Jesus and the Temptations – Matthew 4:1-11
By Pastor Lee Hemen
February 3, 2019
Sin is nothing to sing about and yet the world today takes a pretty casual view of it. I believe this is because many folks have swallowed the lies and deception of Satan. They either think that they were wrongly held accountable for the ungodly choices they made and they want the freedom to do whatever they want whenever they want or there are those who think that evil, sin, and the Devil do not exist. And they incorrectly think that if they simply ignore it or relegate it to “myth” status then it isn’t true. They’ve become too sophisticated and scientific to believe in “fairy tales”. Sadly, evil, sin, and the Devil do indeed exist and are very real and is nothing to sing about.
Mankind does not have the capability to be good on its own. We are sinners by nature and choice. From the first disobedient behavior and decision by Adam and Eve to the present day predicament the world finds itself today we find the war between good and evil, Satan’s handiwork, and mankind’s sin condition. In today’s verses we find Jesus and the temptations he faced; let’s learn what it means for us today and why…
How you live is dictated by what you believe. If you have a low opinion of yourself your life will reflect that attitude. Therefore if you think that God or the Devil doesn’t exist, your life will reflect that as well. Here we discover that…
I. Jesus’ character is tested! (Vv. 1-4)
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
1. Matthew tells us that immediately after his baptism by John “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” In this verse we discover some important facts. Matthew was told that Jesus the Messiah was “led by the Spirit” of God “into the desert” or wilderness where he would not find food or water “to be tempted by the devil”. The entire Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were involved in the spiritual maturation of Jesus! And here it involved the physical as well! God needed the Messiah to focus on the days and years ahead and not on the moment. Jesus would face other trials and tests in his ministry and he needed to realize that God was involved in every aspect. As a man Jesus would be tempted and here he is “tempted by the devil”. It shows us that God knows there is in fact a devil, a “diabolos” (slanderer, accuser) who does indeed try to tempt mankind. We discover this all the way back in Genesis with Eve, later in Job where he had to ask the permission of God to tempt Job, and also in the life of Peter. Evidently God had given the devil permission to tempt the Son, the Messiah. If Jesus was going to understand those he came to save he had to experience what we do every day. Jesus went into the wilderness to focus spiritually on the task ahead of him and “After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” Satan always tempts us where we are weakest and for Jesus it was his hunger. We are told that “The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.’” These tests demonstrate for us the character of Jesus. Yes he was divine and would not sin but he could choose to and this fact heightened the tests themselves. Jesus had to endure to the end of the test to show and display for us his character and willingness to suffer just as we do. Notice his response: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” He does not rebuke the devil but rather uses God’s truth instead. Jesus’ character was tested!
EXAMPLE: Jesus could very well have produced the sustenance he needed to feed himself but he had deliberately gone into the wilderness for a purpose. He was following God’s direction. In life we often lose our focus and concentrate on what we need right now instead of the bigger picture. Spiritual patience is not mankind’s strong suit. God knows what we need; he knows the number of the hairs on our heads and he knows when one of his creatures falls to the ground. We do not always need bread but we do need to endure and realize that life is more than simple sustenance. And here in Matthew’s gospel we discover that Jesus’ character is tempted!
