The Temptation of Jesus, and What We Can Learn From It
(Luke chapter 4, verses 1-21)
For this week's installment of my ongoing Biblical study series, we'll be moving on to Luke chapter four. Since there is so much in here for us to digest, I will be breaking up chapter four into two parts. This is a fairly well-known passage of Scripture, so all you more seasoned Christians bear with me for the sake of the newer believers. Besides, something tells me that for many, they will be seeing a fresh and contemporary point of view relating to this time-honored story of Jesus' temptation in the desert. So let's begin at verse one.
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into 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 very hungry. The devil said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.' Jesus answered, 'Man does not live on bread alone'.” (Luke 4: 1-4)
Could anyone possibly picture themselves in this situation? Jesus went out into the desert after being baptized in the Jordan river by John the Baptist in our study from last week. This was near Bethlehem, the place of his birth, but roughly northwest of there in the desert area in what would be southeastern Israel today. The high temperature in that desert would be about 70 degrees in the winter, and much hotter in the summer, often exceeding 100 degrees. So here we have ample proof that Jesus was the Son of God, because a normal human would not be able to survive alone out in that desert heat without food for forty days. Presumably Jesus had a little rain water to drink occasionally, but the apostle Luke does not specify about that one way or the other.
So the devil, or Satan, or the 'Tempter' was attacking Jesus right from the very start of his ministry. Besides having to deal with hunger and exposure to the elements in a harsh environment, Jesus has his arch-enemy taunting, teasing and belittling him at every turn. Testing him, verbally abusing him, and pushing Jesus' patience well beyond human limitations is what Satan did for forty days straight! Satan was unrelenting in his attacks on our Lord, though he was undoubtedly not allowed to harm Jesus physically.
If Satan was unrelenting in his attacks on the Son of God, then how much more is this true for ourselves? The quote, “Man does not live on bread alone” is taken from Deuteronomy 8: 3, which in its full context reads, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord”. So Jesus was saying to Satan, “You can keep your bread and your stone. I am in need of neither of them. I have my Father, and he supplies me with everything.” We should all take a lesson here from our Lord to do the same. Let's pick up now at verse 5.
“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 will worship me, it will all be yours.' Jesus answered, 'It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'” (Luke 4: 5-8)
So we can clearly see here that Satan showed Jesus every kingdom, empire, and government in existence at that time, plus all the empires of the past and into the future, simultaneously. This is significant because it proves Satan can travel back and forth in time, but by extension so can the Lord! Moreover, since God and Satan are spirits and not physical beings, they are trans-dimensional as well, and the above Scripture proves that to my satisfaction. Hopefully it is to yours as well.
But if not, try praying for more faith! Remember, God answers all prayers having to do with faith, that's a given. Also, as you have observed, Jesus turned down Satan's offer, but that's just what's on the surface. If we go deeper, we find Jesus rejected all the corruption that is inherent in every government. As we know, traditional hierarchical governance and corruption go hand in hand. It is up to us to do something about that, but that's a Sunday sermon for another time.
“The devil then led him to Jerusalem and set him up on the highest point on the Temple. 'If you are the Son of God,' he said, 'throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone'. Jesus said, 'It says: Do not put the Lord your God to the test'. When the devil had finished all his tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” (Luke 4: 9-13)
I see two things here that I think bear considerable emphasis. First, Satan knows the Bible as well as Christ Jesus does, which is sufficient warning for the rest of us not to ever underestimate Satan. He is evil personified, the source of every kind of depravity and immorality, of every murder and deceit, and the ultimate starter of all the wars ever fought in humanity's history. This brings me to the second thing, “he left him until an opportune time.” Satan is relentless, he never gives up, he is obsessed with our destruction, and he's determined to never stop until he either achieves his objective or gets destroyed in the process. Satan is not only evil, he is fanatical about it. It is for this exact reason that we are to be equally fanatical while we continuously resist him. The devil never stops trying, and neither should we. The Bible says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4: 7). Never stop resisting Satan and the wrong temptations he brings! Otherwise, the devil can and will consume you. Bearing this in mind, let's wrap up the remainder of this week's study, taking up where we left off.
“Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.' Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened upon him, and he began by saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'” (Luke 4:14-21)
So here's the scene – Jesus has gone into the synagogue at Nazareth on the morning of the Sabbath (the Jewish Sabbath goes from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday by our calendars today). It is his turn to read on this particular morning, so he reads a quote from Isaiah chapter 61, verses 1-2. First, Jesus proclaims 'good news to the poor'. Contrary to popular belief within much of Christendom, particularly here in the US, this verse does not tell us that Jesus wants us all to be rich! On the contrary, it foretells a day when we won't need money any more, because a time is coming when that entire capitalist economic system will soon be destroyed. This is not an idle threat, it is a fact and if Jesus said it will occur through one of the prophets of his Father, then it surely will!
Jesus, through the prophet Isaiah, then proclaims 'freedom for the prisoners' and 'recovery of sight for the blind'. This does not mean Jesus wants to let all the convicts out of jail, but that he wants to set their spirit free and so to redeem their souls from the fires of hell. He wants to give sight, not just to those who are physically blind, but to all those individuals who are blinded by the deception of Satan and his minions, so that they may see the light of truth, which is Jesus Christ. Jesus also wants to free the oppressed! Show me a dictator and I'll show you someone who is the polar opposite of Christ, just like Satan. So it's safe to say here that all dictators are demonic people, without exception.
Finally, Jesus proclaimed in the middle of a church service that it was “the year of the Lord's favor”. This 'year of the Lord's favor' refers to a Jubilee year, which is a mutual canceling of debts (see Leviticus 25, verses 8-17 for a detailed explanation of a Jubilee year). As it is with many, so it shall be with property – this entire economy of excessive profit at the expense of numerous others is unjust, and it will come to an end. So hang in there, the era of indebtedness is coming to a cataclysmic end. But, be watchful, because it is likely that it will do so quite suddenly, catching many people unawares. Don't let that day sneak up on you – get prepared now! Stock up on nonperishable food, and get bottled water by the gallon to make sure you have enough. You will need 1-2 gallons per day per person in the event of a national emergency. Get your money out of Wall Street or you will lose it all! Yes, I know, the Dow just hit 30,300 the week this was written, but anyone who thinks it will continue to up indefinitely is only fooling themselves.
In closing, Jesus finished by saying, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” So he was telling the entire congregation, which probably was relatively small, that he was here to finish the job Isaiah started. He was telling them that he was the Jewish Messiah, yet not in so many words. What did the rest of the men in the congregation think? Did they believe Jesus or not, and did the rest of the town believe along with them? The answer to that question comes next week, when we will (God willing) finish up Luke chapter four. Until then, take good care, and keep Jesus in your heart!