Sunday sermon 17 February – The temptations of Jesus

The Temptations of Jesus

Luke 4:1-13

4 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’[a]

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’[b]

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[
c]

12 Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]

13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 4:4 Deut. 8:3
  2. Luke 4:8 Deut. 6:13
  3. Luke 4:11 Psalm 91:11,12
  4. Luke 4:12 Deut. 6:16

 

Sunday Message

There are two Adams in the Bible. And the comparison between the two is a very helpful way of looking at the story of God’s rescue plan of the world. The Christian story.

In Luke’s gospel – in the previous chapter – there is a fascinating verse which gets us thinking again today about the two Adams. Luke outlines the genealogy of Jesus – his family tree – after the account of his baptism, and ends with this verse, verse 38: 38 the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

  • Adam – the first Adam – the son of God.
  • Jesus – the second or last Adam – the son of God.  (1 Corinthians 15:54)

It doesn’t take much to figure out what the main difference is between these two! It’s in how they respond to the devil’s temptation.

THE TEMPTATIONS

Funny that we don’t always take them seriously – in the sense that we are NOT the son of God so we assume that the temptations Jesus faced were unique to him.

Good news, or bad news if you like – we are sons of Adam by birth and nature. The same stuff comes at us, but in different ways. So let’s look at the passage today.

Temptation 1 – Serving Self.

Luke 4:  Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

This is very close to home. The first temptation involves food. That pretty much settles things doesn’t it? Standing before the fridge at odd hours we have a new incentive to lock the door (of the fridge I mean). In the country where I came from you could lock your fridge which is not a bad thing if you have midnight raiders!

This temptation comes to Jesus at a time of extreme hunger. And one has to be sympathetic.

On Tuesday at our morning worship (See http://wp.me/p2bTnS-7f ) I shared about the three assumptions Jesus made when he spoke to his followers in Matthew 6 – when you give, when you pray and when you fast! We did not do a survey about who actually fasts as the congregation believes me usually – and the passage told us not to tell anyone!

But I know it’s not common! We hardly skip meals. Can you imagine what Jesus went through?

But this is about more than the food. The temptation to make food from rocks is only a symptom.

At his first day at work, in a sense, Jesus is tempted to use his power to serve his own needs.

Later on the cross he would be tempted in a similar way by the voices who taunted him by saying:   “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” (Luke 23:35).

Of course it didn’t stop there. The soldiers:  “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” (Luke 25:36). And one of the criminals hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39).

It’s about using your power to serve your own needs.

We have different power available in our lives. Resources, time, money are all forms of empowerment. Perhaps the temptation of Greed is related to this problem that we have – we could easily use our resources not to please ourselves but to be a blessing to the needy and poor.

We have power in the organisations we work in or serve in. The classic adult bully abuses that power in a self- serving way. Positive influence on the other hand is a blessing to others!

Many things we influence in the church are actually not about others but about ourselves. That’s the truth. The temptation is to serve ourselves.

The dialogue in the text today goes like this:

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’[a] 

Of course he was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Jesus resists this temptation because he knows his bible – which teaches that life comes from God in the fullest sense. Only the real life we have in God makes us fully alive! (song from NW)

We are fooled in thinking that getting our own way satisfies.

The story continues in the second temptation:

Temptation 2 –  The temptation to take control through compromising true worship.

For Jesus is was a stark choice:

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendour, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”

It would have been so easy to embrace the expectations of the people and become a political Messiah. Military and civil power – the power to rule and control the nations – is a great temptation. It could be achieved by a brief moment of worshipping Satan.

Like the turning of stones into bread – it’s another short cut option.

I’ve already talked a little about our abuse use of power.

So many of our temptations are about short cuts bringing instant gratification.

And of course the Kingdom Jesus was ushering in was quite different from political hopes the locals had. It was about a long hard obedience to a new set of truths and assumptions about life.

  • Is this a real temptation?
  • Was Jesus REALLY tempted to worship the Devil?
  • And are we?

I’m not going to try to answer those questions. I’d rather point you to a key verse in the Bible:

Hebrews 4:15  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

And behind this saga in the narrative is the same command that applies to all human beings:

Exodus 20:3  “You shall have no other gods before me.

Power and worship are close allies. It’s about the things that capture our hearts! We are dealing here with Jesus who became fully human.

We need to be so very careful here, because we know that the stuff of this world doesn’t really satisfy. Two illustrations help here. The first is by the 17th century French Philosopher Blaise Pascal:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in humanity a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This we try in vain to fill with everything around us, seeking in things that are not there the help we cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God alone.”
Blaise Pascal, Pensee 10.148.

And then more well-known perhaps from Augustine the 4th century African bishop of Hippo, the modern city of Annaba, in Algeria:

“You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.”
St. Augustine, Confessions 1.1.1

It’s the on-going temptation to seek fulfillment in things and from other sources.

Worship is about what we give worth too – what captures our hearts and imaginations. And we are very vulnerable to this idolatry.

Temptation 3 – The third but not final temptation – a cross-avoiding spectacle

And so we come to the third one. It would have been much easier to perform a stunt. Listen again:

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[
c]

12 Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[d]

A couple of things come to mind here. The misuse of the Bible – how easy it is to abuse scripture.

  • Again the short cuts of wanting instant results.
  • But especially the avoidance of the cross.

Most real achievement comes with long hard commitment and courage. The cross required that in the extreme.

We too should not test God (I am not sure if we do take huge risks though). It’s probably the most difficult temptation to get our heads around and to apply to our lives.

SOME CONCLUSIONS AND SOLUTIONS

I think in all of them there is a FAITH as TRUST issue here. Jesus had to trust His Father fully. So what about us?

  • Do we really believe that God’s way is best for us?
  • Do WE want to force His hand?
  • Are there things we don’t really trust Him for?

LET’S WATCH THIS PRESENTATION OF THE TEMPTATIONS BY CHILDREN – it will give us some insights into the problem and some solutions. It may make this sermon more memorable.

WATCH VIDEO:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntnvr5sbl04

I loved the hamburger thrown in. Typical kids. But the “on my knees” theme is the key! The song grabbed my attention – as did the Lord’s prayer reminder.

The chorus in the song: On my knees! I am on my knees! I’m on my knees!

  • Prayer is at the heart of our victory against temptation.
  • We pray better when we know our Bibles!
  • When we’ve been on our knees (literally or not – it means devoting time to prayer) then the decisions when on our feet through the day become so much simpler. The power of the Holy Spirit applying the Word of God to our lives means that like Paul we can say: “But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16 )

So for your encouragement, read this passage which helps press on and not give up:

Hebrews 4:14-16:  Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Amen.

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About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. I also enjoy my counselling work, especially with young people.

Posted on February 17, 2013, in Sunday Morning Sermons and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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