Rev. Dr. Niveen Sarras
Matthew 4: The Temptation of our Lord
March 1, 2020
Most of Jesus' ministry was in Galilee. He died and resurrected in Jerusalem, but when he fasted for 40 days, he went to the desert in Jericho. I had visited several times The Monastery of Temptation. It was built on the slopes of the Mount of Temptation overlooking the city of Jericho and the Jordanian Valley.
The devil tempted Jesus all his life. For example, the devil used the apostle Peter to prevent Jesus from enduring the cross. Jesus responds to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me” (Matthew 16:23). After his baptism, the Holy Spirit compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Why the wilderness? Could not the devil test him in Galilee? The Holy Spirit led Jesus to the desert because “Jesus had to cover the ground where Israel had walked. He had to repeat Israel’s experience to gain the victory where historical Israel had failed. The Spirit of God led Jesus in the desert for forty days (4:2) in order for him to experience what Israel had experienced in the wilderness for forty years.”
Jesus proves his divine sonship and his obedience and commitment to God, the Father. His love for God and his determination to redeem us surpassed the gratification of physical needs and emotional desires. Unlike Adam and Eve, who gave in to the temptation of the serpent, Jesus Christ did not give in to the temptations, despite his physical weaknesses due to fasting.
The first temptation concerns self-indulgence (hunger/satisfaction): The devil tempted Jesus to turn stone into bread to save himself from hunger. But for Jesus, fasting is connected to his relationship with God. He was not fasting to show his piety and self-righteousness but for God.
The second temptation concerns “Leap of Faith”: the devil asked Jesus to throw himself down from the top of the temple. He wanted Jesus to commit the sin of pride by testing his power and the power of God, the Father. This temptation is related to trusting in our righteousness for salvation, not believing in God’s grace.
The third temptation concerns “materialism (kingdoms/wealth). The devil showed Jesus the whole world and offered him to give it to him if Jesus worships the devil. The devil wanted Jesus to sell himself to the devil. Jesus refused.
The story of Jesus' temptation is linked to Jesus’ baptism and our baptism. The devil tempted Jesus after his baptism, and we experience temptation after our baptism, too. Jesus’ temptation has to do with his power and how good he is. Temptation comes to us in different forms like cheating, distraction, internet, games, or addiction.
God leads us out to places that look like death and wilderness. God might lead us to a place where we have needs-- spiritual and physical needs. In those moments, we are tempted to satisfy ourselves by using our power. We live in a society and culture that condemn you for your faults. Our culture teaches us that we have the ability to transform our lives. We have the power to quit the addiction. We have the power
to become wealthy and have the best house and car. In some cases, this is true. In many cases, this is not true.
The temptation story points to us Satan’s techniques to deceive us. The devil tempted Jesus to depend less on God and to trust in his power and strength. The devil aims to destroy our relationship with God by making us feel that we are the center of the universe. Satan wants us to believe that we do not need God in our lives. If we have power and wealth, what do I need God for? This is precisely what our culture is feeding us. Instead of believing in lies, believe the truth that you can overcome any temptation through trusting in the mercy of Jesus Christ and the help of your neighbor.
We are not tempted just to somehow be overcomers with ourselves. We are tempted for the purpose that as we overcome temptations, our personal lessons will be helpful for the people around us. Every time you repent or something good happens in your spiritual life, you would be tempted. Every time you make a genuine connection with our Lord and your neighbor, the temptations are right around the corner. Satan is very upset when you focus on your relationship with Jesus. Satan is angry at every time you give glory to God, not to yourself.
Our Lord Jesus Christ provides us an example of how to overcome the devil’s temptation. Scripture helps you to fight your ancient foe. Fasting, prayer, and Scripture will bring you closer to Jesus Christ, who will help you to resist the devil’s temptation.