As is often the case after a spiritual high (Jesus’ baptism) there comes trickier times. Perhaps (more than likely) Jesus was empowered and led by the Holy Spirit into what’s referred to as the wilderness.
God was not putting Jesus to the test, he knew Jesus. What happened was that Satan was directly challenged by Jesus. We have this account so we can know that Jesus conquered Satan, not just then but for all time on the cross.
Once again we have an account of direct dealing with Satan. In Genesis he came off better against Adam and Eve, but against Jesus, the second Adam, he was defeated. The constant though, is Satan. He used the same trick on Jesus as he had to great effect on Adam and Eve. This time it failed. Satan distorted God’s word by omitting parts and lifting parts out of context (something which is done frequently by cult-members, datesetters and others who have an agenda to be served by twisting God’s word). This skill of Satan’s shows how well he knows the Bible; and therefore how well we need to know the Bible in order to be able to use it in our defence.
It is interesting to compare these two meetings; Adam met Satan in a garden, Jesus met him in the wilderness. Adam had everything and lost everything, Jesus had fasted for 40 days and gained the world. In this experience, Jesus showed us how to deal with the devil. Jesus could have performed a miracle here, but instead he showed by example what we are to do.
There is power in the Bible. Satan knows the Bible well, but yet so can we. For Satan to use the Bible as a weapon is often quite successful, but against a mature believer this is futile. What Satan uses as a weapon can better be used as a defence against him. The Bible was written for us, not for him. Satan’s first claim was that clearly God did not care about Jesus’ well-being. He suggested that God could not be relied upon and that Jesus would have to act to cover up God’s shortcomings. This has at its base, a challenge to the faith in God’s power. We see this in apostate churches today; those that deny the Virign Birth or the resurrection, or the miracles of Christ, or Creation. It boils down to; if God is all-powerful, he can achieve all of this and more. If we do not accept this, then we’re saying that either God lies or hasn’t spoken – and we are lost forever unless we are able to save ourselves. Of course this itself is the lie, but many are quite happy to believe it. Were Jesus to fall for this trick, we would all have been lost, doomed to trying to gain, but not achieving God’s salvation.
Notice in each temptation Jesus defended himself with Scripture. That’s where the answers are. Jesus shows us that physical food is not the only type of food; we need God’s word as food to nourish our soul. A withered, shrivelled soul signifies a spiritual, eternal death which is worse than the physical death of a starved body.
The second temptation was designed to test Jesus’ obedience to the Scriptures he knew so well. This is Satan lifting parts of the Bible out of context. Jesus answered him again with Scripture. Here is is clear, the Bible is the perfect defensive weapon for spiritual attack – but we need to know all of it. To pick and choose what we study renders us defenceless. The third way Satan tempted Jesus was by claiming he could offer all that God was offering, but without the pain, suffering, heartache and inconvenience – all he had to do was the most minor trifle, he wheedled, he had to worship Satan. Jesus made the right choice. If Jesus had slipped up even once in the wilderness, all would have been lost. Believers are to follow his path. Taking what looks like it could be a shortcut is not what Jesus did. The path is a straight one, therefore by definition there can be no shortcut. Shortcuts and compromise have been a characteristic of the visible church for millennia. Shortcuts and compromises have often led to people attempting to justify a course of action. It is evident here therefore it is not enough to know the word of God, we have to obey it too.
The three temptations follow in sequence; we are to trust God we are to know the Bible.We are to obey God’s word. This is the key to the straight path. If we do this; we cannot go wrong. Satan is behind all idolatry. Idolatry is worshipping the created being rather than the Creator. Satan would prefer it was he himself who was worshipped, but as long as he is in some way able to take away God’s worship, he is happy.
Idolatry can be in the form of worshipping false gods or following false religions, or it can be as simple as having something in prime position in your life that is not God. It doesn’t even have to be a sinful thing. If it eclipses God in your life, you have an unhealthy imbalance. Satan in this event, was defeated. He left, only to come back later, this time in a garden. Here we learn that the devil must be treated with respect, as Jesus did. However we have to recognise the devil’s work and be prepared. Jesus passed this challenge, which qualified him to embark on his ministry.
Jesus brings light to the Gentiles in this chapter. How? By preaching the good news of how to be saved, and by healing. What was the healing for? Well first of all healing was for healing’s sake – Jesus came to relieve suffering, not only this though, Jesus had to heal to show he was the Messiah (Isaiah 42:7). Many people were attracted to Jesus more because of what he did than what he said. And this is the same today. More people will be able to point to Jesus as being a healer, than quote one statement he made. The people who merely followed for his miracles are similar to those people today who say ‘I think Jesus was a great teacher/healer/holy man, but I don’t believe he was God’. Such people are trying to appear rigourous without doing the research. Frankly if Jesus was just this, then we are all eternally stuffed. The fact is God gave us all the information we need in order to find out for outselves who he really is. Some people need more information, some need less, but for everyone there is enough. We just have to be interested enough. Most people aren’t.
In Jesus’ time, most people were quite happy to follow him, be healed by him, entertained by him, even fed by him, but many were not interested in who he was. Many passed up on the opportunity of a lifetime. And many still do today. Jesus called pretty ordinary people to be his followers you might think. Actually Jesus called fishermen who were used to working diligently, and with great hardship and danger to themselves. He chose a tax collector, one who was shrewd and knew how to make the best of a situation, he chose a zealot, someone who was later to be filled with zeal for the Lord, he chose brothers because the church was to become a family. He chose people who could see something more than the average person who was rather too wrapped up in their lives to see what was really going on.
With thanks to my spiritual uncles: Uncle Warren Wiersbe, Uncle Chuck Missler, Uncle Matthew Henry, Uncle Jacob Prasch and Uncle Arnold Fruchtenbaum.