Tempting the Son of God Matthew 4:1-11
Introduction: Temptation is Part of Life
I got this story from an unknown source that tells about a particular type of monkey in Africa. It goes like this:
Men who trap animals in Africa for zoos in America say that one of the hardest animals to catch is the ringtailed monkey. For the Zulus of that continent, however, it's simple. They've been catching this agile little animal with ease for years. The method the Zulus use is based on knowledge of the animal. Their trap is nothing more than a melon growing on a vine. The seeds of this melon are a favorite of the monkey. Knowing this, the Zulus simply cut a hole in the melon, just large enough for the monkey to insert his hand to reach the seeds inside. The monkey will stick his hand in, grab as many seeds as he can, then start to withdraw it. This he cannot do. His fist is now larger than the hole. The monkey will pull and tug, screech and fight the melon for hours. But he can't get free of the trap unless he gives up the seeds, which he refuses to do. Meanwhile, the Zulus sneak up and nab him.
Temptation to sin is like that. The thing that entices us looks so good and makes us want it. And we grab onto that thing, refusing to let it go. However, what we don't realize is that the sin that looks so good will enslave us and can actually destroy our lives, our families, our reputations and our very souls in the end.
It was pastor and theologian John Piper who said:
"Sin gets its power by persuading me to believe that I will be more happy if I follow it. The power of all temptation is the prospect that it will make me happier."
There is no denying that sin can be pleasurable. In speaking of the faith of Moses, the writer of Hebrews tells us that:
"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season." (11:24-25).
The key word here is 'season'. No matter how it makes you feel at first, sin will always lead to destruction eventually. We may go on for years or decades thinking that what we are doing isn't harming us or those around us. However, its consequences cannot be avoided. In Galatians 6:7 Paul tells us:
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
But though we cannot avoid the negative consequences that come from falling into sin, we can avoid sinning in the first place. The common mistake of people is that temptation itself is sin. It is not. In fact, even the Son of God, while He was on this earth, was tempted by Satan to sin. The Devil was trying to keep the Lord from fulfilling His mission on the earth to die to save us as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. But Jesus didn't give in to that temptation and never sinned.
Though we are not God, as He was, Jesus, in his humanity, did some of the same things that we can do today in order to keep temptations from overtaking us, leading to sin that wrecks our lives and destroys our testimonies for the Lord.
I. The Reason for Jesus' Temptation
The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness can be found in 3 of the four Gospels. Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12,13 and Luke 4:1-13. It took place right after John the Baptist baptized our Lord in the Jordon River and He was Supernaturally identified by God the Father to be His Son, the Messiah. Jesus came out of the water, Heaven opened and He saw the Spirit of God descend on Him like a dove. And a voice from Heaven declared:
“This is my Son, whom I love; I am very pleased with him.” (Matthew 3:17).
Immediately after this event, Jesus was lead by the Spirit of God into the wilderness in order to be tempted by the devil. He spent 40 days in fasting and seclusion before Satan came to Him, when most people would be at their most vulnerable position. Jesus was extremely hungry and tired at the time that He encountered the adversary.
Of course, Jesus' being God, is not tempted by sin. James 1:13 clearly tells us that:
"When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone."
However, though internally our Lord cannot be tempted by sin, it can be offered to Him in His humanity like it often is to all of humanity. Jesus was and is God in the flesh. And He demonstrated in his humanness that He was capable of living a perfect, sinless life so that He could die as our substitute on the cross. He who had no sin, was later to become sin for all of us (II Corinthians 5:21).
Christ flawlessly endured every type of temptation that men and women go through in this life. None of us can say that no one knows what we're going through, or even that the devil made me do it. Jesus knows what it's like to be directly assaulted by Satan and to be given the option by him to side-step God's plan of suffering and death for Him prior to His glorification. Yet Jesus refused to listen to Satan's enticements.
The book of Hebrews tells us:
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).
Paul in Philippians tells us that Jesus stripped Himself of the privileges that He had in heaven and took the form of, or veiled Himself as, a lowly servant (Philippians 2:7). He who was worshipped in Heaven knew what it was like to be despised and rejected of men and tempted by the Devil. And He also felt the weakness of human flesh. He was human in every way except for sin.
So Jesus went into that desert to demonstrate His perfect, sinless humanity and to prepare for the ministry the Father sent Him to earth to accomplish. That mission was to rescue us from sin. However, in doing so, He also gave all of us an example of how we can resist temptation in our own life.
II. The 3 Temptations
It is interesting that Jesus' being the God of the universe, could have ordered Satan away and he would have had to go. But instead, He allowed the god of this world to entice Him and in doing this, showed us all how we can defeat the Devil's temptations in our lives using two things. First, the power of the Holy Spirit. and Second, the Word of God. Jesus was filled with the Spirit and He knew Scripture backwards and forwards.
