“Tempted” (Luke 4:1-13)

First Sunday in Lent
March 6, 2022

“Tempted” (Luke 4:1-13)

“Tempted”: Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. But was the problem so much in what he was being tempted with or more in the timing of the temptations? Let’s find out. And as we do, you will see a faithful Savior, who is just the right one for you.

Jesus has just been baptized in the Jordan River. At his baptism, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus, and the Father’s voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Now Jesus is about to start his public ministry. But first he is led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days to be tempted by the devil.

Jesus is tempted by the devil in a wilderness. Adam and Eve were tempted by the devil in a garden. They failed. Man fell into sin. And this sinful nature has been passed down from generation to generation, down to you and me today. And with sin, death fell upon the human race. Can this one representative man, Jesus, the second Adam–can he succeed where all the rest of us have failed? If death and the devil are to be defeated, Jesus must overcome the temptations that you and I so often surrender to.

Jesus was tempted by the devil for forty days. Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years. They too failed. They groused and grumbled. The children of Israel did not overcome temptation. And many of them fell in the wilderness as a result. Now here is Jesus, in a way, Israel reduced to one. Will he overcome where Israel failed? If there’s going to be a new people of God, Jesus must lead the way.

So Jesus goes out into the wilderness to meet the devil’s temptations head on. But notice what sort of temptations he is tempted with. Are these things really so bad in themselves?

Take the first temptation, for example. Jesus had eaten nothing during the forty days, so naturally he was hungry. Thus the devil comes with the first temptation: “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” A food temptation had worked with Adam and Eve: They liked the look of the fruit on the tree. A food temptation had worked with ancient Israel: They were always grumbling about the manna menu. So the devil figures he’ll try it again. “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

Now think about it. Is there anything inherently wrong with Jesus turning a stone into bread? Jesus is the Son of God, after all. The Father had just said that at Jesus’ baptism: “You are my beloved Son.” And what sort of father, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? And it’s not like Jesus couldn’t do this thing. As the Son of God, he was there in the beginning, active in the creation of the heavens and the earth. He is the one “by whom all things were made,” including all the stones in the wilderness and the wheat in the field. It would be no problem for Jesus to make bread out of a stone. No big deal.

In fact, Jesus will do something like that later in his ministry, on an even more spectacular level. He will feed 5,000 from just five loaves and two fish, with twelve baskets left over. Here it’s just a matter of turning one little stone into bread. What’s the problem?

And Jesus is so hungry. Doesn’t he deserve to get something to eat? What would be the harm in that? Who is more entitled to have, not just a piece of bread, but an entire feast held in his honor? And Christ will have a great heavenly banquet, the marriage feast of the Lamb in his kingdom, which has no end. Jesus is worthy of feasting not fasting. So why begrudge him some food here after forty days of going without? What would be so wrong? “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

But Jesus has more important things on his mind than filling his belly. Jesus answers the devil, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” The bread can wait for another time. Right now, Jesus is on a mission from God. Here at the outset of his ministry, Jesus denies his own desires in order to do the will of his Father. That’s what he’ll need to do at the conclusion of his ministry, when he says, “Not my will but thine be done.” Completing this fast will be a good preparation for that. So Jesus turns away this first temptation.

Now a second temptation: “And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 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. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’”

Of course, worshiping the devil at any time would be wrong in and of itself. But for Jesus to have all the kingdoms of this world, all this authority and their glory–what would be wrong with that? Isn’t Jesus entitled? He is the Son of God. Why not receive all that glory? The angel Gabriel had said about Jesus: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And later on, Jesus himself will say, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” All authority. So what’s wrong with Jesus claiming that power and glory now?

But this is not the time. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, not as the world reckons power or glory. And Jesus’ kingdom, his authority and glory, will not be won by taking shortcuts. His kingdom will mean a crown of thorns and a sign on a cross that says, “The King of the Jews.” So Jesus answers the devil, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” Second temptation, overcome.

Now the third. The devil takes Jesus to Jerusalem. They go up and stand on the pinnacle of the temple. The devil says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Again with the “If you are the Son of God.” But it’s not like the devil is denying that Jesus is the Son of God. No, it’s more like, “Since you are the Son of God, do something to prove it.” You deserve God’s protection and his guardian angels. Surely God would not let you, his beloved Son, see any harm! Go ahead, Jesus, take a leap of faith! Take God up on his promises! “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here.”

But the devil’s temptation–to take a shortcut, to take the easy way out–will not work with Jesus. He replies, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And the devil’s line will not work later, either. When Jesus starts talking about going to Jerusalem to suffer and be killed, Peter objects, “No, no, Lord, that should never happen to you.” But Jesus recognizes this sort of temptation and rebukes Peter accordingly: “Get behind me, Satan!” Likewise, the mockers at the cross will echo the devil’s words when they say, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” But at that time also, Jesus will resist the temptation to take the easy way out.

It’s all about the timing. There will come a time when the Father does vindicate his Son, by raising him from the dead. But that time is not yet. There will come a time when Jesus does receive an everlasting kingdom and all authority and glory. But that time is not yet. There will come a time for joyous feasting at the great heavenly banquet. But that time has not yet come. First, Jesus has a job to do. And he will stick to the task. No shortcuts. No easy way out. No using his divine power to serve himself. “For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” That is what Jesus is all about. And it will mean a journey to Jerusalem and the way of the cross. Jesus now is setting out on that journey. And he will not be taken off course.

And this is good news for you, my friends. For you have a Savior who has overcome all the temptations of the devil. Jesus has defeated your foe for you. You and I have yielded to temptation and sinned many times. We fall for the devil’s lies: “You deserve it. You should get what you want. Have it now.” Yes, we are weak, but Jesus is strong. He stays true to the course. In Christ, you have a Savior who is completely faithful, utterly reliable, strong to save, totally committed to your salvation. That’s why he turns down the bread and the glory and the protection. He will not be deterred from going to the cross for you.

For Jesus, glory is coming, but it will come through suffering. Jesus will suffer and die for the sins of the world, for your sins and mine. And that is his greatest glory. The glory comes through the cross. “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Yes, it was necessary, and Jesus knows this. From the temptation in the wilderness to the cross in Jerusalem, Jesus knows what his mission is.

The things Jesus was tempted with–sustenance, all authority, vindication by his Father–these were not inherently wrong for him to receive. But it was a matter of the timing. Jesus knew what time it was. It was time to forego the glory, in order to go to the cross. And because he did, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Published in: on March 4, 2022 at 1:27 pm  Leave a Comment  
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