Series: Jesus’s Preparation For Ministry (3:1-4:13)
We’re going to talk about temptation. What is temptation? Temptation is when someone tries to get you to do something wrong.
Like maybe you are with a group of kids and they are throwing rocks in the creek and then someone gets the idea that they should throw rocks through the window of Farmer Fred’s house. “Come on, it will be fun!”
Is it right to throw rocks through a person’s window? No, but you might be tempted to do it because the other kids want to do it and it seems fun. That’s temptation.
Other kids might tempt you sometimes, but do you know who tempts you all the time? Satan does. We always have to be on the look out for Satan’s temptations. He’s like a fisherman.
What does a fisherman use to catch fish? A fishing pole with a hook. But does he just put a hook in the water? No, because the fish would see it and say, “It’s a hook, run away!”
So he puts a worm on it (Gummy Worm). The worm hides the hook and it looks good to the fish. So they come up and bite and get caught.
A temptation always looks good to us, it might seem fun to do, like throwing rocks through Farmer Fred’s window. But the temptation hides a sin. And sin is always wrong to do.
Who should we go to for help in fighting temptation and sin? Jesus. And one reason that we can is because Jesus faced temptation himself. He knows what it is like. We can follow him.
Jesus faced temptation from Satan for forty days. Recorded for us are three of the temptations, perhaps the final three.
Each of the three temptations have two parts: first, Satan’s Suggestion, followed by Jesus responding with Scripture’s Truth.
Jesus gives a model to follow when we face temptation. First…
THE TEMPTATION OF MISUSING A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Luke 4:3 And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.
3 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ διάβολος [And the Devil said to Him], Εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ Θεοῦ, [“If You are the Son of God,”] εἰπὲ τῷ λίθῳ τούτῳ ἵνα γένηται ἄρτος. [tell this stone to become bread.]
Jesus had been fasting in the wilderness, and he was hungry, so this temptation had power from physical appetite alone. But that wasn’t the main temptation.
The main temptation had to do with Jesus being “the Son of God.” If Jesus was the Son of God, why would his Father let him suffer hunger? What kind of father-son relationship is that?
After all, Jesus himself said that fathers care for their children:
“If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone?” (Luke 11:11)
Fathers, good fathers, don’t let their sons starve. And here’s Jesus, surrounded by stones and not bread.
This kind of temptation is common for us as well. We might be tempted to leave our spouse; the thought enters our mind: “God would want me to be happy, wouldn’t he?”
Do you see how that is the same temptation? Satan is trying to get us to see use our relationship as a child of God to step across the line.
Satan hoped that Jesus would say, “Yes, you’re right, I am the Son of God and as such, my Father would want me to have food to eat. He would want me to be happy!”
But that is not what Jesus said. Instead, Jesus quoted…
Luke 4:4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written [in Deuteronomy 8:3], That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
4 καὶ ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς πρὸς αὐτόν, [And Jesus replied to him] λέγων, [saying] Γέγραπται [It is written,] ὅτι Οὐκ ἐπʼ ἄρτῳ μόνῳ [that not by bread alone] ζήσεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος [shall man live], ἀλλʼ ἐπὶ παντὶ ῥήματι Θεοῦ. [but by every word of God]
Jesus went back to the Old Testament account of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness to defeat Satan’s temptation.
Here we have a massive argument for the reading, studying, and memorizing of the Bible. To have weapons against temptation!
Here’s how Jesus was using the Bible: In Deuteronomy 8, God was teaching the Israelites to depend on him for their very lives. He gave them manna from Heaven each day, and, for the most part, only enough for each day.
The point was that they would come to rely on God. That they would count their relationship with God as most important. That they would come to trust him to do what was best for their lives.
That’s what Jesus says here: “No, Satan, I will trust that my Father in Heaven knows what is best for me, even if that means starving me here in the wilderness.”
This sort of temptation is one that we all face. A Christian may face the temptation of getting involved relationally with someone who will not be good for them spiritually.
Perhaps a well-meaning friend tells them, “But God would want you to be happy.” They are tempted to ignore Bible teaching: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
When you face that temptation—you can say, “No, Satan, I refuse to seek my happiness there; I will seek my happiness in God himself and every word that proceeds from his mouth.”
Another temptation like this one could be called, “The Entitlement Mentality.” A Christian may come to think that, because they are older or in a certain position, in their family, or church, or workplace, that they are entitled to certain privileges, or to have their own way.
Do you see how Satan used that on Jesus, “If thou be the Son of God…” then you are entitled to turn these stones into bread?
The entitlement mentality makes us think that God owes us certain things. God wants us to be happy, right?