What many people don't realize is that Satan knows God's Word too! And he distorts it slightly in order to deceive. He did it in the Garden of Eden with Eve and he did it with our Lord.
Satan also uses human vulnerabilities against them. The Apostle John calls the three areas that the world craves the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life in I John 2:16.
Satan began by appealing to Jesus' flesh. He hadn't eaten in 40 days and was famished. So the Devil said to Him:
"If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." (4:3).
It would have been so easy for Jesus to do this. He created a whole universe out of nothing. But that would have been giving in to the temptation to have his own needs met apart from God. It was the enticement of materialism while totally forgetting about the spiritual aspects of life. Materialism looks for food, wealth, material goods and pleasure to satisfy. But, as those who have all of these things realize eventually, they don't bring lasting satisfaction. And they certainly don't bring about happiness in the life to come.
Each answer that Jesus' gave Satan came out of the book of Deuteronomy. For this temptation, he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 which states:
"Man shall not live by bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."
The next temptation was one that appealed to Jesus' emotions and a desire to have a visual display that God was truly His Father and loved Christ enough to keep Him from harm. Satan took the Lord to the pinnacle of the temple. This was apparently the magnificent southern wing of this great building constructed by Herod the Great, known as the royal portico. Standing on the roof here would have been a dizzying height overlooking the Kidron Valley. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, one who stood there would be "giddy while his sight could not reach to such an immense depth." It was a drop of nearly 450 feet.
It is at this point that Jesus is enticed to leap from the temple. Satan quotes Psalm 91:11,12 and twisting it saying:
"If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, He will command His angels concerning you; and On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone."
Jesus again comes back with an answer from Deuteronomy 6:16. He told the tempter:
"It is written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test."
Jesus here would be jumping off the Temple just to see if the Father truly would do what He said he'd do. It would show a lack of faith in Him and also would be a way to get all men to recognize that He was truly the Messiah in a way that God had not ordained. They'd flock to the performer of this miraculous deed, thus leading to the commencement of the Kingdom without the cross. However, Jesus would have none of this nonsense.
In the third and final temptation, Satan totally comes out and says what He wants from all of this. He has always wanted to be as god and have people worship him instead of the true Sovereign of the universe. And Jesus is being tempted with the pride of having the kingdoms of the world at His feet.
Satan takes Him to a very high mountain and shows Him all of those kingdoms in their complete glory and says to Him:
"All these things I will give you if you fall down and worship me!"
Once again the Lord quotes the Scriptures (Deuteronomy 6:13 and I Samuel 7:3). Christ tells the evil tempter:
"Go Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only!"
Finally, after successfully overcoming all that the Devil could throw at Him, Jesus stood strong and Satan left our Lord- at least for a while. It was then that the angels came and ministered to Jesus (Matthew 4:11). The evil one was no match for the power of the Spirit and an intimate knowledge of the Word of Almighty God!
A story in the Denver Post by Barry McGee might help summarize what we can learn from the biblical account of Jesus' facing temptation. It tells us that:
"Like many sheep ranchers in the West, Lexy Fowler has tried just about everything to stop crafty coyotes from killing her sheep. She has used odor sprays, electric fences, and 'scare-coyotes.' She has slept with her lambs during the summer and has placed battery-operated radios near them. She has corralled them at night, herded them at day. But the southern Montana rancher has lost scores of lambs--fifty last year alone. "Then she discovered the llama--the aggressive, funny-looking, afraid-of-nothing llama...'Llamas don't appear to be afraid of anything,' she said. 'When they see something, they put their head up and walk straight toward it. That is aggressive behavior as far as the coyote is concerned, and they won't have anything to do with that... Coyotes are opportunists, and llamas take that opportunity away.'"
Apparently llamas know the truth of what James writes: "Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you" (4:7). The moment we sense his attack through temptation is the moment we should face it and deal with it for what it is
Jesus faced His attacker head on and defeated him just like all of us can. All Christians have the Holy Spirit living in us to give us God's power and we have the Word of God to hide in our hearts for when we need it. There is a reason it is called the Sword of the Spirit. It is an offensive weapon that will defeat the powers of darkness.
No one is exempt from being enticed to sin. But we are not defenseless. Paul tells us that:
"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."
None of us is able to face Satan and win on our own. He is much too strong for us. However:
"Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world!" (I John 4:4).
One day in eternity, Satan will be taken out of the way, and we will receive new bodies that no longer are capable of being tempted to sin. Until then, let us rely on our God who has never lost a battle and never will. He is the One who is for us. If that is true, it matters little who is against us. Let us thank God who gives us the victory over temptation, through our Lord Jesus Christ!
© 2020 Jeff Shirley