“The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’[b]” 5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’[c]” 9 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. 10 For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[d]” 12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[e]” 13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” Luke 4.3-13
It’s no secret that the devil tempted Jesus. These three temptations are well beyond famous. Countless books have been written, art has been commissioned, and sermons have been preached on this subject. I’d wager a good sum that just about every preacher in the world has preached on them, giving a slightly different twist.
Each temptation is a test. A test against God and a test against his own identity. In two of temptations the devil says, “IF you are the Son of God,” (my emphasis added.) “If you are the Son of God,” the devils tempts, “then prove it! Turn stone into bread, accept the riches of what the world can offer, throw yourself off the temple and let God catch you.“ In all three of the temptations Jesus quotes Scripture as his answer, and in one, the devil misquotes the Bible in order to trip up Jesus. It doesn’t work.
Jesus doesn’t need the futile offerings the devil presents. It’s like me trying to tempt Bill Gates with a new computer. Come on. How silly? Or Lebron James with a prime time match up. It’s what he does. What the devil was offering Jesus was nothing beyond what was rightfully his. The temptation was to take a short cut to that inheritance, an alternate route to his reward.
But the temptation wouldn’t have been one if it had not been tempting. It had to have some merit, some teeth to it. Even the writer of Hebrews tells us in 4:15, “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.”
Tempted in EVERY way (again my emphasis), yet without sin. So the three desert temptations weren’t just cheap tricks, they cut to the core of who he was, to confirm his identity, his power and the love of his Father. But, as we know, Jesus did not sin.
I wish it was as easy for humanity to resist temptation. But just as the devil knew Jesus’ potential areas of weakness, he knows our as well. How? We reveal it, we show him, we give in. But we don’t have to — we can be filled with the Holy Spirit, turn from sin, and look to Jesus our High Priest, who is able to empathize with us and run from sin.
How do we resist the devil? We cling to God’s Word. We learn it, memorize it, believe it. Also, we spend time in the Father’s presence. Taking time each day to be immersed in his Spirit and in the source of all our strength.
How easy it is in 2021 to think our world has never been worse off, to fall into a sense of hopelessness and believe we have no means to redemption? But again, that’s the devil speaking! For we have a God who overcame sin and death, who bled so we wouldn’t have to, and who died and rose again so we might have abundant life today and eternal life to come.
Why not trust in the One who can turn your life around?
“O Lord God, you are good. I praise you, I love you, I thank you. Your love is good and your Church will not only endure but thrive. Come now, Holy Spirit, free your people by your Holy Spirit. Help us find solace in your Word rather than in this world. I praise you God and I love you. I need you and confess my sins to you. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen