1 Jesus Tempted Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11 By Pastor John H. Noordhof Williamsburg Christian Reformed Church January 9, 2011 Morning Service People of God: Temptation can reveal the character of a person. When a person faces the possibility of getting away with some activity, which he knows he should not do, but really wants to do--does he remain true to his convictions or does he give in? Even if he does not give in to temptation, does he do so with firm resolve or only because he fears the possibility of getting caught? How a person reacts to temptation reveals the character of a person. That's the case in the temptation of Jesus. How Jesus deals with this test reveals his character. It shows what kind of person he is and how he will fulfill the mission that he has been given. It is important to realize that the temptation takes place right after the baptism of Jesus. At the baptism of Jesus, God had declared, This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased. Now, in trying to tempt Jesus, the devil will twice say to Jesus, if you are the Son of God, do this. As a result, this episode will reveal what kind of Son Jesus really is. This story echoes the first temptation in the Garden of Eden. At the very beginning of human history, the devil tempted Adam and Eve and they fell into sin. That fall into sin ruined the whole creation. Adam failed the great test and as a result, everyone is born with a corrupt nature and are totally unable to make themselves right with God. But now a second Adam has appeared on the scene. Not only is he the Son of God, he is also the Son of Mary. As a result, he is also fully human. He came to undo the results of the first Adam. Now at the very beginning of his ministry, the devil comes to him and tempts him. The devil tries to make the Second Adam fail just as he did the first Adam. But let us be aware of some of the differences between these two temptations. This second one was much more dangerous. The devil had the 2 advantage. Like with Adam, the devil begins his temptation with food. But Adam was not famished, while Jesus was. He had been fasting for forty days and forty nights. That led him to be hungry. But there was nothing for him to eat, whereas Adam had all of the trees in the garden to choose from. While Adam was in paradise, Jesus was in the wilderness. All this makes the temptation of Jesus more difficult. But there are those who object that this temptation was not a real test. After all since Jesus is God, there was no way Jesus could have sinned. But this overlooks the fact that Jesus was also fully human. Adam too was without sin, yet he caved in to temptation. Jesus in his human nature was vulnerable. As the text emphasizes, Jesus was hungry. If Jesus can feel the pains of hunger, he can also experience the drawing power of these temptations. This was a very real test for Jesus. Now the first temptation focuses upon the urgent need that Jesus had at the time--his hunger. After fasting for forty days and nights, this was his point of weakness. This is where the devil strikes. Isn't that where he tries to get us? When we are vulnerable, at our point of weakness? The devil uses Jesus' hunger and says: If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread. The devil taunts Jesus into using his powers to fulfill his needs. Jesus could have done what the devil had asked. He had the power to turn stones into bread. After all, latter on Jesus would turn a few loaves into enough food to feed five thousand people. In Cana, he would turn water into wine. Turning stones into bread would have been possible for Jesus. But Jesus refuses to satisfy his personal needs by his power. Instead, Jesus quotes from the Bible, Man does not live by bread alone, but on very word that comes from the mouth of God. In all three temptations, Jesus quotes from the book of Deuteronomy, where Moses reminded the people how the Lord took care of them in the wilderness. There they had no bread of their own, but had to depend upon the manna that the Lord sent. Moses said the Lord did this to teach them that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Jesus uses this as his response to the devil. Food is something that people need. But it’s not the only thing they need. In fact, it’s not the most important thing. The most important thing is depending upon God and to recognize he is the source of life. Upon that life-giving force, Jesus will rely. Just as the people of Israel learned to depend upon the Lord during the forty years in the wilderness, so Jesus will depend upon his heavenly father after forty days of fasting. He will not use his powers to undermine his dependence upon his Father. 3 In this first temptation, Jesus looks to the Word of God has his strength. But this leads the devil to his second avenue of attack. He too will focus on the Word of God and throw that back into the face of Jesus. The devil takes Jesus to the highest point of the temple. There was one corner of the temple that was right at the edge of a cliff. From its top it was 450 feet to valley floor below. Perhaps, it was here that the devil urged Jesus to jump. He quoted Psalm 91, assuring Jesus that the Lord will send his angels to protect him. Put your money where your mouth is. You quoted scripture before, well here is another verse. Depend upon it. Throw yourself down. What was the nature of this temptation? It’s a focus on the relationship between the Father and Son. At the baptism of Jesus, God had said: This is my Son, whom I love. Now the devil wants Jesus to test the love of God. Show me that God loves you. Psalm 91 promises that he will protect you. He won't let you get hurt when you jump. He will send his angels to rescue