A Time of Testing.
Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13
“Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.” – Luke 4:1-2 NLT
At His baptism, the Holy Spirit not only anointed Jesus, He filled Him. He took up residence in Him. And then the Spirit led Jesus, much like He intends to lead us as believers today. The interesting thing is that the Spirit led Jesus right into the wilderness, where He was immediately tested and tempted by Satan, the enemy of God. Our human nature can’t help but react to the seeming unfairness of the timing of this event. Jesus has just begun His public ministry and the very first thing He must do is suffer through and be subjected to a series of attacks at the hand of His greatest enemy. But God had just declared of Jesus, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy” (Matthew 3:17 NLT). Jesus was the Son of God and as such, it was essential that He live a life of perfect obedience to the will of His Father. This test at the very beginning of His ministry would prove the true nature of His character and the power of His commitment to the cause for which He had come. Satan was going to appeal to both His divine and human natures. Having not eaten for 40 days, Jesus was starving. His body, completely human, was shutting down and His cravings for food would have been at an all-time high. So Satan tempts Jesus to use His divinely ordained powers to manufacture bread for Himself. In other words, to use His God-given gifts for purely selfish, self-satisfying reasons.
Satan then appeals to the natural human desire for recognition, popularity and affirmation. He tries to get Jesus to throw Himself off the highest point of the Temple, and test the will of God. Notice that Satan repeatedly uses the word “if.” If you are the Son of God, jump …” (Matthew 4:6 NLT). Jesus knows that He is the Son of God. His own Father had just confirmed it. And Satan takes that knowledge and attempts to get Jesus to test His Father’s love by forcing Him to save Him from sure death should He jump from such a high height. What a spectacle that would have been. Just think of the reaction of the crowds had Jesus done such a thing. It would have proven His claim to be the Messiah. But it was not the will of God. It was NOT how God intended things to happen.
Finally, Satan offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, which was fully in his power to do, because he is the prince of this world. This appeal to the human desire for power is one we all struggle with. Jesus, as the Son of God, knows that one day every knee will bow down and worship Him, but the path to get there was going to take Him through pain, suffering and death. What Satan was offering was a whole lot easier. All Jesus had to do was worship him – to turn His allegiance from God to Satan. But once again, Jesus refuses. Quoting Scripture for the third time, He says, “You must worship the Lord your God and serve only Him” (Matthew 4:10 NLT). For Jesus, there would be no selfish, self-satisfying shortcuts. He had come to do God’s will, not His own. He had come to be obedient to God’s plan, not obey His passions and desires. Satan’s whole objective was to derail God’s plan. He was out to distract Jesus from His mission and destroy the redemptive plan of God. And while he had failed, he was not done. Luke tells us, “When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came” (Luke 4:13 NLT). We will see that all along the way, as Jesus ministered during the next three and a half years, the enemy was always close at hand. He was stirring up the religious leaders against Jesus. He was always trying to bring an untimely end to the mission of the Messiah. Jesus’ ministry was never free from conflict and attack. And the same is true for us today. We are always being tested, tried, and tempted by the enemy. He wants to destroy our testimony, distract us from our mission, and derail God’s plan for our lives. We find ourselves in a similar place as that of the Israelites all those years ago in the wilderness. “Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands” (Deuteronomy 8:2 NLT). Like Jesus, our character is being tested, our obedience is being tried. God has placed His Spirit within us and given us His Word. He has equipped us to live life of obedience in the midst of hostile surroundings. The enemy will appeal to our human nature and attempt to get us to satisfy our own desires and fulfill our own wills. But we must remain faithful and true to the cause of Christ and the will of our Father.
Father, what a timely reminder that even Jesus had to face opposition. He had to suffer the daily temptation to give up, thrown in the towel or to try and do Your will His own way. Help me to remember that the temptations and tests of life are there to challenge my obedience and to determine the quality of my faith in You. Help me to be strong. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men