Have you ever wondered: Why didn't Jesus go straight to the cross. Drop down from heaven and by-pass 33 years of suffering, pay for the sins and then make a clean exit?
But in some fashion Jesus needed to be more than a human to die for our sins, He needed to be an obedient human who lived a faithful life, who was tried and tested. God was in search of one who would love him with all his heart, one who would climb on the cross as the Son who learned obedience. That is why.
The Spirit of God led Jesus to be tested with real choices and found obedient. We know Adam failed that test and we know Israel failed as well. But would Jesus? In one sense Jesus is called to fill the shoes of a nation. Israel was called God's Son, as a nation, it was her task to obey God and be a light to the nations and the hope for the world. As God's son Israel failed badly. Only with Jesus do you hear the Father saying at the beginning and end of Jesus ministry "This is my Son in whom I love, with him I am well pleased"
What we have in today's passage is nothing less than a battle for your soul. Were Jesus to fail at any point, heaven would be closed to all.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. ~Matthew 4:1-2 (NIV)
So far the devil had a 100% success rate with humans. Every human who has ever walked on this earth had surrendered to temptation and sin. It's not surprising that Satan did not want his record broken. After 40 days of not eating Jesus is not just famished, this is not just cranky Ray when dinner is served late.
Doctors say after 40 days of no eating your organs begin to shut down, your muscles begin to spasm, your heart beat is irregular and your decision making impaired. The devil comes at a moment of profound weakness.
It's like 3 rounds in a UFC match.
The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” ~Matthew 4:3 (NIV)
Jesus is the Son of God, He knew it, The Father knew it, Satan knew it. But would he be an obedient Son? Now that his stomach cries out for food, now that he has not eaten for nearly 6 weeks. All the time Jesus has access to power that lies at his disposal.
Did you know that Jesus never performed a miracle just for himself? He did miracles for the Father's glory. He did miracles out of compassion for others and He did miracles so that you may believe he is the Son of God and be saved. But he never did a miracle to benefit himself
This was not why he was empowered by the Spirit. He would miraculously feed 5000 but he would not feed himself.
Would Jesus be like Israel who spent 40 years in the wilderness? God tested them to find out what was in their heart and they repeatedly tested God rather than trust him. Jesus response to Satan is clear and decisive.
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” ~Matthew 4:4 (NIV)
We rely on God's word for life in the same way we rely on food to feed our bodies.
Moses said ‘These words are not idle words, they are your life.’
The question is will Jesus trust the words that leave his Father's mouth? The devil has come to hi-jack the rescue mission, to get Jesus to misuse the power at his disposal. All Jesus had to do was snap his fingers and he could have covered the desert with croissants and melted butter. Just like at his hour of death could have snapped his fingers and called on 1000s of angels.
But that would not be the Father's will.
A couple from church lived next to the neighbours from hell, drugs, loud music and violence. One day the neighbours bashed the wife, the husband worked for a tattoo parlour, owned by a bike gang. When the bikie's heard what had happened to their mate's wife they wanted to take them out. He had so much power at his disposal but at that moment he chose to trust God's word to not repay evil for evil.
God required that Jesus learn obedience and not use his powers to avoid the pain of obedience. It's so hard to trust God and not cut corners, that is why its called temptation. When you think there is no other option but to sin because too much pain is at stake, too much money is at stake, too much pride is at stake, too much pleasure is at stake or too much shame at stake. Jesus lives by every word that comes out of the mouth of the Lord.
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” ~Matthew 4:5-6 (NIV)
This time temptation comes packing a Bible not a porn site.
Satan quotes from Psalm 91, a Psalm that speaks of God's protection for those who trust him. He has your back. So Satan comes along and flips it by wanting Jesus to test God. See if you really trust God's Word, throw yourself from this building and his angels will come. The order is reversed by Satan, as with Israel, Satan is eager to have Jesus test God instead of trust him.
Like the man I heard who said ‘I don’t wear seat belts because God promises to take care of his own’ ‘I don’t take out insurance because I am a child of the King of Kings’ and then was robbed. I'm sure he was a child of God but he was not a wise one.
The problem with "name it and claim it" theology. What they call trusting God is actually testing God. Here is a verse, out of context, used to pressure people to believe in something God hasn’t said. Jesus will trust God so Jesus quotes the word of God that he feeds on.
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” ~Matthew 4:7 (NIV)
We are called to trust God not test him. God does not have to prove himself by giving you health and wealth or a job or a relationship. He proved himself by raising him from the dead, we are called to trust his promises.
Anyone can quote the bible, even the devil, the wise one knows what the Bible also says. During the COVID seasons, I raised a number of issues health, government, freedom of conscience, love for weaker brothers, etc. If you grab one of them and forget the others then you’re not reading the bible well. If all you do is say the Bible says, by quoting one verse, you can miss the point, you need to say, the bible also says... Good bible reading is like juggling balls. If each ball represents a truth and you hold onto one of them then others fall. The Fundamentalist is someone who treats a partial truth like it were a whole truth.
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” ~Matthew 4:8-9 (NIV)
Is Satan claiming too much? Were the kingdoms of the world his to give? It's true that the Devil is the Prince of this world, he is the god of this age who has blinded the minds of unbelievers.
But nothing, absolutely nothing, happens outside the will of God. He talks like he is sovereign when he is not. As Jesus keeps obeying his father, all the way to the cross, He will pay our debt and defeat death. So prevent Satan from accusing you and condemning you.
Jesus has fought for your soul and won, God had created the world for his Son, not Satan and Satan can't stand it. God says to his Messiah King and not Satan
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. ~Psalm 2:8 (NIV)
But the temptation here is that Christ will be crowned without the cross, he must suffer and be killed before he is raised on the 3rd day. So with us first the suffering and then the glory.
There are no short cuts, the way of the messiah is the way of the Messiah's people
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. ~Matthew 4:10-11 (NIV)
No compromise, the response by Jesus is to quote the Word of God and to give God exclusive worship, in the words of Psalm 73: "Whom have I in heaven but you, and the earth has nothing I desire besides you."
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. When is an opportune time? When times are good and bad? Like that proverb
"Don’t give me too little or I might steal, don’t give me too much or I might forget you"
When I am overworked and tired
When I am successful and proud
When I am healthy and invincible
When I am bored and distracted
When I am in love and forget God's love
When I have been wronged and feeling entitled
I'm often asked how to tackle temptation
Sigmund Freud's nephew ran an ad company in the 1920s, in New York, he was asked how they can get women smoking, so he organised for a number of models to walk in the May Day Parade. At a certain point, newspaper photographers were told to wait, the women stopped, lifted up their dresses, reached for a packet of cigarettes in the garter belt and lit one up. The photo went round the world and the message was clear “Smoking empowered women” What they thought was freedom was now taking 5 years off their life. Satan promises life only to enslave us to sin and death. The joy of sin is for the moment, the joy of obedience is long-lasting.