David Blaine in his glass box suspended over the thames eating no food cut off from everyone else. 44 days. He said that it was modelled on Jesus’ 40 day fast in the wilderness fasting. Does Blaine think he bettered Jesus? During his 44 day fast he faced a variety of temptations. Number of things thrown at box including a full English breakfast, and one very bright spark flew a miniature remote-controlled helicopter alongside the box carrying a freshly cooked cheese burger. But he resisted the temptation, he was strong he stayed in the box and made himself ill in the process. He said he thought that such an experience could help them achieve a higher spiritual state. I guess he proved that some people have great willpower and self-control. But really thistime of not eating and exclusion doesn't seem particularly useful. In sharp contrast Jesus's exclusion and fasting and temptation in the desert actually achieves a great deal and has a very particular purpose.
Let’s clear some problems out of the way before we proceed further.
Tempted by the devil?
Are we to assume the guy with the horns and the pitchfork confronting Jesus? Literally taking him to stand on the roof of Jerusalem’s temple. (Child’s Bible). Can’t we assume that the temptation take place in Jesus’ mind; in his imagination.? I think that’s normally how temptation works doesn’t it - in your imaginings.
So can we then dispense with this talk of the devil? “I mean really - we now know that the negative personal and societal problems which primitive peoples attributed to the devil and demons are caused by mental illness and social problems and the like not the devil..”
Let me ask some questions of that assumption.
First - Jesus taught that Satan exists. What was the basis of Jesus’ authority in his teaching? Was it the expertise and knowledge of his day, his vantage point? In which case we can say that we are more enlightened than Jesus. Or was Jesus’ authority his identity - as the eternal Son of God? If you believe Jesus is God.. listen to him.. Theological argument.
What about an argument from logic: Do you believe in God? Do you believe in some personal supernatural good? most people do. Sure there are some who are total materialists believe in nothing beyond what can be seen. But most of us, while we might be irreligious, we believe in some spiritual reality, some spiritual intelligence that is good. Now, If that’s the case then why do we not also believe in the possibility of some spiritual intelligence that is evil? It’s illogical to believe in one but to refuse to believe in the other. And in some respects there is greater evidence in our world is there not for a spiritual intelligence that is evil?
Which brings us to the empirical argument.. How are we to explain the unthinkable, unspeakable atrocities that happen in our world daily? How do we understand evil? Many secular psychologists and anthropologists studying the idea of evil as it affects human beings speak about what they call ‘the unexplainable residue’. That is - raw brazen evil that humanly cannot be accounted for. The sheer depths to which humans can fall. How do you explain it? (Andrew DelBanco, Secular Liberal, teaches Columbia University in his book The death of Satan)
There are reasons to believe in personal, intelligent evil. The devil.
Now CS Lewis said that there are two opposite and equal errors when it comes to ‘devils’. The first is fascination and fear - that is to ascribe too much power to Satan - the horror movie approach. Satan is not equal in power to God - he is like a dog on a leash. But he is influential.
Therefore the second error is to ascribe too little power to him. To ignore him completely. That’s like wandering unprotected into a warzone. The devil claims to rule this world - he offers to share his rule with Jesus in the second temptation, a kind of coalition government. Jesus calls Satan the prince of this world. Satan rules and controls people through temptation. He whispers lies in our ears. Lies about God, lies about reality. He entices us to satisfy our desires apart from God and then he accuses us before God. That’s his power. He lures us .. as we will see .. to disobey God, mistrust God and worship other things. Because that places us under God’s condemnation. The devil seeks to destroy us through temptation.
Isn’t that something like our experience of life?
We are tempted towards selfish independence.
I follow my desires down a certain path - I make choices, behave in certain ways. I live life my way, I trust no-one and I’m seeking life and joy and security in this job or that possession or that dream but it turns to ash.. Missed opportunities, wasted years. Regrets
And I long to back in time to do it differently. Rub out my past. Start again. Re-live it. Put it right.
But even if I could go back - would i get it right? Would it be any better? any different?
We know that we would make the same mistakes again.
We cannot beat the devil on this one.
Oscar wilde ‘I can resist anything but temptation’
We are enticed, we sin, we’re accused, we stand condemned.
The devil wins. We cannot destroy the works of the devil.
But there is a man who can.
God himself comes into the world in the person of Jesus Christ and, as we saw last week when we looked at his baptism, Jesus joins himself to broken humanity. He stands in line with the sinners.
