Jesus is famished. He has not eaten for forty days. This is beyond anything that I can understand. Forty days is a long time, at the end of which one would be confused and vulnerable. That is when the devil slips in. Isn’t that typical in your experience? It seems like I encounter temptation when it is really still or really chaotic? When I am sitting around twiddling my thumbs or when I have worked my way through breakfast and lunch. Whenever I fast, I know that temptation is waiting in the wings. When I am deprived and uncomfortable, then I am vulnerable. What a spoiled culture we live in.
In Matthew 4:3, 4, this is the situation. “The tempter came and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.' But he answered, "It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Jesus is asked to make food appear, like a magic act. Imagine how enticing that would be after you had not eaten for forty days. Have you ever been feeling down and a friend says, “Let’s go shopping”? You are down because you are broke, but still you say, “Ok”. If you were completely focused and on your game, you might say, “nope that is what got me in this situation”. If you are a little off of your game and needing solace, you might cave in to the comfort of a good shopping spree. Jesus did not give in to this enticement after forty days of fasting and living in the wilderness.
What just happened in Matthew? God has just publically claimed Jesus, as the Son, during His baptism. The Spirit descended like a dove on Jesus…that is pretty hard to miss. Oh, well, if you did, there was also the voice of God. It was, probably, a pretty big deal and I assume that it got the attention of Satan and his entire posse. This was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the beginning of His testing. He must have been quite a threat. Then, Jesus was led by the Spirit to go and be tempted.
Satan wanted for Jesus to disobey God and break the fast. It does seem simplistic enough, appealing to the immediate needs of Jesus, but let’s look a little further. Jesus is meant to be vulnerable, He is meant to be physically at the end of His humanity; and this temptation was meant to break the very core of Christ’s identity. It seems as simple as a miracle, but any temptation brought on by Satan is, at its root, meant to pull us away from God. It is meant to question our identity as His children. Satan was trying to tempt the Savior of the world to perform at his request.
Satan has power in the slight twists of good things. God’s love is pure and good, but in the hands of the devil, it looks like a desperate reality show contest. Sex inside of marriage is good, but in the hands of the devil, it looks like an insatiable appetite for everyone; one that leaves people discarded and used. Satan is a liar. John 8:44, “You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Everything that is pure can be touched by Satan and twisted, even just slightly to make it unholy and needy. This adversary has been around so much longer that us, and he is so much more cunning than we could ever be. We are truly fools to think that we can manage him. He was the most beautiful angel, thrown out of heaven. Sin is attractive, isn’t it? Otherwise would we bother? Don’t play with temptation. It has big connections.
Jesus’ response to the devil is what I would like to call our “First Response”. This response says, "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." This sounds a lot like Deuteronomy 8:3, “He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
What is he saying? The word of God is better for me. The word of God is truer form me. The word of God serves me better than following any of my appetites, any of my desires, and anything that goes against God’s will for me. God wanted for Jesus to fast; so Jesus fasted. Note that God’s word holds authority in this situation; and note that the devil left it alone.
So, what is our First Response? It is the word of God. This is the first way that we deal with temptation. Tune in tomorrow for more…
Lord, make us strong in the face of the enemy. Write your word on our hearts so we can crush temptation. We praise you that your will for us is better than anything that we desire.