Text: Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4:1-11
Title: The Temptations of Jesus
Theme: Since Jesus Christ, the second Adam triumphed over temptations; we who are in him can also be victorious over the temptations in life.
I was at a store the other day and overheard this conversation between a customer and the store owner: “Can you sell this to me without the sales tax? IRS will never find out about this transaction.” What would you do if you were the store owner? You have the power and authority to do so in order to get this business.
The passage before us is about the temptations Jesus faced. Soon after his affirmation by God the Father and the Holy Spirit, he was led, or as in Mark 1:12, ‘The spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” The path that came with Jesus, the promised messiah, led him to the wilderness. In the scriptures, wilderness is a place of solitude, hardship and danger. Jesus was driven there and was tempted by the devil, Satan, or the tempter.
The reader will probably immediately associate this with Adam. In the G arden of Eden , he, too, was tempted by the devil. Now, Jesus, often referred to as the second Adam was tempted in the wilderness. The reader knows the result of the first temptation: Adam failed. Now we are curious to know what will happen to this second Adam.
I. The temptation to satisfy human needs at the expense of God's will.
Let's take a look at the first temptation from the devil. To have a better understanding, it is beneficial to recall that the Israelites were in the wilderness for 40 years because of their disobedience to God. In Deut 8:2, “ 2 And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.” The purpose of the wilderness experience was to see if the Israelites would be obedient to God's word.
Now, Jesus was sent to the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. After 40 days of fasting, he was hungry. This was real physical hunger. Satan, the devil, came forward, vs.3, “if you are the son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Jesus was hungry and he had the power to change the stones into bread. Later on, he was able to feed 5K and 4K people on two occasions.
In every temptation, there is a tension point. Here we are told that it was the Spirit that sent Jesus into the wilderness. Therefore it is understood that the Spirit would also take care of him while he was there. Satan's point was, “you are hungry, real hungry. Why not use your power to turn the stones into bread and satisfy your hunger?” So what would Jesus do? If he used his power, then he will be disobedient and distrusting God. He would be doing something against God's will.
As we hear this, we may begin to feel a little uncomfortable. You see, to a certain degree, we all have some power. We're now entering the tax season. In order to get a little bit more money back, we have the power to make some changes here and there. The store owner has the power of not charging sales tax. I really need to get an A in this subject. If I would only turn my shoulder a little to the left, then I can see his answer on this question. If you are a medical student, all you need to do is to take away the JAMA in the next mail slot and you will be ahead of him/her in tomorrow's exam. I have the strong need to be loved and cared for by someone. If only I would sleep with him, then I can secure his love and affection.
You see, we have the power to satisfy some of these needs. But to do so, we are doing something contradictory to God's commands, God's will. What was Jesus' response? vs.4, “ Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” He was not negating the importance of human needs, but that we are not to satisfy our needs at the price of being disobedient to God.
I would like to make a general observation about sexual conduct. The Sex drive is a very powerful force in life. To some, to maintain sexual purity is an intense struggle. However it is important to remember that we are not to let our needs and drive take control of us. For example, we all have the need to eat. Can you imagine if we let this need take control of us? The result will be terrible, isn't it? Yes, it is within our power to satisfy our needs, but the priority in life is to obey God, to keep his commandments.
II. The temptation to test God's faithfulness.
The first temptation was about personal satisfaction. The second temptation is towards God. The devil took Jesus to the top of the temple and challenged him to jump down, vs.6, “if you are the son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ He will command his angels concerning you,' and “ ‘ On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone . ” He was quoting Psalm 91:11-12 and conveniently left out one phrase, “ to guard you in all your ways.” This Psalm passage means that as we carry out our daily activities in a normal way, God is watching over us. There is no promise of God's spectacular intervention. For example, there is no promise that if you decide to walk to the other side of a busy 4 lane highway at night, you will not be hit by 6 cars.
So, what is tension point in this temptation? The devil was saying that if God truly cares for you, then even if you jump from the top of the temple, you will not get hurt. Not only that, just imagine the reaction of the crowd which would surely follow you. If you jump and are not hurt, this will be the proof of God's care for you.
Again, seeing this tension point, we may all feel somewhat uncomfortable. Haven't we all said something like this? From time to time, pastors would hear this: if this pastor really cares for me, he would have come to visit me when I was sick (even though I have not told him about my sickness; he should know.) If God really cares, then he will surely do this for me. If God cares for me, he would have provided me with a spouse; he would have provided me with my dream job. If God truly cares, he would not have let this sickness come to my family members. If God would heal this illness, if God would do this miracle among us, then the world will know that he is the great Messiah.
What was Jesus' response? vs.7, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” Don't test the Lord. To Jesus, God has already declared that, “You are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased.” God has already spoken; his words can stand on its own. He did not need to ask God to perform a miracle in order to show that he is being loved, and cared. God's word alone is enough.