What did Jesus say? “No, God doesn’t owe me anything, and instead, I will depend on him completely, even if it means starving another 40 days here in the wilderness. I will wait for his provision and not try to claim my own entitlement.”
THE TEMPTATION OF MISSING THE REAL MISSION
Luke 4:5 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain [Matthew says it was an “exceeding high mountain”], shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
5 καὶ ἀναγαγὼν αὐτὸν [and taking Him] ὁ διάβολος [the Devil] εἰς ὄρος ὑψηλὸν [into a high mountain] ἔδειξεν αὐτῷ πάσας τὰς βασιλείας τῆς οἰκουμένης [showed Him all the kingdoms of earth] ἐν στιγμῇ χρόνου [in a flash of time].
If I were making a movie of this event, I would show pictures of the world’s great kingdoms of that day in the sky above:
- Imperial China, which would have been 250 years old at the time, and destined to last 2000 years, until 1912.
- The Mayan empire of Central America.
- The Roman Empire, in all it’s glory.
Luke 4:6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it.
6 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ διάβολος [And the Devil said to Him], Σοὶ δώσω τὴν ἐξουσίαν ταύτην ἅπασαν [To You will I grant all this power] καὶ τὴν δόξαν αὐτῶν [and their glory]· ὅτι ἐμοὶ παραδέδοται [for that has been given me], καὶ ᾧ ἐὰν θέλω δίδωμι αὐτήν [and whoever I may wish, I can give it].
Luke 4:7 If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.
7 σὺ οὖν ἐὰν προσκυνήσῃς ἐνωπιόν μοῦ [if You therefore worship me], ἔσται σου πάντα [it shall be all Yours].
Satan promised Jesus all the power of the physical world. Whether or not it was his to give is another question. But Satan is a liar and a deceiver and will promise what he can’t give.
What is the temptation here, precisely? It’s more than a simple offer of power—it’s a distraction from Jesus’s real mission: to die for the sins of humanity.
Satan was offering Jesus an easier way than dying on a cross.
We face the same type of temptation when Satan tries to distract us from our real mission in life.
All of us have something given to us to do by the Lord. We have spiritual gifts or roles that require us to serve in certain ways.
- A mother is responsible to nurture her children.
- A father is responsible to lead his family, especially spiritually.
- A child is to obey their parents, for this is right.
- A musician should use their talents however the Lord calls them to do so, even playing second fiddle (or piano).
- A missionary must be focused to go and make disciples.
- A pastor needs to be focused on feeding the flock.
What happens when a father or a pastor or a musician or mother is offered a job that would make a lot of money?
It might be okay, but you have to consider—is this going to be a distraction from the real mission that God has put me on? Am I going to end up worshipping this job?
It will seem right to do, you’ll find reasons why you should do it (it wouldn’t be a temptation otherwise). But will it be a distraction?
Jesus reminds us—
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26)
This temptation is the temptation to put any worldly wealth or power over the worship of Jesus and the mission he has called you to do in your life.
Jesus goes back to scripture and picks up a truth that chops this temptation down at it’s root:
Luke 4:8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written [in Deuteronomy 6:13], Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
8 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς αὐτῷ εἶπεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς [And Jesus answering him, said], Ὑπαγε ὀπίσω μου, Σατανᾶ [Get behind me, Satan]· γέγραπται γάρ Προσκυνήσεις Κύριον τὸν Θεόν σου [For it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God], καὶ αὐτῷ μόνῳ λατρεύσεις [and Him alone shall you worship].
Again going back to Deuteronomy, Jesus says that core of the issue is worship. Who will Jesus worship? The Lord God and him only. It’s really that simple…and difficult.
The temptation to worship something else pulls strongly at the human heart. We too easily like to worship work, money, television, clothing, our looks, our comfort, and our toys.
And when someone suggests that to focus on one those things would lead to a better life, the temptation is multiplied.
If you dress better, people will like you more. If you take this more time-consuming job, you’ll be able to give your family nice things. But Jesus’s response is very plain—
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24)
In a world where everyone is expected to multitask, Jesus says that you can’t multitask the worship of God. You must have a single focus: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
God has called each of us to serve and worship him in some way today, whether it is a parent, or a witness at work, or singing in the choir. Don’t be tempted to miss your real mission, worship the Lord and him alone.
THE TEMPTATION OF MISUSING SCRIPTURE
Luke 4:9 And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence:
9 καὶ ἤγαγεν αὐτὸν εἰς Ἱερουσαλήμ, [And he brought Him to Jerusalem] καὶ ἔστησεν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ [and set Him on the pinnacle of the Temple], καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ [and said to Him], Εἰ ὁ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ Θεοῦ [If you are the Son of God], βάλε σεαυτὸν ἐντεῦθεν κάτω· [cast Yourself down from here]
The highest point in the temple complex would have been a tower in the southeast corner overlooking the Kidron valley (something like 450 feet).
