more and more. Often the pursuit of material wealth is a driving force in many people. As a result, some people are too busy and distracted to follow the will of God. In the priorities of things, life is not defined by bread but by doing God’s will, depending on God’s leading.
Why are we so vulnerable to the devil’s temptation? It is not just because the devil is smarter than us. It’s because of our unhealthy desires, greed, lust, jealousy, selfish ambition, doubt, distrust, fear, etc. Do I really trust in God? Do I really exercise my faith in God’ love, power and wisdom? Do I really have the goal to follow the will of God? What is my priority, becoming rich or serving the Lord? Jesus could defeat the devil’s temptation because he was very clear about his life goal in following God’s will and trusting in God’s love and provision.
Temptation didn’t end there. Look at verses 5-7. The devil was defeated in the first round. But he didn’t give up. This time the devil tempted Jesus on a different dimension. He led Jesus to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world and said, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” The devil’s temptation for Jesus in this case was also very sweet. It was to take an easy way to get the things done. “Jesus, you are hungry, tired and exhausted. I will help you. Take an easy way out. Just bow down and worship me and I will give all the kingdoms of the world.” Jesus knew that he could not enter into his glory without suffering first, according to God’s will. (24:26) Yet, the devil tempted Jesus to gain power and authority through political compromise rather than through the way of the cross, suffering and shame.
How did Jesus resist the devil’s temptation? Look at verse 8. “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” Again, Jesus quoted the Scripture from Deuteronomy 6:13. Exact quotation from NIV is “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.” What does it mean? It means that God is the only one who is worthy of our worship. Worshiping God is the ultimate purpose of our lives. Worshiping includes having fellowship with God in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Our utmost happiness and joy as God’s children is to worship God and serve him only. However, if our goal in life is to gain worldly recognition and power in the world, we often become vulnerable to the devil’s temptation. We ended up disobeying the will of God.
Many of us are volunteers in serving the Lord, missionaries, shepherds, music servants, Bible teachers, counselors, mentors, etc. Some people spend hours, months and years for serving the Lord, and they are not paid for their services. They are genuine people and beautiful servants of God. As long as they have willing heart, they are joyful and have their rewards through their happiness. But sometimes, we feel very sorry that we are not properly recognized by others. Often we are misunderstood and our intentions are questioned. When we make mistakes, we are criticized. Then we are discouraged and tempted to live before people not before God. We are tempted to stop serving the Lord. “Who cares?” We are vulnerable to the devil’s temptations because we are all egoists. But God sees what people do not see. God is our greatest reward. We must also remember that there’s no limit to the amount of good we can do if we don’t care about who gets the credit. How did Jesus overcome his temptation? He remembered the word of God, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’” May God help us to have volunteer spirit in serving the Lord to the end. Actually the devil was lying when he said that he would give all kingdoms of the world. Although he is called “the prince of this world” and he does have some power, he doesn’t have the ultimate power and authority over everything. God has the ultimate power and authority. God is sovereign over all things. God is the only one who is worthy of our worship, recognition, praise and honor.
We are living in the age of technology. We are tempted to do things quickly and effectively rather than going through the necessary process of suffering. When we are too goal oriented, we tend to ignore the importance of the process of how we obey God’s will. We are tempted to make political compromises. But we must know that the quick and effective way may not be the way of God. The way of the cross is tough and no one seems to like it. But we cannot glorify God unless we follow God in God’s way. That’s why Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” He also said similar things in Matthew 7:13-14, which read, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” The way of the cross is the way to ultimate success.
Look at verses 9-12. The devil failed to tempt Jesus to listen to him and disobey God’s will. Whenever he tempted Jesus, Jesus responded with the word of God, saying, “it is written.” So this time, the devil also said, “It is written”, quoting from Scripture in Psalm 91:11 and 12, which in those days was considered God’s promise of protection of the Messiah. They read, “He (The Lord) will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Psalm 91:11 and 12 are not to be used for anyone to jump off from a high rise building. They are the promise of God’s protection for those who absolutely trust in God. It should not be used to test God. In fact, Jesus answered the devil in verse 12, quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16, “It says, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
What is the difference between trusting God and testing God? It’s hard to distinguish. However, putting God to the test is a perversion of having faith in God. Testing God may very well be founded on the premise that God is able to do what he has promised. But testing God is trying to force God to provide now what is holing for later. For example, Abraham believed in the promise of God that he would have many children. But ever after 10 years had passsed, he found that he remained childless. So one day, listening to his wife’s suggestion, he got a concubine to get a son. He was impatient. So out of impatience, he fell into the temptation and put God to the test. Such impatience demands God to hurry up.
