Matthew 4:1-3a Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came
If Lent is a time of repentance and preparation, then perhaps there is no better beginning than to study temptation, and how to overcome it. Part of it is an attitude, how often do you hear people saying, "That’s so tempting!" – and the next thing you know they have given in. That’s were the lenten practice of denial comes in – it was to teach us how to say no to temptation, so that once it became a habit, we could continue throughout the rest of the year.
Scripture tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. That is an important first point: Temptation is not sin, but giving in to temptation – that is the sin. The idea is that when the devil tempts you, you say, NO! And the reason why you say no, is the love of God in Jesus Christ, it is our strength, our reason, our power, our refuge.
Part of our problem however, is that we do not see how Jesus was tempted like we are – We generally aren’t tempted to turn stones into bread, or to jump off tall buildings, nor do we desire the whole world. And at first glance that might appear what these temptations are about – however, there is much more involved.
You see, Jesus temptations in the wilderness, match with Israel’s temptation in the wilderness – Israel failed all its temptations – but Jesus came to fulfill the law – thus Jesus must undergo the same temptations, and overcome them.
"If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’"
Israel’s first temptation in the wilderness had to do with daily bread, trusting that God would provide it, and being satisfied with what God have. Israel complained that they were going to starve to death, because they did not see where the food would come from. Israel complained that they were bored with Manna, day after day, they wanted meat. But the biggest problem wasn’t the complaining – it was that they didn’t trust God for their daily bread. And that, is something we all experience – for sometimes we worry needlessly, and other times we eat God’s gift without any thanks. Jesus didn’t need to turn the stones into bread, even though he was hungry, even though he hadn’t eaten for 40 days – God has promised to provide our daily bread, and Jesus trusted in God. Can we learn from this to do the same?
"If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, He will give his angels charge of you,’ and On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’" Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’"
The second temptation in the wilderness was to misuse the power of God, the people, acting again like spoiled children, were complaining that they were thirsty – God had spoken to Moses that at a certain place he should speak to the rock, and the water would spring forth from the rock, but Moses lost his temper, and used the God had given and struck the rock. Jesus knew that the power of God was not to be used for frivolous purposes. How do we use power, and the leadership that has been entrusted to our care?
"All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Begone, Satan! for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’"
After all these things, God appeared on Mt. Sinai, and called Moses up to the mountain, after Moses had been up there a long time, the people turned from God, and turned from Moses to worship the golden calf – a false God. Satan would have given Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, and Jesus had come to bring the Kingdom of God, it would cost his life to purchase and win them, and Satan would given them if only he would bow and worship. But Jesus knew there was no room except for one God, no other gods, just the Lord God. How well do we worship and serve our God?
And if we find that we fail, where do we turn for strength, we do we find hope? We turn to the scripture, for we have seen is has the power to equip us to overcome all temptation. And we come to the Savior, for his blood will wash away all our sins.