The temptation of the Lord Jesus Christ
I purpose to present what I see to be the interpretation of the record of Holy Scripture. Much application is often taken from these verses, but that is not the purpose of my writing.
The context is: The one born as ‘Christ the Lord’ (Luke2), is about to embark on the greatest life changing, world changing ministry of all time - who? - the Son of God!
He is somebody important, He is empowered, He is commissioned, He is approved. Now He is being tested as to readiness for this devil conquering service. A test of His priority, His purpose and His presentation.
In Luke’s record the first temptation, after the forty days of fasting, the devil comes to Him :
“If you are the Son God, command this stone to become bread.”
This is not an “if “ of doubt. It is rather an ‘if’ of challenge. The devil well knew who He was , but now finding Him in the form of a man, seeks to change the PRIOITY from the spiritual to the natural. He succeeded with Eve, who chose what was appealing to the eye and the flesh over communion with God ( which was linked to the command). The Lord Jesus was indeed hungry, and it was no sin to turn stones into bread. It is the temptation to use the legitimate thing of human life outside the will of God or above the priority of knowing and obeying God. The answer of the Lord points to the ‘command’ of God being so much more important than the human need. Reading Matthews record we notice that life is much more than bread – life exists and is maintained by the very word of God! The humanity of the Lord is very real, but the victory is that it remains subservient to the spirit.
If we follow Him, we too will make the spiritual connection with God, of greater importance than the necessities of life. The devil has made our world so sensual, that many miss the greater joy of knowing the Lord.
The devil is very intelligent and he knows the final agenda of God: that is to bring together all things in Christ and under Christ. Old Testament scriptures seem to point to Satan wanting this place of honour. Now he tries to hijack Son of God on the path to this glory. The Lord well knew that the path to glory was via the suffering of the cross (Luke 24) but the devil has a smarter way. Somewhere, -- perhaps in Eden, Satan lays claim over the world - the cosmos of political power, the educational systems, the devotions of the religions, the kingdoms of dominance etc. He is described as the ‘god of this world’
Now he is prepared to surrender all that to Jesus, for just one thing. He is offering for Christ to arrive at the final destination of power and glory on one simple condition - to worship satan - i.e. to take the spoil and give Satan the place of authority and glory that belongs to the Son.
The Lord Jesus , knowing the end and the path of suffering involved to get there, rebuffs the temptation by restating the command of God – “ You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve”.
The third temptation: When embarking on any new venture, one does well to consider the ‘how ‘ question.
Business people have business plans, marketing strategies. Professional people gather qualifications. Tradesmen gather references. Satan’s proposition was that the Lord embark on His public ministry by doing the spectacular. He should present Himself to the people( God’s people) in the most significant place ( Jerusalem) from the most religious building in the world (the temple). By claiming the promise of the Old Testament, Jesus would thus be seen as the promised Messiah, showing the power of God. This way He would be an instant hit with the multitudes and undeniable in authority before the priests, Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes. Even the Roman governor might see this fantastic arrival of the King of the Jews.
Were the promises , quoted by the devil, wrong or unreliable – no. But they were taken out of context and out of purpose. The Lord Jesus would not use the promises of God outside the will and way of God. Scripture had predicted that He must appear as the servant (Isaiah 52), the Saviour (Isaiah 45), a the sacrifice (Isaiah 53) and the Sanctifier (Hebrews 10). My blessed Lord would not test God by calling upon inappropriate promises to achieve the mission He had been given to fulfil.
My explanation may well seem deficient. We need to recognise that this represented something of the conflict of the ages – Satan against the Son of God. Two spiritual beings, conflict in the heavenlies. Like Job I cover my mouth and adore only Him who did no sin, who knew no sin, in whom there was no sin.
I conclude with a special reference to Luke 24
“Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory”
Just like Philippians 2 describes the path of Jehovah’s servant down before up, so we now worship Him who for the joy set before him, endured the cross and despised the shame, and is now set down at the right hand of the Majesty on High. He has and will destroy the works of the devil by saying “Not my will, but thine be done”.
As we take our place to worship HIM only, I hear an echo – ‘ follow Me’