I want to start this morning by getting you to think of your sin. I know, right? Welcome back! But think about your sin. What are your major temptations? How does Satan bait you? Think about the torment in the temptation, how your heart is torn.
Jesus Resisted Temptation For The Sake of His Mission
Luke 4:1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil.
Jesus, the Second Adam, is tested like the first. The last time we met we spoke of how different biblical authors gave nuance to the phrase “Son of God.” I argued that for Luke the primary idea associated with the phrase “Son of God” is that Jesus is the second Adam, the perfect man, the origin of a new humanity that is not borne by flesh and blood, but by faith. Luke connects Jesus’ Sonship to his supernatural origin and traces his connection to Adam – the only other human ever that can say that they were not born of man but of God. Jesus is the second Adam sent to undo the works of the first. And so, Luke is demonstrating for us in this passage, just as the first Adam was tested through temptation, so also is the second Adam tested. Through the first Adam’s failure, sin entered the world and through sin, death. What of the second Adam?
As we begin, I want to introduce you to a couple of ways this passage has been taught, just to mention them, but we’re not going to take either of these approaches today.
• As a Model for Us to Follow: There is some benefit to us to study the temptation story as a model for our struggle with temptation. It is true that just like Jesus, before one enters into a ministry the Lord has called them to, there is often a period of testing. Often the battleground for testing is in solitude – the wilderness, and sometimes a retreat into solitude is necessary for spiritual progress and overcoming temptation. Many commentators have mentioned that the types of bait Satan uses remain the same throughout scripture: the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. Also the strategies for resisting temptation remain the same, being filled with and led by the Holy Sprit, as Jesus was, as well as hiding God’s word in our heart, that we might not sin against God, using the word as a sword, to combat the lies of the enemy. So yes, there is much for us to imitate here as a model for our own struggle against sin. But I’m not going to focus my meditation on this.
• As a Theological Conundrum: For 2000 years theologians have had particular interest in the temptations of Jesus. What does it mean for Jesus to be tempted? How can God be tempted, especially since James 1:13 states that God cannot be tempted by evil? Could Jesus have sinned? If yes, than how is He God? If no, than how can we say he was actually tempted? If you like big $5 theological words, this is the question of Christ’s impeccability. While I don’t want to take a lot of time on this morning, I don’t want to duck the question either, so I’ll just say two things. First, this is a good example of “bumper bowling” theology. The Bible puts down bumpers and as long as our ball remains between them we can disagree with one another and change our position and still find ourselves within the range of orthodoxy. So here are the bumpers: Christ was tempted as we are, Christ was without sin. Secondly, Jesus didn’t cheat the system. The gospel writers present Jesus’ resisting of temptation as an act of his will, not something that just happened because of his divine nature. So a better question is not to ask, “could Jesus have sinned” but “why didn’t Jesus sin.” Because by relying on the Word of God coupled with the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus willed himself not to sin. Here’s an illustration: say a world-class swimmer decides to break the record for swimming, which I believe is around 80 miles. Yet he also doesn’t wish to drown so he hires a boat to follow him. Is it possible for the swimmer to drown? No, because he has the boat. So the swimmer swims the 100 miles - why didn’t the swimmer drown? Because of the boat? No! Because he kept swimming! The boat in this illustration is Jesus’ divine nature – it is impossible for Jesus to sin. Yet Jesus did not sin because he being tempted like us in every way, used the same resources available to us to resist temptation.
Though I’ve said a little about seeing Jesus’ resistance of temptation as a model for us and spoken a little to the theological conundrum, I want to spend the remainder of our time this morning considering the scope and the nature of Jesus’ temptation.
