In the temptations, Satan wants to disqualify Jesus as the Messiah while God wants to demonstrate that Jesus is worthy to be the Messiah. We’ll look how how Jesus responds when he’s tempted to believe God is no longer taking care of him.
For each of the temptations we’ll answer 3 questions:
- Why is the choice wrong?
- Why is the choice attractive?
- How does Jesus respond?
At Jesus’ baptism, we have a dramatic heavenly confirmation that Jesus is the Messiah. After that, we might expect Jesus to rally an army and march to Jerusalem to establish his rightful reign. We might expect him to claim the throne of David as is his right amidst the cheers and adoration of his nation. Instead Jesus is led into the wilderness, alone, to face starvation and temptation.
- Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit. He is there because God told him to go there (Matt 4:1).
- God sends Jesus into the wilderness is so that he might be tempted by the devil (Matt 4:1).
- The basic meaning of the Greek word for “test” (periazo) is to test something to find out what it’s made of. If you are testing a person with the hope that he fails the test, this word is typically translated “tempted.” If you are testing a person with the hope that he succeeds, this word is often translated “try” or “test.” God and Satan have two very different purposes for this testing.
- Satan wants to disqualify Jesus as God’s Messiah while God wants demonstrate that Jesus is qualified to be the Messiah.
- God is deliberating creating a parallel between the nation of Israel in the wilderness and Jesus in the wilderness.
- Jesus appears to understand the parallel by quoting from the sermon Moses gave to Israel reviewing the lessons they were supposed to learn from their journey in the wilderness.
- Jesus succeeds in obeying God where Israel failed.
1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” – Matthew 4:1-4
- Satan is not asking Jesus to prove that he is the Messiah.
- It is not inherently wrong to turn the stones into bread. Elsewhere Jesus miraculously produces food.
- Satan is trying to convince Jesus that God cannot be trusted and he should take matters into his own hands.
- Satan’s logic: “If God is really good, He would feed you. He’s not feeding you, so God must not be good. If God isn’t good, I can’t trust Him to care for me. And if I can’t trust God to care for me, then I’d better look out for myself.”
- The problem is the premise: God is good and He may not feed you.
- The choice is tempting because Jesus may conclude from his present circumstances that God is no longer taking care of him.
- The choice is wrong because it would be to stop trusting God and take matters into your own hands.
- When the nation of Israel is suffering in slavery in Egypt, God sends Moses to them with a message of deliverance (Exodus 4:1-31).
- God promises that He will deliver them from their slavery with a striking display of power. He will be their God and they will be His people (Exodus 6:1-130.
- Even though Israel is skeptical, God delivers them through a series of ten miraculous plagues, including the Passover (Exodus 7-13).
- Pharaoh agrees to let them go, but pursues them with his army after they leave.
- The people panic when they see Pharaoh’s army approaching (Exodus 14:10-13). But God miraculously saves them by parting the sea (Exodus 14).
- The people believe God (Exodus 14:31), but their trust does not last.
- When they face hunger, the nation again loses confidence in God (Exodus 16:1-3). But God miraculously provides food for them (Exodus 16).
- The book of Deuteronomy covers the time when the 40 years have ended. Once again, the nation stands at the border of the promised land, ready to enter it. Moses preaches a final sermon to them.
- In this sermon, Moses reminds the people of the lessons they were supposed to learn in the wilderness
- Jesus quotes from this sermon 3 times.
- The main theme of the sermon is: continue to trust God (Deuteronomy 8:1). If they continue to trust the Lord, He will bless them in the land with peace and prosperity.
1“The whole commandment that I command you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers. 2And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 3And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. – Deuteronomy 8:1-3
- God put the children of Israel in difficult circumstances to test them, so that who and what they were trusting in would be obvious.
- Moses reminds them that God put in a place with no food on purpose. What was revealed in that circumstance? They believed the only way to survive and prosper is to ensure you have enough food.
- How did God respond? He literally dropped food out of the sky for them.
- God gave them a physical object lesson. They were not wrong to follow God just because they were in a place with no food.
- If God says, ‘follow me into the wilderness,’ then that is where you should go even if there is no bread because God is the source of life.
- We do not prosper merely by ensuring we have food to eat. We prosper by relaying on the promises of God.
- For Jesus to turn the stones into bread is to refuse the path that God has taken him down. This choice would be no different than Israel saying, ‘there’s no bread here, let’s go back to Egypt.’
- God is highlighting Jesus’ role as the true Israel. Jesus succeeds where the nation of Israel failed.
- God wants to establish that Jesus is worthy to be the Messiah.
- Jesus is modeling for us what faithfulness in trials looks like.
- The most fundamental issue in this temptation is: where do we find Life?
- God is good and He may not feed us. We may be asked to live with lack to test whether or not we will continue to trust God.
- God is very willing to sacrifice our present comfort in order to increase our faith. Because faith is where we will ultimately find Life.