And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were over, he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” 5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.’”
9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to guard you’,
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.
The Holy Spirit takes Jesus away into the wilderness where he will be tempted. His identity has just been confirmed, but now the concept of being Son of God will be put to the test. After prolonged time without food and in the heat of a desert wilderness, Jesus hears voices telling him shortcuts to success. These voices either come from a subtle voice inside his head or from a personal tempter who comes out of the wilderness to meet him. N. T. Wright in his Luke for Everyone commentary advocates for the voices coming to him in his own head. The tempter within is more like many of our personal experience. We humans are tempted by subtle impulses or vain ideas as they whisper shortcuts, doubts, and reasons to fear into our minds. Jesus is tempted to perform a miracle to escape his hunger, he is tempted not to wait for his father’s timing. He is tempted to gain his Kingdom without the path of suffering and the death that will rip him to pieces emotionally and physically. He is tempted to gain acceptance through an overwhelming act of showmanship. In short, Jesus is tempted to a path that avoids the cross.
We are tempted in some of the same ways. The recipients of the gospel of Luke would be under a lot of pressure to give up on their new faith. However, Jesus endured temptation because he had a singular focus. He accepted the authority of God over his life. He accepted that the scripture was God’s word on living. He then subjected himself to the words of scripture. Jesus had memorized the book of Deuteronomy which flies in the face of those whose emphasis is solely on the New Testament. He saw the Old Testament as foundational to understanding the way life should be lived.
Angie, who works security at Moody, just texted me a quote from Dr. Green in the Grad school, “What you focus on changes you internally.” We all need to focus on the persons of God and the content of his word. Then when temptation comes we can run into the words of the one we love. Many of us cultivate ignorance and apathy. When the temptation comes we are impoverished for resources to fight. When we fail, we blame God like spoiled children who expect their parents to rescue them from the consequences of their choices. God’s only begotten son did not take an approach like that, and he was tempted in every way like we are. We should walk like him.
I am tempted in ways that are so trivial compared with avoiding crucifixion and gaining the power that you could. However, under stress and in a barren landscape, you prevailed over the tempter. Help us all to walk in that way.
- Who leads Jesus into the wilderness?
- Who tempts Jesus?
- Why do God and the tempter collaborate with regard to Jesus?
- Do you believe in a literal Satan? What difference does it make?
- How do you prepare for a life that will be tempted?