In Matthew, this is listed as the second temptation. Why does Luke list it as the third? Matthew probably has them listed chronologically (he uses temporal connectives, like “then”). But the chronological way isn’t the only correct way.
Perhaps Luke put this temptation last to emphasize that Satan can misuse scripture to tempt believers, like he does here:
Luke 4:10 For it is written [in Psalms 91:11-12], He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee: [Satan leaves out “in all thy ways”]
10 γέγραπται γὰρ [For it is written,] ὅτι Τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ ἐντελεῖται περὶ σοῦ [That the angels He will order concerning You], τοῦ διαφυλάξαι σε [to guard you]·
Luke 4:11 And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
11 καὶ ὅτι Ἐπὶ χειρῶν ἀροῦσί σε [And that upon their hands they will lift You up], μήποτε προσκόψῃς πρὸς λίθον τὸν πόδα σου [in order that not You will strike Your foot against a stone].
Satan was saying: “Jesus, do you trust scripture? I know you do…here’s a verse that you should trust. Go ahead, jump, and if you really have faith, then the angels will catch you.”
What is Jesus’s response?
Luke 4:12 And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said [in Deuteronomy 6:16], Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
12 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς [And answering, Jesus said to him] ὅτι Εἴρηται [it is said], Οὐκ ἐκπειράσεις Κύριον τὸν Θεόν σου [You shall not tempt the Lord your God].
Jesus wasn’t just saying that we shouldn’t tempt or test the Lord God with things like jumping off from temples or jumping in front of buses.
He also was showing us a very important rule in interpreting scripture: always interpret scripture with scripture. Or, if you will, read the Bible in context.
When we read the Bible we must read it in context. You can quote a verse to make a point (I do it all the time), but you must make sure that the verse actually means what you are saying it means in the context.
Or, as the old saying goes, “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.”
This is what Satan deliberately didn’t do. Psalm 91 is speaking of God’s protection of his people, true enough.
But Jesus shows from Deuteronomy 6:16 that testing the Lord is wrong for us to do—he looked at the whole context of the Bible.
So presuming on God’s protection by deliberately putting yourself in harm’s way (for the sole means of testing God’s protection) is wrong.
Christians can be tempted to make the Bible say what we want. A common tactic is to claim that the “Spirit taught me” that this or that is true.
Now, the Spirit does use the Bible to teach us. But the Spirit doesn’t teach us anything that would contradict what the Bible already says. It’s like the system of checks and balances in our government. The Bible cannot have whatever meaning you want it to have.
If you think the Spirit is teaching you something, then check it with the context of the scripture. Make sure that it’s really the Spirit teaching you and not Satan tempting you.
After all the forty days of trying to tempt Jesus to fall, Satan gives up—for a time.
Luke 4:13 And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.
13 καὶ συντελέσας πάντα πειρασμὸν ὁ διάβολος [And when the Devil had ended all temptations] ἀπέστη ἀπʼ αὐτοῦ ἄχρι καιροῦ [he departed from Him until an opportune time].
The word “season” is from the the Greek word καιρός, which can mean “the appointed time” or “the opportune time.” This gives us one final lesson: Satan is never done tempting you.
When a fisherman isn’t getting bites, he may move on to a different location—for awhile. But he’ll come back to the same spot at a different time or a different day. Maybe the fish weren’t biting there at 8 AM, but they could be at 6 PM.
Because you’ve avoided a temptation one day, don’t think that Satan is done tempting you with it. He will try again later.
I’ve had particular sins or temptations that I thought I had licked, but weeks or even months later, they appeared again. The battle was on again.
How Jesus faced temptation is very instructive for us. It’s a model for us to follow. Use the Bible when you face temptation.
To use the Bible you need to know it. To know it, you need to read it, memorize it, and study it.
Imagine if the fish had a book of all the different kinds of lures and bait! I can see a father fish speaking to his son, “See, son, that is old red with white strip lure, the same one that got your grandpa.” ( I think the fish that I fish for do have such a book!)
But Jesus is more than an example for us to follow in fighting temptation. He died on the cross and rose from the dead! Why is that important?
- His death and resurrection makes it possible for us to be forgiven when we do give in to temptation.
- His death and resurrection also gives us a change of heart and desire so that we can resist temptation.
- His death and resurrection is a promise that one day we will be completely free from the lure of temptation.
All this is yours when you place your faith in Jesus Christ to save you. Have you placed your trust in Jesus Christ today?