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TEXT: Luke 4:1-13
SUBJECT: Luke #9: The Temptation
Today, with God's blessing, we'll get back to our study of Luke's Gospel. Thus far, we've looked mostly at His private life-the years before He became a celebrity in Israel. Here, in the first paragraph of Chapter 4, we come to the end of those relatively quiet days. From now on, He will be the most controversial Man in the world.
But before He faces the wrath of man, He first takes on the cunning and power of Satan. These verses are commonly called The Temptation. You can read more about it in Matthew 4 and, briefly, in Mark 1.
Luke begins the story in his usual way-with the details. The temptation occurred right after the Lord's baptism. Mark uses the word, immediately. Evidently, He didn't even pack for the ordeal, but went-maybe still wet-straight from the Jordan River into the Wilderness.
He took the trip because God's Spirit told Him to. At His baptism, He was anointed with the Spirit and now He's going to "walk in the Spirit". As God, of course, our Lord is equal to the Spirit and the Father and not subject to either. But as a Man, He was dependent on the Holy Spirit and must obey His will at every point of His life. Which He does.
He camped in the Wilderness for forty days, during which time He didn't have a bite to eat. Some have taken the time as a reminder of Israel's forty years in the Wilderness or the forty days Moses spent on Mount Sinai, neither eating nor drinking. Both allusions-I believe-are right. But neither is what Luke is getting at here.
He gives us the length of the Fast to make us feel the weakness of our Lord's body and soul. The Man is hungry and tired, dirty, sunburned, and lonesome. His body was shot, and as everyone knows, a shot body has a way of weakening the human spirit. You've heard the saying, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all"
And just then-when the Lord is at His lowest point--the devil attacks Him. This says something about Satan's character, doesn't it? Peter calls him "a roaring lion"-and that's true, of course, in the sense that he is scary and dangerous. But Luke depicts him more like a jackal, one of those scavengers who feast on crippled and half-dead prey.
The devil hates a fair fight. There's nothing he likes more than kicking a man when he's down. And that's what the Lord is here-down in body and soul.
The wording of v.2 indicates that Satan did not begin tempting the Lord with the ones mentioned here. No, he tempted Him the whole time He was in the wilderness. As you know, temptation has a way of wearing you down. What you can resist once or even ten times, is hard to stand up to when it hits you for the millionth time.
The first temptation seems relatively innocent, "If You are the Son of God command this stone to become bread".
Scholars are split on the meaning of the word, "if". Some say the devil is calling our Lord's Divinity into question. That is possible, but I doubt it. I think it is better translated "since". In appealing to our Lord's Sonship, Satan is making the poison easier to swallow.
But the Lord doesn't swallow it! Quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, He throws back the devil, "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every Word of God".
In the Wilderness, Israel demanded food, but it wasn't food that would sustain them; it was the Word of God. Unlike Israel, Jesus Christ (God's real Son) would live on the Promise and do without the bread.
The second temptation is much bolder than the first,
"Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, `All this authority I will give you and its glory; for this has been delivered to me and I give it to whomever I wish, therefore if You worship before me, all will be yours".
The idea of worshipping the devil is monstrous, of course, but think of all the good that would result from the bargain. Look at the world in all its hideous deformity-ignorance, immorality, violence, and oppression. If the Lord had charge of the world, He could eliminate these things. And He could do all this good, by the way, without that ugly cross.
Satan is appealing to the Lord's ego-why not take a crown without a cross? Just think of all the good You could do. And all the glory You'd receive.
But the Lord won't take the offered shortcut to glory and salvation. He'll take both the old fashioned way-by working for them in God's way!
"Get behind Me, Satan, for it is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve'".
Satan is repulsed a second time. But he's no quitter. Does the Lord really trust His Father in Heaven? If so, prove it. Taking Him to the highest point on the Temple in Jerusalem, he urges the Lord to jump off, because-after all-the Bible says,
"He shall give His angels charge of You, to keep You, and in their hands they shall bear You up, lest You dash Your foot upon a stone".
The devil has not misquoted the Bible. That is exactly what Psalm 91:11-12 promises. Neither did he misinterpret it. Some have said it was not Messianic (or applied to the Messiah). But, if you look at the context, you see it quite clearly is. What kind of person can expect God's supernatural help? The one who "Dwells in the secret place of the Most High".
That probably doesn't mean the Messiah only, but it certainly includes Him. The One who trusts God will not be disappointed.
The verses have been quoted and interpreted correctly. But the lie comes from the application. God can be trusted; His Word is sure; His angels are ready to rescue the righteous. But that does not mean "jump off the roof and let the Lord catch you".
How do we know that? Because God does not contradict Himself. And the Lord who said He was trustworthy, also said, "You shall not tempt the LORD your God".
This means to test Him or to put Him on trial, as though He might be lying. What if my dad told me he'd bail me out of any debt I got into? And then-just to see if he would-I ran up a credit card bill I couldn't pay? And handed it to him. Was that the intent of his promise? It wasn't. He wanted me to trust him, of course, but also to do what's right.
Those are the temptations Satan put before our Lord that day. But instantly--and from the bottom of His heart--Jesus Christ said No!
The devil is beaten for the moment. But he hasn't given up, "He departed from Him until an opportune time".
