The Temptations of Jesus

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 2, 2022 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

Both Matthew and Luke record the account of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness by the devil in between His baptism and the launching of His earthly ministry. Many different sermons have been preached on this message, but earlier this year when I was going through Luke in my daily devotionals, I realized something that few people mention. Jesus hardly addressed what was being offered. Let’s find out why, but please read either the Matthew passage or Luke passage (both linked above) before continuing on.

The order of the three temptations is irrelevant, so I am going to arbitrarily base them on Matthew’s account. There are three temptations: make stones into bread, throw yourself down from the temple mount, and bow before Satan in exchange for the whole world, governments, riches, etc. All three of these are the key categories of temptations that every person faces – going after physical health as priority, popularity and the public platform, and wealth/political power. John described these as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (not the same order though). This is what Eve saw in the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil: good for food, pleasing to eye, and food for making one wise. Interestingly enough, this is what the “prosperity gospel” offers as well.

The first temptation Jesus faced was to turn stones into bread. Jesus hadn’t eaten in 40 days, reaching the point where the body physically should not be functioning much more. This is the only temptation in which Jesus actually directly mentioned what was being offered: physical food. Yet he answered that man does not live by bread alone, but by what comes from God.

The second temptation Jesus faced was to throw Himself down from the temple mount, the highest point of the temple, in front of a crowd, and make a show. Jesus didn’t even address this issue. He did not say He was not to do His ministry with a popular crowd and large platform and putting on magic shows. Instead, He said He would not be presumptuous about what God wanted to do. He would not put God to the test.

The third temptation Jesus faced was to utilize all the world’s political and financial power to accomplish His mission of saving the world. He just had to acknowledge Satan as the owner of it all. But Jesus would not give him any attention.

Each of these was critical to the success of Jesus’ ministry because He faced times where He had spiritual food instead of physical food satisfying Him, times where He was popular and He had to set the bar extremely high for what it meant to follow Him, and times where He had the backing to take the Judean throne, which, legally speaking, was rightfully His. Jesus repeatedly refused these temptations each time they came.

But there is a central theme to each of these temptations in how Jesus was able to overcome them all. Jesus never took the bait and went after that which the human flesh would desire as Satan had offered for 4000 years since he was successful with tempting Adam and Eve. Jesus never went after false food, never went after popularity or a large platform, and never sought political power. He wasn’t even tempted by it. But each temptation had a more subtle issue with it that Jesus addressed head on: each of these temptations was an attempt to break Jesus of His bond with His Father.

If Jesus turned stones into bread, which He could have done, He would be declaring that He would satisfy His physical needs any way and any time He desired, and He would not be showcasing faith in His Father. If Jesus was presumptuous about His Father’s actions, it would show that He was not relying on His Father but rather demanding His Father do what He wanted Him to do when He wanted it done. If Jesus had acknowledged Satan as the owner of the political and financial systems, He would be denying the Father’s sovereignty over everything. In all three cases, Jesus addressed that His relationship with His Father and the authority of the Father was to never be challenged nor abdicated.

I have only just realized this truth, but putting it into practice is going to be a challenge. The sinful tendencies of man are to look for any source of satisfaction outside of God. There will always be a counterfeit. But if we want to be able to overcome any temptation, the secret is in the relationship with the Father. When we acknowledge and recognize that our dependence is to be upon Him and no other source, then we will recognize that every temptation is not about whatever needs or desires we have but about whether we are going to trust God or trust someone/something else.

In everything we do, it really boils down to these two options: do we trust God to cover it, or are we going to look to some other means? I have started writing my book on Proverbs 3:5 and it focuses on the same issue. Do we trust God, or are we relying on our own understanding of where our sources are and how/when to access them? God is going to provide everything we need, even if it doesn’t come in the form or timing we’d prefer. Every temptation will snuff our nose at God, deny trust in God, and seek to fulfill each need and desire when the self wants it done rather than waiting on God.

Next time you are tempted, ask yourself: does doing this thing affect my relationship with God? Because we are generally used to very flaky and less than impressive relationships with God, we tend to take His presence for granted. Jesus never took it for granted, and that was how He beat every temptation. In the Old Testament, Joseph had the same idea when Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce him, saying, “How could I sin against God?” David realized it, too, after his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. His sin was ultimately against God. Yet here we are, so used to mediocrity that we get offended when someone actually tries to go out and live this faith. How sad! What is our priority? Our relationship with God. The greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. If God loves it, love it. If God hates it, hate it. Let Him be your sustenance and your source of life. When we get that part right, the rest is pretty easy to sort out.

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