Prior to beginning his public ministry Jesus is led up into the wilderness where he is tempted by the devil.
When Jesus was confronted by the devil in the wilderness, he might have just destroyed the devil once and for all. Or, he might have used a bit less of his own divine omnipotence and suddenly shut the devil’s mouth. After all, hadn’t the Holy Spirit just descended upon him at his baptism in the last chapter? Wasn’t he ready to engage in a mighty public miracle-working ministry? Maybe so, but those options would not have taught us the same lesson as what he actually did.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Instead of somehow rendering the devil powerless, Jesus, who was empowered by the Spirit and led into the wilderness by that same Spirit, confronted the devil with Scripture. Instead of doing something that only Jesus could do, he did something that any Christian can do just as well.
When confronted by temptation, we can rely upon the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures to resist it. That is not always easy to do because the devil tends to catch us off guard, when the Spirit’s indwelling presence is the last thing on our minds. Arguably, Jesus also knew the Bible better than we do.
Alas, these may be real reasons, but they are not good excuses. We should find it encouraging that Jesus did what he did in the way that he did it. The lessons learned are to stay conscious of the Holy Spirit’s presence within us and to grow spiritually from a steady diet of the Bible. You never know which obscure verse, say from Deuteronomy, is going to come in handy.
Let’s continuously pray for the Holy Spirit’s help and continuously take in regular doses of God’s Word. When temptation comes, we will be ready to resist it just like Jesus.
The devil is continually attacking the godly. Nonetheless, his attacks on Christians only advance them in their growth in grace. They learn to persevere through the trials with which he afflicts them. The result is that they are made “perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4). His assault on the Redeemer only served to bring about redemption. “God holds Satan on a chain,” wrote Jonathan Edwards. “When a person is converted, he is out of Satan’s ultimate reach.” It is the absolute height of foolishness to oppose an omniscient, omnipotent being and attempt to thwart his ultimate designs. Yet that is exactly what the devil tries to do when he attacks the godly. He finds himself in direct opposition to God who will inevitably use his tactics toward their ultimate good. Edwards reflected,
Seeing the devil is so cunning and subtle, it may seem a paradox why he will endeavour to frustrate the designs of an Omniscient Being, or to pretend to controvert him that is omnipotent, … And seeing he has experience of it, for so long a time, all his deep-laid contrivances have at last come out to his own overthrow, and the work has been directly contrary to his design. To this I say, that although the devil be exceeding crafty and subtle yet he is one of the greatest fools and blockheads in the world … although he never attempted any thing against God but he was disappointed, yet he cannot bear to be quiet and refrain from exercising himself with all his might and subtlety against the increase of holiness; though, if he considered, he might know that it will turn to its advantage. Continue reading
Any number of megalomaniacs have dreamed about it. A few have managed to get pretty far – but not quite there. The rest have had to stick to board games. Anyone up for some Risk®? Someday it’s going to happen. And today we’re going to find out what that will be like.