A few days ago, I was discussing the temptation of Jesus with someone, and we got to talking about some of the thoughts that I’m about to share here. I touched them up a little from a study series I compiled on the Book of Luke last year, from authors of bygone centuries. Hopefully they may be both instructive and encouraging to you today!
After His baptism, the temptation of Jesus (Luke 4:1-13) was the last step in the preparation for His public ministry; and for many of His followers, the final discipline for service consists in such a trial that results in a new determination to live not for self – but for God! The timing of the Savior’s temptation was significant. It was just after He had been filled with the Holy Spirit, and after He had been freshly assured of His Divine Sonship. Under the influence of the Spirit, He was brought to the place of trial; and the temptation consisted, in a large part, of the suggestion to forget His relationship with His Father, and to employ His Divine power for selfish purposes.
Now, we know that God never tempts us in the sense of enticing us to sin; but it does seem to be a part of His gracious plan for His sons and daughters to allow them to be tested. These experiences come to us while we are guided by His Holy Spirit; and the essence of these temptations usually consists in some kind of inclination to please ourselves, and to forgetful our true relationship with God.
In Jesus’ case, the place of temptation was the wilderness; and in our case also, there is a sense in which the experience of moral struggle is always one of intense loneliness. Living in a literal desert or as a hermit does not free one from the temptation to sin. Nevertheless, wherever a child of God may be, he or she may be assured of the presence and sympathy of Christ; and victory is possible through faith in Him! This seems to be the supreme message of this narrative.
In both Matthew and Luke, three different temptations of Jesus are mentioned; and they can stand very well as symbols of the different categories under which all the moral trials of mankind can be grouped. It is interesting to note, however, that the order of the temptations given by Luke differs from that of Matthew. In both accounts, the first temptation is to make bread from stones; but Luke mentions as the second temptation that which is last in the account of Matthew – the temptation which offered to Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. This was a fitting climax to the testing of the King, as Matthew’s Gospel particularly portrays Jesus to be. Luke, however, finishes this part of his record with the temptation of Jesus to cast Himself from the pinnacle of the Temple – thereby testing God. It is a temptation in the sphere of intellectual desire, and it comes in the subtle form of presumptuous “trust”; and hence it forms a true climax in the testing of the ideal Man – the picture of Jesus that Luke especially emphasizes.
The order in which Matthew records Jesus’ temptations is suggested by the Apostle John, when he mentions “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” But the order of Luke takes us back to the history of Eden and the first human sin – which was due to a love for that which was “good for food,” “a delight to the eyes,” and “to be desired to make one wise.” In the Garden of Eden, the first temptation was to doubt the goodness of God; the second was to doubt His power; and the third was to distrust His wisdom.
The victory of Jesus in His temptations, however, was secured by the triumph of His faith; and in the case of all the tempted people of God, faith is still “the victory which overcomes the world.” Yes, the life of faith is a life of repeated moral conflicts, but the good news that encourages and inspires us is the assurance that victory is promised to all who trust in the goodness and power and wisdom of God!
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this article! Feel free to leave your reflections and ask your questions below.
God bless you and your family, this day and always.
All for our King’s glory,
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