THE PRACTICAL VALUE
The practical value of our story is very great. For example,
It tells us what we're up against in the devil. Satan is a real creature and not a projection of human fear and hate. What's more, he is thoroughly evil. How could anyone have the gall and irreverence to tempt the Son of God? Yet he did-over and over again. He is smart and cunning-what's wrong with a hungry man turning stone into bread? He didn't tell the Lord to turn it into cocaine, get stoned, and sell the rest. He is bold and daring-when subtlety doesn't work, then how about a frontal attack-worship me, he urged. He is cruel-attacking us when we're weakest. He is relentless-there's no quit in him.
If the devil is real and evil and cunning and bold and cruel and relentless, we'd better "Put on the whole armor of God".
Maybe we're "playing army", but he's not. His weapons are loaded and he's out for blood. We've got to be serious about resisting him and take the necessary precautions against him. But most of all, we're got to stay close to Christ, for without Him, who can stand up to the devil?
That's a very important lesson.
Here's a second one: It tells us that we cannot resist the devil with human reason, but must rely on the Word of God. Martin Luther said, "Satan was the first lawyer".
He meant nobody can out reason him. If you start weighing the pros and cons of sin, he's got you. Nobody can beat the devil with his own argument. That means you've got to use God's Word-and not just quoted, but understood and rightly applied.
If the Lord Jesus Christ must rely on Scripture to beat the devil, then you do too. When it comes to resisting temptation, there's no substitute for God's Word, "Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You".
A third lesson is: Beware of those who pit one part of the Bible against another. In tempting the Lord to sin, Satan quoted the Bible at Him. But whatever Psalm 91 means, it couldn't mean tempt the Lord. Why not? Because Deuteronomy 6:16 says we must not do that.
Let me make this particular. One teacher says that Matthew 24 commands Christians to leave their churches. He says the Temple is the Church, that the Church's present sins are the Abomination of Desolation, and that when we see that we must "flee to the mountains" or, in other words, leave the church.
Is that the proper interpretation of Matthew 24 and its parallels in Mark and Luke? No it isn't. We can be sure of this for the simple reason that other verses contradict it!
If the church, its officers and ordinances are abolished, then how do you explain.
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves, as the manner of some is" (Heb. 10:24). "As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes" (I Corinthians 11:26). "The elders who are among you. shepherd the flock of God (I Pet. 5:1-2). "I will build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
Not all parts of the Bible are equally clear, of course. But when you interpret the clear by the unclear, you're likely to be doing the devil's work-even if you don't mean to!
These are three practical lessons that occurred to me from the Lord's temptations.
But as valuable as each one is, it is not the message of our story. No, our story isn't about how we ought to resist temptation. What it's about is The Kind of Messiah Jesus Christ will be.
In Chapter 3, He was named the Messiah by God's own voice, "This is My beloved Son, with Him I am well pleased".
In Chapter 4, He reads the prophecy of Isaiah and applies it to Himself, in effect, calling Himself the Messiah.
Thus, Jesus is the Christ or Messiah. Our story tells us what kind of Christ He must be. It corresponds to the three temptations He stood up to:
He will be a self-denying Messiah.
What's wrong with turning stone into bread? A bit later, He would turn water into wine and a boy's lunch into a feast for thousands. If it's all right to do these things, why not turn a rock or two into a nice lunch?
Here's why not: Christ has not come to serve Himself, but to serve others. Unlike us, He "He esteemed others better than Himself".
When James and John jockeyed for the top spot in the Kingdom, He reminded them of His own lack of personal ambition,
"Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for the many".
Secondly, Jesus Christ will be a patient Messiah.
In offering Him all the kingdoms of the world, Satan was not giving Him anything more than God had promised. But what he was offering Christ was a shortcut to glory. Why wait? Why suffer? Why not get it all now?
The answer is: Because He would live by God's schedule-not the devil's (or even His own).
When Mary tried to rush Him into doing something at the wedding, He rebuked her, "My time has not yet come".
When His brothers tried to hurry Him to Jerusalem, He told them the same thing.
Jesus Christ is a patient Messiah. He can wait on God.
He is an obedient Messiah. Had He jumped from the Temple, the angels would have caught Him and the nation might have crowned Him on the spot.
But that was not God's will. And no amount of possible good that might come from it would change the fact that God said, "Don't do it".
The Lord often turns our sin to some good end. But His sovereignty never justifies disobedience. The Lord would not try to guess what good might come from sin. He would simply obey.
Aren't you glad that Jesus Christ is this kind of Messiah? If He was not, you could not be saved. If He had not denied Himself, He would not have gone to the cross. If He had not been patient, He would have taken a shortcut, which would have skipped the cross. If He had not been obedient, He would have called for "Twelve legions of angels" to keep Him off the cross.
If there is no cross for Him, there is no salvation for us.
We are saved-or can be saved-because Jesus Christ is the Messiah He is!
In denying Himself, waiting on God, and obeying the Word, Jesus Christ not only became our Savior, but also our Example.
Self-denial, patience, and simple obedience are never easy to do. If they were, nearly everyone would practice them. But they're not easy. Yet they are the right and safe. In the end, you'll be glad you did. No one in heaven is wishing he had held on to a little more of the world. No one there regrets waiting on God or obeying His Word.
If Jesus Christ is the Perfect Savior, then trust Him for your salvation-right now. And if He is the Perfect Example, then start imitating His way of life-right now.
The grace of God be with you all. Amen.
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