We also put God to the test by complaining and blaming Him whenever suffering occurs, if not directly, at least indirectly. Many of us think that if we are faithful to the Lord, we should be rewarded. So when things do not happen according to what we expect for ourselves or think we deserve, we start to grumble or find someone to blame for our suffering. The exact quotation is “Do not test the Lord your God as you did at Massah.” The Lord promised the people of Israel that He would not only deliver them from the hand of Pharaoh in Egypt but also lead them to a promised land, the land flowing with milk and honey. (Ex 3:8) God did rescue them from the iron hand of Pharoah and enabled them to pass through the Red Sea. But when they faced some challenges and adversities in the wilderness, the people became impatient and fearful. They grumbled and failed to trust in God’s love and provision and disobeyed God’s will.
Another way we put God to the test is trying to force God to act on our terms. Instead of following God’s guidance prayerfully, we sometimes impose on God to do things we want. Some people have unrealistic prayer topics and ask God to perform miracles. They say, “If you care for me, God, then this situation will turn out the way I want it to.” When things don’t seem to happen as we expect, we fail to trust that God is good. But God is a merciful God. He does perform miracles for us. He is not to be tested, but trusted.
Distrust is not a small problem. Even though many people say that they believe in God, they don’t trust Him in their practical lives. They don’t trust that God is sovereign over all things. When the trust relationship is broken, everything is broken. There were twin brothers who never married because they enjoyed each other’s company so much. When their father died, they took over his store and ran it together in joyful collaboration. One day a man came in to make a small purchase and paid for it with a twenty dollar bill. The brother who took the bill put it on top of the cash register and walked the customer to the door to say good-bye. When he came back to get the money, it was gone. He asked brother, “Did you take that money?” His brother said, “No, I didn’t.” That should have been the end of it, but a few hours later he asked. “Surely, you took the money. There was nobody else in the store.” His brother got angry and said, “I’m telling you, I did NOT take that money!” From that point distrust grew until finally the two brothers could not work together. They put a partition right down the middle of the building and made it into two stores. They didn’t speak for the next twenty years. One day a stranger pulled up in a car and entered one of the two stores. Then he confessed that around twenty years ago he had taken the money since he was very hungry and had no job. Now, I want to pay it back 10 times more. Twenty years of a broken relationship based not on fact, but on mistrust. It’s hard to trust anyone these days. It actually seems wise not to trust anybody. Even Christians don’t trust each other. Distrust is breaking our relationships and breaking everything. Unless we learn to trust one another, we cannot defeat the devil’s temptation.
There many kinds of temptations: financial temptation, moral temptation, ethical temptation, sexual temptation and spiritual temptation. Some temptations are more difficult to deal with and others are very subtle. We fall not because we want to, but because are weak and vulnerable. What shall we do about our vulnerability and mistakes we make? We must come to Jesus, confessing our sins and asking his forgiveness. We need to trust in the grace of Jesus Christ who shed his precious blood for the atonement of our sins. We also learn to trust in Jesus who is our faithful and merciful priest, our defender, big brother and the eternal mediator before God. Hebrews 4:15 reads, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin.” God sent the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, to dwell in us so that we may overcome the temptations of the devil and live according to God’s will. We must also know that no temptation has seized us except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear. But when we are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that we can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13) When things are really bad, what do we do? We trust God, His good intention, love, power and wisdom. God our God is trustworthy. He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins and the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. When we have the Spirit of God, we have nothing to lose. Victory is ours, peace is ours, and Joy is ours. And the kingdom of God lives in us.
I love you