10 November 2008

The Three Temptations

After Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit led him into the desert to be tested by the devil. He spent 40 days and nights out in the wilderness, and fasted the entire time. Fasting was, and still is, a customary religious practice, and Jesus did this to honor to God. When the days of fasting were over, Satan went to work on Jesus because he figured he’d be vulnerable because of his extreme hunger.

I can hear the conversation now, with Satan saying something like “You must be pretty hungry by now. Why don’t you turn that stone into a loaf of bread? If you’re really the Son of God, then you have the power to do it. Go ahead, lemme see you do it!”

“Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: ‘It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God's mouth’." (Matthew 4:4 The Message).

In his second attempt to get Jesus to sin, Satan got Jesus to go back to Jerusalem with him. They went to the temple and perched themselves up on the pinnacle, the highest point of the temple. The temple was huge; it was several stories tall; at “first floor” level, there was a retaining wall at that end. The drop to the ground below was maybe 300 feet or so. Satan dared Jesus to jump. Satan fired off a few lines of scripture at Jesus: “For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.” (Psalm 91:11-12 NLT).

“Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: ‘Don't you dare test the Lord your God’." (Matthew 4:7 The Message)

Jesus, two; Satan, zero!

Satan took a different approach with his third attempt. Instead of daring him to do something, this time he offer Jesus a deal. From atop of a huge mountain, he showed Jesus a glimpse of the world and all it’s kingdoms. He goes “I have the power to give this all to you. It could all be yours. As far as your eye can see and beyond. All yours. You only have to fulfill one request, and that is to bow down to me and worship me.”

Jesus' reply was short and to the point. ‘Beat it, Satan!’ He again quoted from Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness’." Afterwards, Satan left him alone, for a while.

Imagine how hungry Jesus must have been from fasting all that time. He could have easily turned the stones into loaves of bread. Instead, Jesus relied on his Father to take care of him rather than using his own powers to perform a miracle for himself. He knew that the angels would catch him in the event that he’d have fallen off the cliff.

Satan’s third offer could have spared Jesus of a lot of pain and suffering. He could have avoided the heartache of Peter’s denial of him in the courtyard and Judas’ selling him off to the officials for 30 pieces of silver; the mockery and insults of the soldiers; the brutal treatment at the order of Pilate; and the unimaginably excruciating pain from being nailed up on the cross, set there between two criminals, to die in a most barbaric way.

Jesus could have avoided all of that. All of the pain, the humiliation, the torture, the fear. He wouldn’t have had to cry out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Yes, he had the opportunity right then and there, take Satan up on his offer, but he didn’t. He was obedient to his Father. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. He knew he had the power over Satan. He knew the prophecies had to be fulfilled. He knew he had his place at the right hand of his Father. He knew what he had to do.

(Matthew 4:1-11; The Message and New Living Translation)

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