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THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS

Luke 4:1-4:13
Key Verse: 4:4

The temptation of Jesus is written in all synoptic gospel and it is written in detail in Matthew and Luke. And in Matthew it is recorded after Jesus’ baptism and in Luke, after Jesus’ genealogy as we studied last week. In the genealogy of Jesus Luke carefully and meaningfully wrote that Jesus is the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli….the son of Adam, the son of God.” As the representative of human race and as the Son of God Jesus would confront the devil after Adam’s failure. It would be an inevitable battle with the devil to serve God’s salvation purpose for mankind. In this study we will see the nature of the devil’s temptation and learn how to overcome it.

First, the temptation about bread (1-4). Look at verse 1. “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert.” Matthew 4:1 says, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” Luke explicitly wrote that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit, although he is the Son of God. Thus he was ready for anything and any battle. Then he was led by the Spirit in the desert. It was not Jesus’ volition. Yet, he was willing to submit to the leading of the Spirit.

Look at verse 2. “where forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.” Here we see that the devil’s temptation was not just one day’s temptation but many days’. And then when he ate nothing for forty days and was hungry at the end of them, the devil caught the chance and attacked him. Satan knows his opponents’ weak points. In verse 3 the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Here what the devil is saying can this: “You are the Son of God, so you have power; why don’t you use your power to make this stone become bread when you are in extreme hunger? And so you can prove that you are the Son of God.” There seems to be nothing wrong about using his power for the immediate and urgent need. And it would be an opportunity to show himself as the Son of God. However, certainly there is the devil’s tactic behind this. The devil is craftily trying to induce him not to depend on God for the provision, but just use his available power. Thus the devil wanted Jesus to be independent and so disconnected and separated from God. And we notice that the devil’s temptation was on a physical level.

Then how did Jesus respond to this? Look at verse 4. “Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man does not live on bread alone.”’” Jesus knew exactly what the devil was aiming and gave a clear counter punch. Obviously, in saying this Jesus would not use his power, even if he would become hungrier. “Man does not live on bread alone” has a fundamental and profound meaning. Man needs bread and bread problem is directed related to job problem and security problem. In our lives it is a very important and serious matter. No one can live without eating bread. To many students it is like a nightmare having no job after graduation. Worries in life occupy their hearts and they may say, “Then how can I marry and raise kids?” Those who have jobs worry about losing their jobs at any unexpected time. To most people their income does not seem to be enough for their living. And then they worry about retirement plan and buying burial site, safe and secure and nice and sunny. Life seems to be the continuation of worry and anxiety. Living in this materialistic and money-oriented society, many people become slaves to bread problem. And they are desperate to solve their bread problem by any means.

Let’s listen to Jesus again, “Man does not live on bread alone.” Of course, Jesus did not ignore bread problem in saying this. Yet, Jesus wants all to know that bread is not everything. When God made man, man is both body and spirit. Man is a physical being and at the same time a spiritual being. Man has a physical need and also a spiritual need. By appealing man’s physical need, the devil was putting aside the spiritual side of man. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus answered, “It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” It is true that man needs bread and also the every word of God. However, in Luke’s gospel, in view of Jesus saying, “Man does not live on bread alone,” we can think of the method of the bread provision. Most people think that they should solve the bread problem all by themselves and by all means. Then the solution would be physical and humanistic, pitiful and sometimes brutal to compete with and defeat others, trying to satisfy only the physical need. But if one depends on God for the provision of bread, the solution is spiritual and his both physical and spiritual need are satisfied. That is the background of Jesus’ answer. Jesus quoted the words from Deuteronomy 8:3. At that time Moses reminded the Israelites of how God fed them in the desert when there was no bread at all. God supplied them with manna bread, wonder bread, from heaven every day for forty years. Thus God disciplined them to depend on God for his provision. Even if we eat the same bread, whether it is God’s provision or my own makes a fundamental difference. It is whether I live by faith or by my own effort. It is whether living on a spiritual level or physical human level. Man can never be satisfied by living on a physical level. Man’s spiritual hunger is greater than man’s spiritual hunger: man’s hunger for God is greater than man’s hunger for bread.

God wants us to know that he is our Father heaven. The heavenly Father cares for his children in this world. This is a big teaching of the Bible. Jesus said to his disciples, “…do not worry about life, what you will eat…Life is more than food,” and then he said, “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” (Lk 12:23-24). In MSG, “Look at the ravens, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, carefree in the care of God. And you count far more.” And then Jesus promises, “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (12:31). In BBE, “But let your chief care be for his kingdom, and these other things will be given to you in addition.” We can defeat the devil’s attack of bread problem by believing God’s words of promise. And through our bread problem we can be more connected to God in close relationship with him as his children.

Second, the temptation of worldly power and glory (5-8). Look at verses 5-7. “The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendour, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.’” The power and glory of the world have been a great temptation to all people of all times. But how could it be a temptation to Jesus? Let’s think about it. The devil knew that Jesus is the Son of God and also the son of man. Jesus is both divine and human. The devil tried to appeal to Jesus’ human nature. Probably the devil thought that if Jesus had worldly power and glory, it would be easier for him to draw people to himself. This was most Jews’ idea and expectation for the Messiah. They thought that the Messiah should have the power and glory of the world. We know that even to Jesus’ disciples the worldly and humanistic concept of the Messiah was very strong. In truth, the way of the death on the cross was a hard way even to Jesus. Jesus said in Luke 12:50, “…I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” And Luke described Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives at the very night right before his crucifixion in this: “…he knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done…And being anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (22:42-44). So when the devil showed Jesus in an instant all the kingdoms of the world and promised to give him all their authority and splendour with just one condition of worshipping him, it could be a temptation to Jesus at a moment. Here now the devil, not only tried to disconnect Jesus from God but make Jesus a subject to him.

