I’m back to the humanity of our Christ. I’ve looked at his temptations before, and I’m back here again. How we see Jesus temptations in that Judean wilderness will tell us much about how we see Christ’s humanity. Let me ask you a question. Do you believe Jesus was actually tempted by the devil? In other words, do you think Jesus actually considered the options presented to Him? Were the temptations real, or are we just reading a super hero cartoon? How were these temptations presented?
Did the devil come walking up in a red suit with funny little horns and a pitchfork? How does the devil come to you? If the devil was that easy to call the devil, avoiding temptation would be easy for all of us wouldn’t it?
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. He was led by the spirit to be tempted by the devil, that would be the Holy Spirit. Why would the Holy Spirit lead Jesus to be tempted by the devil? My only answer is that to be fully human, Jesus HAS to know what it feels like to really be tempted to sin.
Think about this for a minute – where did this story come from? How did it come to be recorded? It could only have come from the mouth of Jesus Himself, telling it to his disciples. So my question for you is – did Jesus know He was going to be tempted? Of course not. We almost never know when we are about to be tempted. We know if we go certain places there will be temptations. Sometimes we go places FOR the temptation – bars, strip clubs, Vegas baby!! But other times, we are being tempted and don’t even know it. That is when we are really tested. That’s what was going on with Jesus here. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The Judean wilderness is a very harsh environment. It says Jesus was led out there to be tempted, but what was on His mind? What was he fasting in the desert for? He was out there fasting and praying, getting as close to the Father as He could, trying to figure our HOW to achieve His objective – to bring in the kingdom of God. What methods was He going to use? How would He approach people? How would He get His Good News to the world?
And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Jesus, after being out in that desert fasting and praying for forty days and forty nights, was VERY aware of human NEED at this point. He’s tired. He’s hungry. He’s pushed his physical body to the very limits of survival. So how does this temptation work, what is it? Is Jesus simply tempted to cheat on the last day of his fast, turn some rocks into fries and a shake and call it a day? Remember what Jesus is preparing Himself, what’s on His mind out there? How to bring in the Kingdom of God. What I see happening here is an idea, it seems like a good idea, creeps into His mind – “You could provide for all the people’s material needs and they would LOVE you for it!!”
The temptation for Jesus was to bring the Kingdom of God by basing it on fulfilling material needs. “Feed the people, fulfill their material needs, and they will fall down and worship you for it!” Sounds like a good idea. Heck, sounds like a great idea to us in 21st century America doesn’t it? That’s really all we want from Jesus, a better car, a new house, a new husband, in so many ways this is what we’ve reduced Jesus to. Vending machine Jesus. Say a prayer, get “saved”, now gimme gimme gimme. But I digress…
Some of us are still tempted to try to bring the kingdom of God this way. We think we don’t need no church. We don’t need no religion. Just go out, do good works, meet people’s needs, feed the hungry. It really sounds good. People would love it. The world would not be opposed to Christians getting past this whole church thing and just doing good for people. We’d get lots of new “converts”. It is a very real temptation, isn’t it. BUT – it’s also satanic.
But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” It’s a good thing Jesus knows His bible. Because that’s the only way he was able to recognize satan as satan. Most of us just think it’s a great idea. The two greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart mind and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. You can’t do one without the other. You can try, people HAVE been trying for centuries. That’s what Marx tried. And it will always fail. Because – we need the love of God in our hearts to even begin to love our neighbors. We need the worship of God to form us into people who care about their neighbors. To begin to know even what loving our neighbors means, what it looks like. We can’t just skip the first four of the Ten Commandments and go straight to those social justice commands we like. As Pastor Brian Zahnd says, man can not live on social justice alone!
We know that Jesus did feed the multitudes. He fed the 5000. What happened?? They LOVED it!! And they should – it’s a good thing. But what else happened there?? “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.” John 6:14-15 ESV. Jesus came to be king, in fact He became the king and is still the King. So why did He withdraw from this crowd who wanted to make Him king? Because they were about to come and take him by force to make him king. Jesus came to be king, but not by force. Why?? Because taking power by force is not the way of God, it’s the way of the devil.
Sometimes the devil is not so easy to recognize. Sometimes he just seems like a good idea. And man can not live by bread, material well being or social justice alone.
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “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 comes from the mouth of God.'””
Matthew 4:1-4 ESV