He is baptized into our name in order to live life on our behalf as our champion. In his baptism he steps into our shoes to live the life that we should have lived and to to die the death that we deserve to die FOR US. So that we can be baptized into his name. Step into his shoes and enjoy the welcome with God that he has.
Union with Jesus - start again with Jesus. He lives the life we should have lived.
See it in his temptation
The devil coming and tempting the man - remind you of anything? Can you hear any echos of another event in the Bible If you’re really the son of God?… Did God really say ?…
Have you got it?
Adam - the first human. The first Son of God. Head of the human race. Tempted in the garden to disobey, distrust God, misworship God.. ‘Did God really say?” Tempted once and he Failed. He fell. And humanity fell with him.
But Jesus - the second Adam, true Son of God. The head of a new humanity is tempted 3 times. He does not fail.
Jesus is is led by the spirit Into the wilderness to confront the devil. he does not fail.
Where Adam by his disobedience turned the garden into a wilderness
Jesus has goneinto the wilderness inorder to start replanting the garden of God; the kingdom of God in the world. To destroy the works of the devil.
There’s another episode from the OT echoed here..
in the desert 40 days of tempting/testing (it’s the same word).. remind you of anything?Israel - the chosen people of God. Also called God’s son. God had rescued them from Egypt then they were tempted/tested in the desert for 40 years. (All of Jesus’ words here as he answers the devil are quotes from the OT from that period of wilderness testing where time and again Israel failed to obey God, trust God, even on their wedding night when the marriage covenant was being signed by God on top of mount Sinai - Israel committed spiritual adultery - worshipping the golden calf!! Exodus 32
But Jesus is the true Israel. God’s Son. Jesus is is led by the spirit Into the wilderness to confront the devil. He does not fail..
So you see the history of the world is marked by people giving in to temptation.
Enticed, ensnared, accused, condemned.
But Jesus comes and he takes our place, he represents us and he does not give in.
We can be summed up in Him rather than Adam’s hopeless fate. We can re-start with him. His successes are given to us.
That is wonderful news. It means there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ He has come to destroy the works of the evil one.
Well, let’s look at the temptations and revel in Jesus victory
Then we’ll end by thinking very briefly about how Jesus’ victories can help us to make progress in resisting temptation in our daily lives.
Temptation 1 vv3-4
Jesus perfectly obeys God
Read v1-4 “…”
Jesus is hungry. 40 days fast. The temptation was real. In his humanity Jesus hungers. In his divinity he could turn a stone into bread. (later he will feeding 5000 people)
Why shouldn’t Jesus do it? He can. He’s hungry. 40 days. Why does he resist it as a temptation.
Here’s why: this fasting, this weakness this denial of food is not something that satan has created. Nothe spirit led him into the desert, led him to fast; directed him in this kingdom work o confront the devil. and he will obey.
Back in the garden Adam and Eve were in a position of strength, surrounded by plenty and only given one command one thing not to do one Command to obey and of course they broke it straight away.
Israel in the desert sometimes hungered for a day but then God would feed them miraculously with special food from heaven to strengthen them and yet constantly they would disobey him.
And we are no different, God gives us his strength and yet we disobey
But Jesus here .. Jesus in a position of utter weakness succeeds
He will not yield to the devil. And the devil is defeated
Jesus answers with some words of Moses concerning why God led Israel into the wilderness allowing them to hunger and then feeding them with bread.
Deut 8v1-3where Moses is looking back on those events in the desert and saying remember God allowed you to hunger and then fed you with manna from heaven and the reason God did it was not just so that you would have something to eat the reason God did it was to teach you something; to teach you that people do not live on bread alone but on the words of God. as much as we need food we need God’s word to us. We are spiritual as well as Physical. We need to hear God and respond to God in obedience. Moses said this testing in the desert was intended to teach your ancestors obedience.
Jesus icould have turned the stone into bread but there’s something more important. To obey God’s kingdom purposes. An obedience that will take him to the cross where the devil and sin and death will finally be defeated.
He perfectly obeys God
So should we.. But he has done it for us. Be assured.
2. Jesus perfectly worships god v5-8
devil led him to some high place Shows him the kingdoms of the earth. And says I will give you all this authority and splendour just bow the knee to me.
