temptation jesus

Into the wilderness

Scripture Readings:

  • Psalm 32: 5-11
  • Matthew 4:1–11

By Rev Heeyoung Lim

In today’s text, David stops deceiving himself and acknowledges, uncovers, and confesses his sin to the Lord. He, having experienced the forgiveness and blessing of God following the confession of his sin, instructs and counsels others in this path of forgiveness. Verse 7 tells us about our relationship with God who is our hiding place. God preserves us, and surrounds us, and protects us.

Lent is a time of journeying with Jesus towards the cross and deep within us to test and strengthen our faith. In Matthew 4, the temptation Jesus faces in the wilderness comes after fasting forty days and forty nights. The Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness. Jesus does not go alone. Jesus has been tested through hardship and temptation in the wilderness. God himself has recognized such testing as a necessary part of Messiah’s ministry.

This temptation story is placed between Jesus’ baptism and his ministry in Galilee. Satan is always seeking to take God’s place and oppose God’s will. Jesus faced forty days of confrontation with the adversary whom his messianic ministry would destroy. It is impossible to fast forty days without food and water, especially in a very dried and hot wilderness. Jesus brought God’s word in his personal battle and entrusted his well-being to his Father. In the wilderness, Jesus fought his battle in serious hunger but still came out victorious.

Satan’s temptations follow the similar patterns such as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. In the first temptation, the tester encourages Jesus to satisfy his physical hunger by turning stones into bread. The tempter acknowledged the fact that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. Satan was not questioning the fact of Jesus’ sonship, but he was tempting him to misuse it. However, Jesus came to do the Father’s will only. Jesus answered, “It is written, one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

In the second temptation, the test focuses on Jesus’ vulnerability and need for safety. The devil invites Jesus to make himself secure from injury or even death. Jesus was tempted to exercise improper dependence to divine intervention. Jesus was forced to do miraculous works. Satan quoted Psalm 91:11-12 and misused Scripture in his attempt to deceive and mislead. In Matthew, the devil seeks to mislead Jesus about the meaning of sonship and the purposes of God. It was a subtle challenge to Jesus to prove his deity. However, Jesus is not
deceived. When people misuse Scripture to others, it can be a negative challenge to others.

In response to Satan’s second challenge, Jesus took the matter back to Scripture and quoted Deuteronomy 6:16, which prohibited testing God in this way. The devil used Scripture out of context, but Jesus said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Jesus refused improper dependence. In the third temptation, Satan’s offer would allow Jesus to rule the earth without going through the sacrifice of the cross. God the Father had a plan for great glory for Jesus, but Satan offered a deceptive and impossible plan. It was about a kingdom and all its glory, minus the suffering. Satan tempted Jesus to believe that someone else could provide for him in a better way than God could.

Jesus said to Satan, “Away from me, Satan! This time Jesus sent Satan on his way through God&’s word. He rejects the deceiver’s misdirection and quotes Scripture Deuteronomy 6:13 in its context, saying, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” Jesus’ response and Satan’s obedience of departure from Jesus demonstrated who was the real Master. Satan left in accordance with Jesus' words, but he has not gone away. Jesus showed that worship belongs to God and overcame that temptation crisis with the Word of God and the fullness of the Holy Spirit. From time-to-time Satan will try to turn Christ from the Father’s will and
the road to the cross. However, we will see Jesus' love and ultimate victory, and The Bible will lead us for right living.

The defeat of the devil in his encounter with Jesus is inevitable. Jesus will overcome; yet this scene indicates the reality of evil in the face of holiness. Each time Jesus rejects temptation, he sets up for us a way to understand the cross to come.

In our lives, temptation comes to us in moments when we look at others and feel insecure about not having enough. Temptation rages in moments when we allow our temper to dominate our lives or when addiction to power, wealth, and influence over others defines who we are. Temptation wins when we engage in the justification of little lies and sins or when we get caught up in the trappings of life. Lenten repentance and overcoming temptations confront the dark places in our lives and seek forgiveness and new beginnings for them.

God will use both pleasant experiences and unpleasant experiences to prepare us for ministry. Before ministry proceeds, preparation in the presence of God opens the way. Jesus called and trained others to join Him in His ministry. We believe that our words and deeds need to be consistent to impact the lives of others in the love of God and the power of God’s words. In our lives and ministries, may we combat temptation by memorizing God’s Word and by relying on God’s total sufficiency. When Israel found they had no resources and foods, they grumbled.

However, God demonstrated their need to depend on him by providing manna. Through this experience, God taught Israel to be dependent on Him. We experience both great outward blessing and great trials in our lives. May we be dependent on God, apply God’s truth, wisdom, and instruction in our lives, and be victorious over temptations through God’s living words.

While many view the wilderness as a place for renewal, wilderness in the Bible is nearly a place of struggle. Jesus taught his disciples to pray to God to keep them from falling into temptation rather than a prayer for getting rid of all testing. Jesus comes into the wilderness, and the Spirit never leaves us. The Holy Spirit travels with us into the unknown and uncertainty. Jesus was tempted in every way that we are tempted, yet without sin. When we follow the Spirit into the wilderness, may we find that we are accompanied by God. When tempted, may we trust and follow Jesus who has been tempted in the wilderness and is ready to help us be victorious over our temptation.

We begin the adventure of Lent in the wilderness, discovering God’s words and seeking new insights from God. In the wilderness, people often feel the temptation to long for more, but we venture forward into the wilderness. As we step forward, God will make our steps new and bold in Christ. I believe that God will grant us eyes to see new things, and hearts to feel new feelings even in the wilderness. Victory will be given to those who follow Jesus and live out the gospel even in their trials. May we trust in God’s Word and saving power and follow Jesus all
the time.

Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)