Mankind focuses on the moment thinking that whatever is occurring to them in the here and now is all that matters forgetting that future generations could suffer from their ungodly choices. God not only meets our human needs of food…
II. Jesus’ reputation is tested! (Vv. 5-7)
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
1. Satan was unable to get Jesus to dishonor his character so he goes for what most humans will fall for, how others see them! Self-worth or self-esteem is a powerful thing. Way too many people think their value comes from how others see them. And so Satan being who he is attacks Jesus in another vulnerable spot. This mistake teaches us that the devil is not all powerful as some would have you believe and he does not know everything. Here he misjudges Jesus. “Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple” which was the highest point of the most holy building in all of Israel. It is here he tries to tempt the Son of God by questioning who he really is: “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down.” Satan knew that Jesus could not be hurt if he did so. What he was trying to do was to get Jesus, in his humanity, to question who he truly was — God. The Israelites thought that the Messiah would suddenly come down from heaven and appear. Basically he was challenging Jesus by saying “If you are the Messiah show the people by a great big display!” Satan continues, “For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” However, Jesus is quite comfortable in knowing exactly who he is and what he is supposed to do. Although tempted and tried several times during his ministry we never see him falter from knowing his self-worth. This is also important for our lives in Christ. He views us as his children and know that “all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13 NIV)” Paul reminds us that “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” and that we are “clothed” in him (Galatians 3:26-27 NIV)! Our confidence, our self-worth, is in Jesus and his self-worth is in who he is! This is why “Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”” If Jesus is comfortable in who he is we can be quite secure in who we are in him! We discover that Jesus’ reputation is tested!
EXAMPLE: Andy Grammer sang “It’s Good to be Alive” a few years back. The song focuses totally on the moment of how he “feels good to be alive right about now”. Don’t get me wrong I like the beat, the song, but not a few of the words. It expresses the fact that people live in the here and now. Whatever is occurring to them in the moment means either God loves them or not or that their lives matter or not. Our lives are so much more than momentary pleasures or hurt. If we know Jesus we know the Creator of the Universe! It is he that loved us so much he died for us and rose again! Jesus’ temptation teaches us that God keeps us secure in him. We discover that Jesus’ reputation is tested!
Jesus is exactly who he said he is. He is the Son of God. He is God. And Satan knew this because Jesus had created all things and including him from the very beginning (John 1:1-3)! In the very last temptation we see that…
III. Jesus’ authority is tested! (Vv. 8-11)
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
1. Satan is a deceiver and accuser but he also delusional because his own character is flawed and disobedient. And unlike us he can never have a personal relationship with God; he wasn’t created to. Having been created powerful he thought he could be like God but he can never be. And so he thinks he can give to Jesus what already Jesus has! “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.” The kingdoms of the world are not Satan’s to “give”. While he may influence potentates and people to sin he is not the owner of the earth nor is he its ruler. A delusional person lives in their delusion unless they are cured and the devil lives in his delusion. He actually thought he could influence Jesus with personal power. While humans are often dazzled by wealth, power, or personality, God is not. “All this I will give you,” the devil whispers, “if you will bow down and worship me.” That would never happen but Satan actually thinks that because Jesus has willingly become a human being he can tempt him just like he does other humans! Paul teaches us that Satan is “The god of this age (who) has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4 NIV) – meaning Jesus is God! And we learn that those who do not know Jesus are “under the control of the evil one. (1 John 5:19 NIV)” However, Jesus taught that “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. (John 12:31 NIV)” In fact Jesus taught that Satan and demons are subject to believers because “Satan (has fallen) like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18 NIV) because of who Jesus is and what he has done! Satan has no authority to give away that which he does not own and he has no authority in the life of those who follow Jesus! Jesus therefore rebukes him by bluntly telling him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” The inference here is not only should God be worshiped only but Satan should be worshiping the One he is trying to tempt! It is then that “the devil left him, and angels came and attended” Jesus! Jesus’ authority is tested!
EXAMPLE: The sacred has been completely violated in our society today. From how we view sexuality, ungodly behavior, adultery, fornication, life itself has influenced how we view God! Recently both Virginia and New York have passed laws that allow babies to be murdered and disposed of even after birth! You have morally corrupt and spiritually ignorant people cheering these laws! Sadly, they are not the only states that permit this but they are the latest to allow this abhorrent evil. When you debase morality and humanity it is easy to think that God does not exist or that he does not care! It cheapens and debases the very nature of who God is and life itself. This is exactly what the devil was trying to do here in tempting Jesus. Jesus’ authority is tested!
Jesus’ character is tested! Jesus’ reputation is tested! Jesus’ authority is tested!
This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.