Recently, the Lord led my husband and I to make a life decision that greatly impacts our family. From our experience in the past this can often have a mix of emotions but they’ve always yielded good for us. As I was reading in my devotions in Matthew 4, so much leaped off the page that I had to really stop and consider. Some things I have gleaned before, but other things I gleaned in a whole new light.
LED TO BE TEMPTED:
Jesus was LED BY THE SPIRIT into the wilderness TO BE TEMPTED BY THE DEVIL! Before we go any further, it needs to be said…God does not tempt us and does not led us INTO temptation. This is not in any way God tempting Jesus or leading Him into temptation. It is Jesus being led to a place that it is known the devil will in fact tempt Him. So the Spirit is leading Jesus TO BE tempted, not INTO temptation.
Now let’s also first consider that yes, Jesus is, has always been, and always will be God, including when He was on earth born as a man, but that doesn’t mean that He kept all His God abilities during this time. He humbled Himself by becoming a man, you know us broken bodied humans. So to say that He knew what the Father and Spirit were doing at all times during this period can seriously flaw our perspective of Jesus as our High Priestly King who can relate to all that we go through. If He knew all things while He was here on earth, than we really can’t relate to Him nor Him to us. But remembering that He chose to come humbly and be restrained by the same things we are restrained by, makes it so much more awesome when reading about His life here on earth. It is also encouraging because it means all the great things He did while He was here, we can do through His Spirit too!
Ok, so He was led by the Spirit to be tempted after He had been fasting for 40 days and nights. Have you ever fasted before? Have you ever fasted that long? I sure haven’t! I’ve never even fasted longer than a few days. So the thing is, His body was weak and hungry, buut something that I have experienced is how strong your spirit becomes during fasting. Imagine how strong your spirit would be after 40 days and nights? In this, His flesh was weak, but His spirit was strong. Now before you go thinking we need to live in permanent fasts all the time….if you’re a born again follower of Jesus, you have the Spirit of the Living God dwelling inside of you and that is powerful! So while fasting does in fact strengthen your spirit, abiding in Jesus daily and every single day choosing to deny your flesh and lay it down as you take up your cross and follow Him makes your spirit strong. By all means fast when He calls you to, but don’t think that you’re not strong in the Lord if you’re not actively in a fast.
It’s at this point of fasting that the devil comes and tempts Him. Before moving on though, the Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness to be tempted knowing that He would have been fasting for 40 days and nights prior, yet He still led Him there for that reason. This may seem cruel, but the Father knows what is best for us and the Spirit leads us into things that the Father wills. My fellow follower of Jesus, we may not see it when it happens or even after, but we can know that whatever God is doing in our lives is going to be for the good of us because we love Him and are called according to His purpose.
The first thing satan does is start his tempting streak by saying “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Yeah, the little turd went there in the midst of Jesus’ hunger. The thing is, it wasn’t just a temptation because Jesus was hungry though. It was a temptation to prove that He is the Son of God. Notice that satan prefaced the dare so to speak, with “If you are the Son of God…” the devil was tempting Jesus’ pride by questioning His position and identity in the Godhead. This was not because he didn’t know that Jesus was actually the Son of God, of course he knew, but because it is flesh nature to want to prove ourselves and to be prideful. Jesus was now in flesh, a human being, and subject to those temptations. Think of when a kid will claim something like, “I can do a cartwheel” and another kid says otherwise, what is the first thing most kids would say? “Yeah huh, watch, I’ll prove it!” It’s just our nature. The thing is though, Jesus knew exactly who He is and His identity in the Godhead and was secure in that. He had his pride in check and didn’t need to prove anything to anyone. We can take a lesson from our Lord in this because our identity is in Him! We don’t need to prove anything by doing certain things. Yes, we will be known by our fruit, but that doesn’t mean our motivation in doing good things is to prove our identity in Him, it’s just merely the outflow and evidence of it.
The super awesome thing here is that in the face of temptation, Jesus’ first line of defense is to quote scripture. He says, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Something that strikes me as particularly cool is that He doesn’t quote a specific reference of the scripture but instead just says that it is written. I don’t know about you but I’m not the greatest at remembering references. I can memorize what the actual bible verse says, but the reference for whatever reason will often escape me. When we hide God’s word in our heart, it is the content that matters. It is great if we can remember the references, but when you’re being tempted by the devil, a reference isn’t the thing that’s going to help, it’s the content of the reference.
Jesus responded to the temptation with that scripture, but I don’t think the response was simply to rebut what satan had said. I think Jesus was quoting it to strengthen Himself. I know when I’m going through a temptation, a trial, a pretty much anything in life, I will say scripture to myself. I’ll say it, sing it, write it down, post sticky notes, etc. It’s as if I need to continually preach scripture to myself to remind myself of the truth and focus on it so I can walk in it. Jesus modeled this for us. The Spirit undoubtedly brought this to His remembrance and it reaffirmed the truth that Jesus needed to walk in in that moment.