The same with us. God has already spoken in his word about his love, care and faithfulness for us. God has already demonstrated his love for us when Jesus Christ died on the cross. We don't have to ask him to show us miracles so that we know he cares. He alone would decide if supernatural intervention is needed.
Some of us may ask, how about Gideon? Gideon doubted God's mission of sending him to lead the Israelites into the battlefield.. So he tested God by asking God to make the fleece wet while the surrounding ground was dry. God made it happen. Then Gideon asked God to make the fleece dry while the surrounding ground was wet. Again it happened. What are we to learn from this? We are not told that Gideon was to be our role model. Instead, the lesson for us is that in spite of human weakness and faithlessness, God is faithful and grants us the desires of our hearts.
God has spoken to us about his love for us in his word. God has demonstrated his love, greatness and power in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For us to say that if you care for us, if you are truly powerful, you will do this and that for us; is an act of testing God. It is an act of disobeying God and is wrong.
III. The temptation to justify the means by the end.
After the two temptations, Satan now “took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.” (vs.8) He said to Jesus, vs.9, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus knew that all these are his. In Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…” Philippians 2: 9-11, “ 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ” Revelation 5:13, “ 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” All glory and power belong to Jesus, the Messiah, the son of God.
So, what is the tension point here? If you worship me, all this is yours. The tension, the temptation is: how to get there. Satan's suggestion: You worship me, and this is yours. What is God's way? It is a path of sacrifice, a road of the cross. Satan was offering Jesus an alternate way to power, glory and honor. It was a short cut. As long as you get there, how is not important. It is the end that justifies the means.
Again, this makes us feel really uncomfortable, doesn't it? We want the results but not the hard work. I often receive advertisements to subscribe to ‘Sermon outlines for the entire Bible'. It comes complete with points, sub points and illustrations. It promises to be very effective and relevant. It would save me many hours a week in sermon preparation so I can be freed to do other important things. Short cuts, the end will justify the means.
We all want to follow the 5 easy steps to become spirit filled Christians. 4 steps to rekindle the romance in your marriage. One minute a day and you are on the way to be an effective father or mother, or manager. We want to listen to sermons that can be summarized into 3 secrets of a successful marriage or 5 keys to be successful in life. But in real life, to be filled with the spirit, to rekindle the romance in marriage, to be an effective parent or manager requires our effort. There is no short cut.
In many churches, we have the mentality that we'll do whatever we can to get you into the church door. We'll do whatever we can to get you saved. We want you to come, this is the church that will meet your recreation needs for we have that perfect all season, all purpose gym. We have the best program in town that will meet all of your family needs. We are the church for those who have given up on church. As long as you come, we won't talk too much about sins, death to self and the cross. Our message will be on the positive aspects of life. Our worship is sinner friendly. We want to make sure that your feel comfortable with our songs and to make you feel good about yourself. Several years ago I heard a sermon and at the end the preacher said, “If you want your prayers answered, you must believe in Jesus.”
We want the result without hard work; rewards without walking down the path of hardship, sacrifice, dying to self. We want fulfillment without the path of the cross.
What was Jesus' response? vs.10, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” Jesus was saying that the important thing in life is to worship and serve the Creator God. This means we are to recognize that we are sinners; we are totally dependent upon God. To worship means to commit ourselves to him, putting to death our sinful nature and to recognize his preeminence in my life. To worship and serve God is follow him down the path of the cross and there is no short cut. However, this is also a path that provides us with direction and fulfillment in life. It is a path that will lead to final glory and honor.
Immediately after Jesus was introduced as the Messiah, the son of God, he was sent into the wilderness and was tempted by the devil. His first temptation was to temporarily satisfy his personal human needs at the expense of disobeying God. The second temptation was to test God's faithfulness by requesting a spectacular intervention. The last temptation was that the end justifies the means. Take an easy road instead of the path of cross.
We, being his followers are no higher than he. His temptations are also our temptations. We are often tempted to meet our immediate needs by compromising our standards and by doing so, we become disobedient to God. We want God to show his love for us by doing this and that for us. Very often, we want to take the easy way, not the way of the cross to get to Christian maturity. We want the church to grow by catering to everyone's needs and not through the proclamation of the cross. We want to live our way and not the way of the cross.
How did Jesus do in these temptations? How about the first Adam? He failed when he was tempted by the devil. Because we were all in the first Adam, we too failed when facing temptations. But the second Adam, Jesus, is different. He did not yield to the temptations. He was victorious over the devil's temptations. And now for those of us followers of Jesus Christ, we are in this 2 nd Adam. Therefore we too, don't have to yield to temptations, we can overcome them.
Remember the store owner who was asked not to charge the sales tax? It was within her power to do that so she can get this business. This is what she said, “No. If you really don't want to pay for the sales tax, you can go to another store. I don't do this here.”
When we are in the 2 nd Adam, we can be victorious just like Jesus was.
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