The Scope of Jesus’ Temptation I want you to see the scope of Jesus’ temptation so you can appreciate his resistance, and fall in love with your savior. I’ve already spoke of how Luke is connecting the temptation of Jesus with the temptation Adam faced in the garden, yet it is not a fair comparison. Adam was tempted in a garden, Jesus in the wilderness. Adam feasted before his trial (remember God saying that all the fruit of the garden was his to eat) and thus was physically strong. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness during his trial and thus was physically weak. Adam’s temptation was singular; God says to Adam, “You can everything, except this one thing.” The temptation of Jesus seems to be comprehensive. Satan says to Jesus, “You have nothing, I’ll give you everything.” Everything was set up for Adam to resist temptation and he failed, everything was removed for Jesus to give in to temptation and he succeeded. Jesus’ temptation was enduring – Luke ends this passage with the note that when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. (13) We think if the temptation of Jesus as a one time event that lasted maybe just at the end of the 40 days in the wilderness, but Luke tells us that Satan was always looking for an opportune time to tempt the Lord. Finally, Jesus temptation was felt at its full intesntity. Leon Morris helpfully notes, that the sinlessness of Jesus points to a more intense rather than any lesser temptation. Morris writes: “The man who yields to a particular temptation has not felt its full power. He has given in while the temptation has yet something in reserve. Only the man who does not yield to a temptation, who, as regards that particular temptation, is sinless, knows the full extent of that temptation.” (Christian Theology , 1990. p720.)
Question: When did you stop feeling the pressure of temptation? Answer: The moment you gave in to it! Jesus never gave in, and so experienced temptation to its fullest extant. We’ll come back to this at the end. But note here, the temptation of the second Adam was more intense in its duration, in it context, in its fullness that that of the first Adam. The first Adam’s temptation is almost laughably simple in comparison.
Our temptation probably falls within the continuum of Adam and Jesus. The first Adam’s failure demonstrates our hopelessness – that when we only had one command we broke it. The second Adam’s success against far greater temptation is our hope.
The Nature of Jesus’ Temptation What was Jesus tempted to do? In asking this question, light might be shed on what was Jesus’s greatest temptation? Often we have one big temptation that we wrestle with throughout our life, could be anger, could be lust, could be manipulating people, could be seeking acclaim, could be an addiction to substances, could be unforgiveness. I want to focus this morning on what was Jesus’ greatest temptation and why I am so glad he resisted.
Temptation #1: Stones to Bread.
And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”
Most people in reading this passage focus on the physical need of Jesus – after all he has been fasting for forty days, in the wilderness, and Luke and Matthew both even include the remark, “And he was hungry.” But I want to draw your attention to something that may be overlooked. Satan says to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God …” Now Luke has indicated to us already that Jesus is the Son of God, but up until now Luke has not given us any indication that the title Son of God includes access to divine power. Something new about Jesus. He is the Son of God in a greater sense that means he can indeed perform the miraculous. The Temptation means nothing unless Jesus has the power to act upon it. No matter how hungry I am, I cannot act on any sort of temptation to do such a thing. Notice the challenge as well, if you are the Son of God, do this act to meet your need. Challenging Jesus’ identity. Eating bread is not a sin, in fact, it is a necessity. So what is the temptation? To act independently of His father’s directing, to use manipulate reality for his good rather than God’s glory. Pursue personal needs before Father’s plan
Temptation #2: Kingdoms of the World
5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”
To come into the glory of the messianic kingdom, while bypassing the Messianic Mission. A shortcut to glory. Self-preservation at the expense of God’s plan. Receive authority without sacrifice.
Temptation #3: Public Temple Spectacle
9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11 and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” 12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Receive acclaim without sacrifice.
13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.
The core temptation that Jesus experienced not only in the wilderness, but throughout his entire ministry, would be to seek his own needs, his own authority, his own acclaim independently from the Father’s plan for his life which included the cross.
Matt. 16:21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
The significance of Jesus’ primary temptation.
Now we see why the 40 days were so important. If Jesus could not withstand the temptation of the evil one to put the salvation of the world ahead of his own personal need, what would he do in the heat of the battle, when faced with us who would disappoint him, slander him, betray him, accuse him, beat him, kill him? In the desert Jesus committed himself to his father’s plan, to no matter what seek his Father’s will, even the way of the cross.
We are not saved by our ability to withstand temptation. Aren’t you glad? We are saved because our savior resisted.