Throughout generations, so many people have yielded to this temptation. That has been the way for the devil to lead the whole world astray as it is written in Revelation 12:9. Here worshipping the devil is “not following the way of the truth in obedience to the will of God.” We know that in this temptation human history has been the history of blood-shedding and unspeakable misery. Sadly, even many churches fell into this temptation. At that time Rome had the authority and glory of the world, and she persecuted God’s people mercilessly. The empire seemed to last forever. But in Revelation written in around 95-96 AD, her doom was predicted in the name of Babylon: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!...For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries…Woe! Woe, O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come!...In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!...In one hour she has been brought to ruin!” (Rev 18:2-19). History attests the truthfulness of this prediction and this will be truth at the end of the age.

The devil said, “…for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to…” But this is not true. The Bible depicts the devil as the prince of this world. Yet, the devil is still in God’s control. It is God who sets up kings and deposes them (Da 2:21). When God’s grace came upon Mary, she could know this God and said, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (Lk 1:52). We remember Daniel. When he made a decision in his young age to live a pure life before God, not defiling himself with the royal food and wine, God made him a preeminent person in kingdoms of Babylon and Medes and let him serve the kings in the honour of God for his purpose. God made Esther queen in the Persian kingdom. She came to know why God made her the queen and through her decision of faith the Jewish race could be preserved. Daniel and Esther did not seek for worldly power and glory. When they sought God and God’s will, God put them in the positions for his purpose. God let Isaiah cry out in Isaiah 40:6-7, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall…” 1 John 2 says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world…The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”

At the temptation of the authority and splendour of the world, Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” Here, “worship God” means “love God solely.” When Jesus loved God and served his will in obedience to him, God made him King of kings. We need to make a decision to worship God and follow his narrow way of truth rather than worship Satan and follow the broad way of deception. This is the way of life and true victory and glory in God’s blessing.

Third, the temptation about testing God (9-13). Look at verses 9-11. “The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “He will commands his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”’” What kind of temptation is it? Why did the devil lead Jesus to Jerusalem? At that time Jerusalem was the centre of the lives of the Israelites and there was the temple of God in the city. We can imagine that there were many people in the temple courts and if Jesus would throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple and the angles catch him, what a sensation it would be! Then seeing this miraculous performance, many people would follow him. However, when we read what the devil said carefully, the point of the temptation seems to be this: “if you are the Son of God, you should have at least this much trust in God based on the Scriptures; so how don’t you try it by throwing your body from here and prove your trust in God the Father.” What a subtle temptation! The devil even quoted the words of Scriptures in Psalm 91:11,12. It is likely that in Luke’s gospel the first temptation is related to physical desire and pride, the second, to desire for the world, and this third one is more on a spiritual level.

We are remind of Genesis chapter. When the devil wanted to tempt Eve, he quoted the words of God and made use of it, twisting it for his purpose. By saying, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” Satan attempted to plant distrust and doubt in her heart concerning God’s love. Since the devil talked about the word of God, Eve began the conversation and finally she was pierced by Satan’s arrow of doubt and yielded to the devil’s temptation. Then she let Adam fall, which was the devil’s aim. Here also, the devil did not make a full correct quotation. Psalm 91:11-12 says, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” The quotation was very similar, but omitted the words “in all your ways” which imply God’s absolute protection. The devil switched it with his own subtle word, “carefully.” In other translations there is no the word, “carefully” (NASB, ESV, NLT). Most seriously, the devil made a wrong application. The application was out of the context. The whole Psalm 91 is about God’s absolute protection and deliverance from all harms for those who love him, while he punishes the wicked. God never meant, “Throw yourself from the highest place of the temple, and I will protect you.” “Throw yourself from here” was the devil’s own words of command. Those who read Psalm 91 with a sound and sober mind cannot think of such a weird thing. Why would bring an unnecessary danger while there are so many troubles in life?

For the last more than 2000 years, the Bible has been attacked by various kinds of people and ideas. Yet it withstood all of them, standing any test. However, in our times the attack seems to be more prevailing in the name of science, humanism and relativism, which the devil uses for his crafty purpose, that is, to plant distrust and doubt in people’s minds regarding God’s love and his word. Unless we know the words of God correctly, it is very easy to be tempted and yield to the devil’s temptation. This can be the reason Luke wrote in the introduction of this gospel, “so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” We should know the certainty of the Scriptures.

Jesus keenly knew the devil’s intrigue and answered, “It says, ‘Do not put the Lord our God to the test.’” No one should put God and his word to the test.

Verse 13 says, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” The author Luke knew the schemes of the devil in the spiritual realm very well and wrote this. The devil is the most cunning unyielding opportunist.

Here we should learn how to overcome the devil’s temptations from Jesus. As we studied in Luke, Jesus was filled with wisdom in his childhood (2:40). When he went to Jerusalem at the age of 12, everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. Since then, he still grew in wisdom (2:52). And at the beginning of this chapter, Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding (Isa 11:2). Who could match Jesus’ wisdom? But Jesus did not fight the devil with his own wisdom. He fought the battle with the words of the Scriptures and defeated the devil. He humbly and absolutely depended on the written words of the Scriptures. The words Jesus quoted were from Deuteronomy 6 and 8, the words given to the Israelites in the wilderness by Moses. Jesus used the word of God as his unique weapon. Jesus trusted the word of God as the absolute truth. We only thank God for his Son Jesus who overcame the temptation of the devil and opened the way for us to win the victory over the devil’s temptations.

Peter said in 1 Peter 5:8, “…Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” God wants us to absolutely rely on his words so as to defeat the devil at each time following our Lord Jesus’ example. May we depend on him for our needs, not on our human method, and love God rather than the world, and absolutely trust in God in all our ways.

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