So Jesus squashed that first attempt, but satan didn’t stop there, he then tempts Him and throws in some scripture, twisting it out of context telling Jesus to throw Himself down because the Bible says the angels will basically catch Him. The devil is the master at deception and will do whatever it takes to confuse and get you to conform. Notice that satan didn’t stop tempting Jesus to prove His identity as the Son of God as well. But what does Jesus do, He says, “Again it is written…”. Jesus didn’t cease to use the scriptures and proclaim truth and this went beyond the immediate moment too because if He gave in to this, what kind of temptation would there be to do it again when it came to the cross?
Next the devil goes straight for it in the most blatant and bold way. He doesn’t bother with the whole “If you’re the Son of God” temptation. He instead takes Him to a very high mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and says, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Goodness gracious the pride and disrespect of the devil is ridiculous! You may be thinking, why would this tempt Jesus when God created and owns everything already? But the thing is, when Adam and Eve sinned, the world fell into the hands of the prince of darkness, satan, and he had dominion over it now in which he runs around seeking those whom to devour. The devil knew Jesus had come to save the world from their sin and redeem people from the darkness into light. By satan saying he would give all of it to Jesus was a temptation to evade the cross but with the cost of bowing down and worshipping satan. This may seem like it’s not much of a temptation, but if you knew you were facing the most gruesome death wouldn’t an easy escape sound appealing?
I love that at this point Jesus seems to be just fed up though because He says, “Be gone, satan!” and then once again quotes scripture saying, “…You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve”. If we are truly loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, there will absolutely be no room for worship of anything or anyone else and while the temptation may come, we will hold fast to our convictions.
The verse immediately following says “Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to Him.” Jesus resisted the devil, and the devil fled from Him. Something to take note of is that it took 3 separate temptations of resisting the devil before he left. Resistance requires persistence, but it will pay off if you don’t give up. The second thing to take note of is that angels came and ministered to Him. As a child, I always imagined that these dudes in long robes with wings and halos appeared and maybe made Him up some food. Now I don’t know exactly how they were ministering to Him, but if you read in Hebrews 1:14 it says, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” These angels, these ministering spirits are not just for Jesus. Everyone who is to inherit salvation has ministering spirits sent out to serve us. I like to think of them as guardian angels. The spiritual realm is different than what we experience here in the physical. Battles rage on in a capacity that we can’t even imagine between angels of light and angels of darkness. There are recorded instances of this such as in Daniel 10 when it talks about the angelic battle to fight against the prince of Persia, and in Jude when Michael the archangel contends with the devil over the body of Moses. There is also the oppression of Jesus’ followers even now by angels of darkness. While a demon can’t possess a follower of Jesus, they certainly can and do oppress them. Nonetheless, our God who lives in us is greater than the devil who is the current ruler of this world.
Why does the Spirit lead us into situations like this then? Why would the Father let this happen to His children? What is accomplished through it? Well, in Jesus’ case after this time of fasting and temptation, He then began His earthly ministry. Up til this point, Jesus was not in the spotlight and had not started the ministry that would ultimately lead to the cross. His ministry would be a hard one. One that would forego a house, a bed, the comforts of life that most of us have and want to keep, and bring on insults, death threats, and eventually His actual death. Yet, on the road through all this, He chose 12 men to disciple personally and would send out, He ministered to thousands of people, having personal interactions with many of them, healing the sick, lame, and blind, and raising some from the dead. He touched the lives of people in a way no one had or ever could and He sacrificed everything for you and me. The temptation before He began this ministry and mission of salvation helped prepare Him for this. He would go on to face other temptations, but this was a pretty huge instance of temptation that He wouldn’t forget.
Have you ever had a trial or temptation in life that was so impactful in your life and you experienced God’s goodness, faithfulness, mercy, grace, and sovereignty in? It was a monumental experience that you may even look back on and reflect on God’s goodness to you and remember the little things, lessons learned, and victories through it. When other trials and temptations have come since then, did you think back on that impactful experience? Did you remind yourself that this current time can also be conquered in Christ? If God didn’t have us go through trying times, we wouldn’t have these moments in life to grow from. Whatever good things God has in store for you, and I know if you are a follower of Jesus they are indeed good things, all the things you face along the way and through it are preparing you and shaping you more into the image of Jesus Christ. Your identity is in Christ and you stand in His righteousness, but while you’re still on this earth, you are being sanctified and purified as the bride of Christ that He will present to Himself one day as holy and blameless. As you go through the journeys that the Spirit leads you on, don’t focus on the circumstances of this race you’re running but instead focus on the One whom you’re running the race for!