Sunday, October 23, 2016

TEMPTING JESUS: LUKE 3:23-4:13

The Genealogy of Jesus
3:23-38

Jesus, at this time, was about 30 old. (23) Luke, before recounting any stories of Jesus’ ministry, first set out Jesus’ genealogy. He established who Jesus was in human terms.

If you grew up in a church or stayed in the same community for a long time, you are familiar with this. My mother sang in the choir and sang solos in church. I was often known as Bernice’s boy. When we lived in a small town and my father was the work supervisor of many of the men there, I was known around town as Kenneth’s son.

In contrast to Matthew, who traced Jesus to Abraham, Luke traced Jesus' line all the way to Adam. I like that Jesus, the Son of God, is a descendant of Adam, whom Luke calls the son of God. They both had only God to claim as their father.

There are many people in this line we know nothing about. They lived and died and nothing that they did was recorded. Yet, each was used by God to bring the Christ. All through history, God used men and women to accomplish his plan. He uses us also, whether we are aware of it or not.

THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS
LUKE 4:1-13

Before Jesus began to teach and preach, he faced 40 days of temptation by the devil. This was God’s will and intent or plan. He was led by the Holy Spirit in the wilderness. It was God’s will that Jesus become hungry and weak and face temptation in that state. Jesus was obedient to the Father’s will.

As Jesus set out on his ministry, right at the beginning he was tested at the point of his mission: would he stay true to his call to be the suffering servant and not give in to the easy path.

Luke specifically puts the temptation of Jesus in parallel to the wanderings of Israel in the wilderness after they left Egypt. You can read about their journey in the book of Numbers in the Old Testament. Israel often complained during the journey. They complained of lack of food and water. They complained about danger from enemies. In each instance God provided for them. But rather than ask and trust, they constantly complained.

They also rebelled against God. After several smaller rebellions, they refused to go into Canaan (the Promised Land) because the people there were tall. They did this despite the fact that God had defeated the Egyptian army to protect them.

Both Israel and Jesus were in the wilderness and both were tempted at the point of their trust for God. Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days, reflecting the 40 years of Israel. But Jesus prevailed where Israel failed. Jesus is the true Israel of God.

Jesus responded to each temptation by quoting the word of God. his is a good example for us. He believed God. He believed in God’s word and he stood on it. He was tempted for the whole 40 days, but did not yield. (4:2)

The first temptation regards physical need. Jesus was hungry. (4:2) He had been in the wilderness fasting for 40 days. He was likely physically weak and exhausted. Satan tempted him to turn stones into bread.

Jesus came to live as a man, subject to all of the temptations men and women face. Hebrews 4:15 calls Jesus “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin”.

It was also a temptation to show who he was. The devil said “if you are the Son of God”. He wanted Jesus to show his divinity by a display of divine power. He questioned whether Jesus was the Son of God and dared him to prove it.

God had already declared Jesus to be his son. Remember, at his baptism, God said “you are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased”. (Luke 3:22) Satan is questioned God’s word.

This is exactly what he did to Eve in the garden. He said “did God actually say…?” (Genesis 3:1) Satan does not really have any new tricks. He constantly tempts us to doubt God’s word.

Why would this creation of bread from rocks be a bad thing to do? It is because Jesus came to do the Father’s will. He did not want Jesus to perform miracles for his own satisfaction. He wanted Jesus to trust him to provide for his needs. Matthew’s version of this event shows that the Father did meet Jesus’ needs, sending angels to take care of him. (Matthew 4:11)

Jesus obeyed by saying “Man shall not live by bread alone”. This is a quote of a portion of Deuteronomy 8:3. The rest of the statement is “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”. Certainly anyone with Old Testament knowledge would know the rest of the quote and Satan appeared to know it as well.

The context of this statement, a statement of God to Israel, was that he wanted them to obey all of his commandments and trust in him. Israel had trouble remembering this, but Jesus did not.

By answering Satan with a quote about man, Jesus refused to consider Satan’s questioning whether Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus knew he was, he believed the Father’s word and so he answered as a human being, identifying himself with us. Because he was tempted as a human being, we can trust him to help us in our temptation and trial. Hebrews 2:18 says “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted”.

