Lessons from the Temptation of Jesus
I have recently decided to read through the gospels again. I have been advised by many wise men and women of God that it is always a good thing to reacquaint oneself with the person of Jesus Christ, through these faithful accounts of His life.
Early in the gospel of Matthew, we see the account where Jesus is tempted by Satan during His time in the wilderness.
There are a few things I learnt from this passage that I would like to share with you.
1) Jesus knows how it feels to be tempted and tested
As Jesus is fully God, we know that He cannot sin. So why then, would Jesus be led into the wilderness specifically to be tempted (Matthew 4:1), if He would not give in? We find the answer in the book of Hebrews.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15 (NIV)
Jesus allowed Himself to be tempted during a time of immense physical weakness (he hadn’t eaten in over a month, can you imagine?), so that He could fully experience and fully understand the torture of temptations that plagues each of us when we are at our weakness moments. Jesus’ temptation makes Him an even better High Priest as He knows that pain we suffer and challenges we face, as He felt them all Himself.
2) Manipulation of the scriptures is not a new phenomenon
As Christians, we believe that the Bible forms the basis of our lives and should inform the choices that we make and be the foundation for the way we live. Therefore, it should follow that a follower of Christ should be able to point to the Word of God when asked why they do what they do. However, many of us have been in conversations with people who have quoted scriptures or referred to passages in the Bible to justify a particular choice they have made that is not God honouring or in accordance with the message of the Bible. This is not new. Throughout history, people have misused the Bible to support their own agenda and ideas, from slavery to preventing girls from accessing education, domestic abuse to racism.
The devil himself is the master of this evil and we see him use, even quote, the scripture to try and persuade Jesus to do his bidding.
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.’ ” Matthew 4: 5-6 (NIV)
This scripture from Psalm 91 is talking about God’s promise of protection and care for us and not a justification for reckless living or an invitation to test God, as if He needs to prove Himself as faithful. Do not assume that everyone who quotes the scriptures is using it correctly, always read the scriptures for yourself and ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Also, do not take verses of the Bible in isolation, but read them in context to better understand them and make a habit of studying the Bible for yourself!
3) The devil hopes that we don’t know who we are or what belongs to us
I don’t like to give the devil too much credit or airtime, but the last thing I saw in the passage highlighted just how cunning and deceptive he is. His first challenge to Jesus started with the phrase, “If you are the Son of God…” (v.3). This statement was meant to provoke a reaction, by questioning Jesus’ identify. The knee-jerk reaction would be for Jesus to rise to the challenge and prove that He was indeed God’s Son. However He didn’t. He didn’t need to do anything to prove that which was already true, that truth that He was confident of. Jesus knew who He was.
As this did not work, the devil then tried to offer Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour…” (v.8), another deceitful ploy. Now, Jesus had very humble beginnings. Apart from His very eventful birth – the wise men that came to visit him and the king who killed thousands of male children (from two years old and under), in order to try and get rid of him (!), His early life was fairly uneventful and very little of his childhood, adolescence and young adulthood is recorded in the Bible. At the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry, many people did not know who He was. He had already spent 30 years, living as an ordinary Hebrew man and would spend the next 3 years in a small area in the Middle East impacting many, but being rejected by many more.
Now, a temptation is only a good as its allure, which leads me to believe that Jesus would have wanted the kingdoms of the world, it was a deliberately tantalising offer! Of course He did, Jesus came for the world. However, he was not to get it this way. What’s more, Jesus is the rightful Lord of all the Earth and, in the fullness of time, every knee would bow and every tongue would confess this. In other words, the devil was offering Jesus something that was already His!
Imagine that a thief steal someone’s car, the owner has insurance and have installed a tracking device. Although it is frustrating and inconvenient, the owner knows that eventually, he will get the car back. Now the thief does not know this, but decides that he no longer wants this car, so drives it back to owner’s house and offers him his car back, for £300. Should the owner pay the money?
Even though £300 is relatively cheap for a car, the answer is of course…NO! It’s actually insulting that the thief would even offer him money. The car belongs to the owner, so he should not have to pay for what is rightfully his. And with tracking device and insurance, the car would be found and returned or replaced in a matter of time.
How much worse would it be if the thief asked the owner for something precious or even made an unspeakable request in return for the car?
It seems preposterous and wicked, but this is what the devil did to Jesus, asking that Jesus bow and worship him in exchange for the Kingdoms of the Earth. It’s despicable.
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” Matthew 4:10 (NIV)
The devil makes suggestions that try and influence us into making decisions contrary to God’s will, so that we sin in order to obtain that which God has secured for us already. It just might not be our time yet. This could be anything from a promotion, a relationship, our own home, a networking connection, a job opportunity. The enemy wants us to sin and compromise our standards to obtain that which God freely gives us – we must not fall for his schemes.
I am looking forward to learning more about Jesus through the gospels. If you are feeling dry, or just looking for somewhere to read in the Bible, why not join me? As you do, I pray that Christ reveals more of Himself to you through the pages of the Bible.