It might seem a bit odd this temptation. why would this be a temptation forJesus? Well Because in a sense this is exactly what he has come for. Not just your personal salvation. Jesus has come to take back the nations of the world for his people. To restore the kingdom that adam lost; to replant the wilderness as a garden
The devil we have said does have real authority in this present world. He has authority to give. Does the devil really have this to give? It must be that this was a real temptation. Some kind of compromise is offered. And crucially Jesus could have the kingdom without the horrors and deriliction of the cross. Take the easier way, Jesus. Take it.
exactly the kind of temptation that Adam fell for. The devil said, eat the fruit of the tree and you will be like God.. Adam knew that in a sense that was his destiny and instruction from God.. so he took it. the easy way.
Jesus is not taken in. he again quotes from Deuteronomy. This time 6. v13 where the people of God are exhorted to love God with all their hearts and mind and soul and strength and to be very aware of the danger of following other gods; giving their heart to anything or anyone other than God. Something of course which the people failed to do.. time and time again.. and which we fail in. we don't honour God as God we don't place him at the top and worship him alone, trusting him alone for our security and satisfaction and significance we put other things in his placeWe seek easy options.
But not Jesus. I know, he says to the Devil .. that i have been promised the kingdoms of the earth. But insofar as how i will take back those kingdoms I will ‘worship the lord my God and serve him only’ Even if that means to worship him unto suffering and death.
where we fail.. Jesus succeeds.. for us
3. Jesus perfectly trusts god vv9-12
The devil led him to Jerusalem Highest point of the temple hundreds of feet above the kidron valley the devil suggests a celestial bungee jump.
Throw yourself off. And God will catch you.
The devil quotes the bible!! psalm 91 “don't you know it Jesus? Doesn’t it say God will protect you. The ultimate leap of faith Jesus won't you do it won't you trust God?”
The devil twists the scriptures! Psalm 91 Does speak of God's protection but in the context of being attacked when you're attacked he will protect you. Not about throwing yourself under a bus so that God can prove himself
Jesus sees straight through it and his reply tells us what he's being tempted to do.
‘it is written do not put the Lord your God to the test.’
Again he's quoting from Deuteronomy
‘Do not test the lord your God as you did at Massa’
Its referring back to an incident during the40 years of wandering in the desert in a place called massah where the Israelites did not trust that God would provide for them. They grumbled and complained saying we're now going to die and they put God to the test. Have you ever done this? - They kind of acted like God was on probation like he needed to prove himself To them. You owe me God.. If you want me to keep trusting you.. They spoke against God. They assume the worst of him - he doesn't care, He won't do it, he hasn't got our best interests in mind. They didn't trust him, but tested him.
Adam & eve.. they were the same. they didn’t trust God The serpent suggested that God was holding back on them, that he didn't care for them and they went along with this rather than trust God and his love. Mistrust of God - a stubbon root of sin and misery.
Well Jesus trusts his father and even in the bewildering heat of the desert, hungry.. needing to come to terms with the fate that awaits him ..suffering , death..
He doesn't need to put God to the test. He refuses to.
He succeeds where we fail. Be assured.
v13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time
David blaine showed that people can set themselves some hard tasks; show some self control and succeed. But we all fail at the real task. The q is not what can we deny ourselves or what amount of good can we do the real task is will we live in god’s world with god as god? will we obey him, worship him and trust him and the answer is we won’t - we all fail just like adam, just like Israel we crumble under temptation and so we place ourselves under god’s condemnation. And so what we need is someone to come and obey, worship and trust on our behalf, someone to come and do what we would not and could not do. Jesus succeeds where we fail. He does so FOR US.
When you put your trust in Jesus you’re united to him. Your condemnation is payed for by his death, your failures are covered over by his success. God counts people perfect and blameless in J. Every disobedience, every not trusting God every worshipping other godsgoes to him and all of his obeying God’s word and trusting God completely and worshipping God alone comes to you. So be reassured. Jesus has succeeded where we failed.
How does Jesus’ victory help me when I am tempted? (Remember Satan is real he constantly tempts us - he wants to destroy us)
How does Jesus’ victory help me? In so many ways. The same Spirit who led Jesus’ into the wilderness is with us. How does he help us?
Key thing - keep looking at Jesus’ living and dying for you. See, If the root of sin is not trusting God to provide, so i’ll disobey him, i’ll worship something else..
Well then… when tempted, do i not need to look again to Jesus - living and dying for me, his devotion to us, his love his care - so that i’ll trust him, obey him, depend on him. Keep him in your sights and temptation’s power shrivels. [Meditating on and memorizing scripture clearly helps us.]
When you fail. Don’t wallow in fear. I’ve blown it. No - My relationship with God does not depend on how well I live but on how well he lived. My failures can’t mess that up. So get up and get on. Rejoice in Jesus’ victories. Stand in them.