LJesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. – Luke 4:1-2a
The Spirit of God had driven Jesus into the wilderness; the Spirit of Satan now carries Him to Jerusalem. Matthew describes it in this way: ‘The devil then took (Jesus) to the holy city and made Him stand on the parapet of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God’ he said ‘throw Yourself down…’ Jesus said to him… ‘You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’’ – Matthew 4:5-7.
Jesus was standing on the pinnacle of the temple, probably perched at the corner of the temple looking down to the valley below – sheer drop of four hundred and fifty feet. The time was probably daybreak so blasts from the priests’ silver trumpets would be heralding a new day and Jerusalem would be thronging with people.
‘Jump’, taunts Satan. ‘Let everyone see Your Father catch You in His arms. Hasn’t He promised to send His angels to watch over You in times of danger?’
I Jesus had leapt, like ‘superman,’ from this pinnacle, His fame would have spread throughout Jerusalem. He would have won the applause, adulation and admiration of everyone. But Jesus refused to become a sensationalist by drawing attention to Himself through the miracles He performed. He silenced the enemy with the reminder from Scripture:
‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’. – Matthew 4:7
William Barclay explains it this way:
‘He meant this: there is no good seeing how far you can go with God; there is no good putting yourself deliberately into threatening situation, and doing it quite recklessly and needlessly, and then expecting God to rescue you from it…God’s rescuing power is not something to be played with and experimented with, it is something to be quietly trusted in the life of every day.’
Satan does not give up easily. He has tried to persuade Jesus to bribe people into the Kingdom of God by simply meeting their material needs; he has tried to encourage Jesus to attract attention to Himself through the spectacular, to stoop to using magic to bring people to God. Having failed in both these attempts, Satan pesters Jesus with a third suggestion. Luke describes it in this way:
‘Then leading Him to a height, the devil showed Him in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the world and said to Him, “I will give You all this power and the glory of these kingdoms, for it has been committed to me and I give it to anyone I choose. Worship me, then, and it shall all be yours.” But Jesus answered him, “Scripture says: ‘you must worship the Lord your God, and serve Him alone.’” – Luke 4:5-8.
Jesus hadn’t eaten for six weeks. He was weak physically. He knew that He faced the ‘gargantuan’ task of winning the world for His Father; of snatching it ack from the clutches of the evil one. And Satan chose this moment of vulnerability to take Jesus out into God’s wonderful world. There on a mountain top they viewed the splendor of God’s creation in all its glory. How could one man capture all this for God?
Into Jesus’ mind, Satan whispers an idea: ‘worship me and I will give all this to You. Your task will be easy.’
What the tempter is whispering here may be summed up in one word, ‘compromise’ By stooping to the mortal standards which the world accepts as the norm, Jesus could have attracted a great following! ‘why don’t you strike a bargain with me?’ suggests Satan. ‘Change the world by becoming like people who live in it. Then they will follow you in great numbers.’
Jesus’ response to this suggestion is ruthless: ‘Go away, Satan.’ Jesus knew that He could never defeat evil by compromising with evil. He was called to be light shining in the darkness of the world not to become a part of that darkness. His task was to raise men’s standards until they were brought into perfect alignment with God’s. Nothing less than that would do. Once again, the result of this temptation is that Jesus submits Himself to the Father. He determines to do God’s work in God’s way.
My little child, Relax! Remember that I have branded you on the palms of my hands. Remember that, though Satan would sift you like wheat, I have asked the Father to protect you from the evil one now and always.
TEMPTED JUST LIKE ME!
During Jesus’ forty day retreat in the desert Satan aimed, in the words of Michael Green, to ‘separate Jesus from His Father by doubt, by disobedience, by distrust, by disloyalty, by compromise, by exhibitionism, by idolatry and by short-circuiting Calvary.’
Today, Satan’s target is Christians. They stand on Satan’s firing line. But the author of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us that because He too was tempted, Jesus is able to help us: “Because He has Himself been through temptation He is able to help others who are tempted.” – Hebrews 2:18
Satan is always on the rampage. The more we try to please God, the more He will seek to sidetrack us. As Peter puts it: “Your enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat.” – 1 Peter 5:8.
Satan selects a variety of ways to bring about our downfall. For example, he tests us through our feelings. On the days when we cannot feel God’s presence he tries to persuade us that God has abandoned us; that He is a God who is more absent than present. He would even tempt us to doubt God’s trustworthiness. These lies are to be rejected.
The tempter is also capable of using our innermost thoughts and desires to bring about our downfall. He launches his attack against our mind, our will and possessions so that even though we know that a certain course of action is not permissible for the Christian, we do it; even though we know that a certain place is riddled with temptation, we go there. And Satan wins another round in the eternal conflict between good and evil in our lives.
There are times when Satan confuses us so much that we don’t know whether we want to obey God or not.
The season of Lent challenges us to re-discover ways of combatting the Enemy and triumphing over him as Jesus did. Jesus defeated Satan by confounding his lies with the truth found in the Bible. Martin Luther used to advise: ‘The best way to drive out the devil if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him for he cannot bear scorn.’
It seems almost a law of life, dear Lord, that after every great moment I experience I swing from the stars to the mud. And it is while I am struggling in the mud of my own defeat that Satan comes to me as the accuser using my weariness and discouragement, my moods and my depressions to cause me to doubt you. Teach me to resist the devil, Lord, just as you did. Cause me to be vigilant, conscious that he is ever ready to trip me up. May I, like You, triumph over him by submitting to the Father’s will.
Lord Jesus, You know the full force of temptation, yet You conquered it in the fight against Satan. Breathe into my life strength of Your Holy Spirit that I, too, may expose evil constantly, confront Satan valiantly and come out of conflict victoriously. In every moment of testing, may I stand fast as You did. In challenge to combat evil in my life, may I grow neither faint nor weary but rather persevere to the end; until I hear Your ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’
Lord Jesus, thank You for revealing to us that You endured these fierce assaults at the hand of the evil one. Thank You that because of Your own experience You can identify with us when we are similarly tested. And thank You that You have shown us how to overcome Satan. Give us the courage we need to confront Satan and to banish him from our presence. And give us such a love for Your word, the Bible, that we may be able to use its truth to expose the lies Satan whispers in our ears. Give us the victory over Satan which You enjoyed, that our effectiveness for You might increase.
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