The second temptation is the shortcut. (4:5) Jesus came to establish his kingdom so that it would spread over the whole world. It would take his own suffering and death. It would also take the suffering and death of countless followers.

All of that could be avoided by accepting Satan’s offer of all of the kingdoms of the world. Although always subject to God’s sovereignty, mankind’s sin gave Satan power on earth. Jesus even called him “the ruler of this world”. (John 12:31)

Satan did not offer Jesus anything to which he was not entitled. He had the right to the kingdom. But, it was not to be brought about in this way, the easy way.

All Jesus had to do was worship the devil. He could have a kingdom without the cost of suffering, but not the kingdom of the Father. Additionally, he could not bring salvation to humanity if he took the devil’s way.

Jesus responded by quoting the commandment to worship only the Lord. Jesus referred to Deuteronomy 6:13. The cost of Satan’s offer was bowing to the lordship of Satan. Satan has for a long time wanted God’s power and authority. He was thrown down from heaven for this desire. Jesus, however, obeyed God by refusing to worship anyone else.

We also must worship God and accomplish God’s will God’s way. Churches are often guilty of pragmatism. Pragmatism means doing what works. That is usually measured in terms of numbers. Installing a flashy program or a rock star speaker are practices of pragmatism. But we are called to worship the Lord as the Bible prescribes, to preach the word, baptize and observe the Lord’s Supper. We make disciples this way. And it is important that we worship only the Lord God, not our success or attractiveness. It is about God’s glory, not our own.

The third temptation was for Jesus to test the Father, forcing him to protect Jesus. Satan said prove you are the Son of God by jumping off the highest point of the temple. And this time, Satan quoted scripture to Jesus. He quoted Psalm 91:11-12.

But, Satan twisted the meaning of the scripture. Those verses did not say to do dangerous things and force God to deliver you. They said, because you have put your faith in God, he will protect you and guide you.

Jesus again responded with scripture, saying “you shall not put the Lord your God to the test”. Again, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy, this time chapter 6, verse 16. The context of this verse was Israel demanding that Moses give them water and questioning whether the Lord was with them. They did not trust the Lord.

I remember watching a television preacher who was talking about God’s promises. He said you had a right to those promises and you could order God to perform them and God had to do it. I was horrified. God’s promises are statements about his character. Those who love him and trust him can count on him to do what he says he will do. We do not have a right to test God or demand of him. He is God. We are not. We trust him to do what is best.

After failing to cause Jesus to sin, the devil left him for the time being. Remember, Jesus relied on God’s word to defeat the devil. We may also. That is why the whole armor of God includes the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”. (Ephesians 6:17) James 4:7 tells to resist the devil and he will flee from us. We resist him by relying on God’s word.

I would never advise combatting the devil in your own strength. Instead, meet every temptation, every trial, every suffering with the word of the Lord. Read and memorize scripture to prepare you for this.

By resisting Satan, and relying of the word of God, Jesus demonstrated his character as God’s anointed one, the Christ. He would trust the Father and do his will. He would resist shortcuts, grandstanding and personal aggrandizement. He would embrace obedience, suffering and shame for the sake of our salvation and the glory of the Father.

Not only did Jesus demonstrate that he is the true Israel, he also showed he is the second Adam. The first Adam was tempted, but in a perfect garden, not the wilderness. He was tempted by the devil, who questioned God’s word to Adam. Adam succumbed to temptation. He sinned, and he led all of humanity out of the garden and into the wilderness by his sin.

Jesus, the second Adam, was tempted in the wilderness, hungry, alone and tired after 40 days of suffering, yet resisted the devil and his questioning of God’s word. By doing so, he brought us out of the wilderness and back into paradise.

This is not an original thought of mine. The great English poet, John Milton wrote about it long ago. His first book length poem is entitled “Paradise Lost”. It is the story of Adam’s disobedience bringing death into the world. HIs second poem is “Paradise Regained”, the story of Jesus regaining what Adam lost.


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