Monday, February 4, 2013

Luke 4:1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”

And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written,

‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,’


‘On their hands they will bear You up,
So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”

And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.

Luke continues to paint a picture of Jesus' obedience. After humbling himself in the form of baptism, he is led into the wilderness for forty days of fasting, prayer, and temptation.  In the barren land populated only by the occasional robber or revolutionary, Jesus forgoes food, family, and friends to follow the Spirit's leading. With no physical resources, Jesus must rely on spiritual strength to combat Satan himself.

The first test was to fulfill his hunger. Surely the Son of God has a right to be well fed rather than starve. But Jesus answers that there are needs more substantial than bread, and God would supply what he really needed.

It is more amazing to me that Jesus did not turn the stones to bread than that he could. Growing up in a mainline Christian denomination I learned almost nothing about fasting. Fasting was giving up chocolate for Lent or fasting for the 30 hour famine to raise money for World hunger. The closest I came to fasting was an attempt to give up Mtn. Dew for 40 days as part of a youth group event, and I'm pretty sure I cheated a bit. In Jewish culture it was expected that there would be times of individual fasting as well as days of corporate fasting (the Day of Atonement prescribed in Leviticus as well as other days developed by Israel). It seems we kept the tradition of feasting but lost the discipline of fasting. In the past year I have attempted to learn to fast. At times I am successful, but at times I give up and eat dinner with everyone. It would be easier if fasting was a cultural occurrence and something learned from childhood, but we are still instructed in the New Testament to fast.

Fasting and prayer both take spiritual discipline. They focus us on God and open us to receive his blessings and instructions. Becoming more disciplined would obviously make a positive difference in our own lives. But it is a mystery how the spiritual discipline of believers affects things in the spiritual realm. Somehow our prayers help in the battle against unseen powers and principalities. And something about fasting along with praying can increase this.

The second test was to build his kingdom quickly - worship Satan and receive all the kingdoms of the world.This seems startling since God owns everything. But Satan has been given temporary power over the kingdoms of the world. The powers of darkness still push a "get rich quick" ethic in today's world. Cheating, lying, whatever it takes to get ahead is often encouraged instead of hard work and honesty that may or may not pay off. For Jesus, following God's way led to suffering, scorn, and eventually the cross. For you it may lead to suffering and scorn as well. Are you willing to do things God's way whether life brings feast or famine? One moment of worship for a lifetime of worldly power would seem a good trade off to many. Just think of all the good you could do if you were in control of everything! But one moment of worship would reveal something deeper - a hunger for personal power and self interest rather than reliance on God and his ultimate plan.

The third test was one to receive recognition. If Jesus hopped off the highest pinnacle of the temple in temple and floated to the ground with the help of angels, everyone would want to be in his fan club. It makes great marketing sense. But it wasn't God's way, and Jesus wanted true followers willing to follow him through suffering as well as easy times. Today Christians may rely on slick marketing campaigns to try to reach the masses, but the best evangelism may be living your life for God through thick and thin as you relate and share the gospel with those around you.

It is important to note that Satan quoted Scripture in this debate with Jesus. He is able to twist God's own words to serve his purposes. But Jesus has studied, memorized, and understood Scripture so that he was prepared when the battle came. Satan can prooftext, but Jesus knew the context. We cannot wait until we are in a time of trial to seek God's word on the subject. It is far better to spend time daily in God's Word to strengthen us today and prepare us for the future.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. - 1 Corinthians 10:13

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