you. So jump. Prove that God loves you. But Jesus answered back with another quote from Deuteronomy: Do not put the Lord your God to the test. Is Jesus using one part of the Bible to oppose another? No, but scripture can be used to interpret other parts of scripture. Jesus here does not deny the message of Psalm 91. God will protect the righteous. But to test this truth in the manner the devil suggests would in reality to doubt it. If God has to prove his love through some arbitrary test, then God's love is being questioned and it would undermine the trusting relationship between the Father and the Son. But Jesus did not have to test that love. He knew it was there. He would take no action that would undermine his special relationship to the Father. Foiled in this second attempt, the devil tries one last time to tempt Jesus. From the temple, the devil takes him to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world with their splendor. All this I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me. Do we sense what a great temptation this would be? Jesus had come to earth to reclaim all the nations of the world back to God. He came to restore the entire the creation. And now the world is presented before Jesus on a golden platter. The devil would give up his control of the rebellious nations. There would be no need for the path of suffering. There would be no need for the cross. Jesus could fulfill his mission just like that. He could take an immense short cut, if only...if only he would bow down and worship the devil. Just for a short time. Could the devil have fulfilled his promise and given Jesus the world? Some say yes, because the devil is the prince of darkness and this sinful 4 world is under his domain. Others say no, because God remains the Creator and in control of this world. But it doesn't really matter how you answer that question. Because if Jesus, had bowed down, it wouldn't make any difference. If Jesus did what the devil wanted, he would have betrayed the One who sent him. As a result, Jesus resists and rejects the devil's offer. Jesus says, Away from me, Satan, For it is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve only him. Jesus was on an important mission--to save the world. But however crucial that mission was, it was not more important than obedience to God. Jesus could not take any short-cuts. He would have to take the long, hard road to the cross to reclaim the world. Jesus would not do anything that would undermine his obedience to his father. Three times the devil tempted Jesus but three times, Jesus stood firm. He held his ground against the devil. Through these temptations, Jesus was confirmed in the words God had made at his baptism, This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased. Jesus remained true to his calling as God's Son. He remained obedient. In this way, Jesus succeeded where the first Adam failed. Adam and Eve gave in to the first temptation of the devil and plunged the world into darkness. But the second Adam, despite adverse circumstances, was able to stand up to the devil. Jesus resisted the temptation to use his powers and abilities to satisfy his personal needs. He opposed the suggestion to test the love of God. He rejected the easy way of gaining his objective. Instead, he remained obedient to God, he stayed faithful to God, he held firm his devotion to God. Why did Jesus succeed? Because he relied upon the Word of God. That was his weapon against the devil. He knew the Scriptures and he knew how to apply it. But notice also that in every quote Jesus makes, there is a reference to God. God is the central focus for Jesus. It is this strength that enables Jesus to resist the devil. As a result, these events reveal the type of person Jesus is. They reveal the kind of mediator we have in Jesus. One who placed the Word of God ahead of his own personal needs. One who trusted in God's love without needing to test it. One who was willing to take the hard way instead of the short cut in achieving his goals. This is our savior. We look to him, therefore, in our times of temptations. For we too face the onslaught of the devil. In this sinful world, we are faced with a variety of temptations. Like the first one, there are temptations that put our physical cravings ahead of what we know the Word of God says. Like the second one, there are temptations in which we put the love of God to the test 5 needlessly. Like the third one, there are temptations to put other things ahead of God. But when temptations come we have in Jesus a model of resistance and a source of strength. Jesus is a model of resistance. Remember that Jesus resisted the devil by relying on the Scriptures and focusing on God. These are defenses we have as well. We are equipped with the Bible. This Word will help us identify the temptations that surround us. This Word will help us understand why we must remain faithful to God. This Word will help us say no to temptation. But the Word is not enough. We also need to focus on God. We need to remember that we are being faithful to our loving and caring God. God will give us the strength to endure, for he has given us also His Spirit. As a result, we can get us through the moment of crisis. In that way, Jesus is also a source of strength. He who resisted the devil will help us resist the devil when we come to him in pray: Lord, help me. But the comforting message is also this: that when at times, we fail and cave in to temptation, we know we have a Savior who knows what we went through. We have a mediator who will intercede for us to grant us forgiveness. As the writer of Hebrews says: we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Amen.
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