Old Testament: Joshua 21 & 22
Poetry: Psalm 104
New Testament: Luke 4
It was the spirit that led Jesus into the wilderness to be tested. It was the devil who tempted him. God does test us, like a father tests his children, allowing us to make a choice between his will and our own, but he does not tempt us to do evil, nor can he be tempted, as everything already belongs to him and therefore wouldn’t be tempting.
God does not tempt with sin, but he does test his children so that they can learn obedience, to overcome sin and become people of character, for their own good, for their survival and for other good things he desires for us. We’ll pass the test every time if we choose his will over our own, just like his son Jesus did.
The devil’s temptations to cause Jesus to sin were cunning. With the first temptation, (Luke 4:3 “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”) the devil raises doubt about Jesus’s identity. He then targets Jesus’s need, his hunger, as a result of his fasting. When you are so hungry and deprived of your need to eat, it can be the most powerful time in your life because you have no choice but to cry out to God for help.
This was a very crafty temptation for Jesus, because both he and the devil knew who he was. He was the Son of God. God had already granted him authority and power, which he continued to grow in, which he could have used to meet his hunger need by performing a miracle for himself at his will. But he didn’t. Instead, his response was God’s will (Luke 4:4: And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”).
The temptation was taken right out of God’s playbook, when he tested his firstborn son, the children of Israel in the wilderness. What is new is knowing the devil’s part in this temptation towards Jesus. Jesus goes straight to God’s will in the matter, referencing Deuteronomy 8:1-10 with his response. The testing was meant to test obedience and build the character trait of humility, as is clear from that passage.
Keep in mind though that it looks like God’s testing came after his firstborn son already tried to put him to the test by blaming him for their hardships and lack of needs in the wilderness. God is Israel’s father. He is going to take care of his children, but they needed to learn to obey and trust him. Our good God sent them bread from heaven despite their evil response because he loved them. It didn’t always fare so well in God’s response to their constant rebellion, but you can see throughout scripture that God was patient and long-suffering with his people.
The second temptation was tempting because the devil was offering the world as Jesus’s kingdom right then and there, if only he’d worship him. Satan is called the god of this world, which meant that he had the power to give Jesus the kingdom. Jesus knew through scripture that through serving God, he was going to gain the whole world and more, but he had to die first. It would have been very tempting for him to set up his kingdom straight away, without having to die first. But his response was to serve God by carrying out his will for him in his plan of salvation (Luke 4:8 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.”).
Jesus’s response came from Deuteronomy 6, where God gave the children of Israel the first and great commandment, which is to listen; Yahweh is God, Yahweh alone. Love Yahweh God with all your heart, soul, and might. They were told to do this so that they would remember him, fearing him only, and worshipping him, and swearing by his name (Deut. 6:13). They were to remember what Yahweh did, bringing them out of slavery and into the promised land to serve him. He told them these things for their good always and for their survival (Deut. 6:24).
Jesus trusted his father. He knew that God was faithful to do what he said he’d do, and he loved his father. He also knew from scripture that he had to die to be able to bring us with him. He chose us. He chose God’s will.
With the third temptation, the devil tries to provoke Jesus to prove that he is the Christ on his terms. He quotes from Psalm 91, telling Jesus that God will protect him if he performs the miracle that he wants him to do to show everyone that he is indeed who God said he was.
This is tempting because proving that he is the Son of God, the Messiah, could remove a lot of suffering from his life. Picture Jesus performing the miracle from the temple pinnacle in Jerusalem, in front of all the religious leaders. If they saw him doing this act, in front of everyone, from that location, they all would have known for certain that Jesus was the Christ. They probably would have set him up as their king, rather than trying to continuously kill him. Because Jesus chooses not to reveal his identity to anyone, except on God’s terms, it appears that like David, Jesus was always “on the run” from his enemies, because they doubted that he was the Messiah. Falsely claiming to be so was an offense worthy of death to the Jews.
But Jesus wasn’t really just “on the run” from his enemies. He was choosing to do God’s will at every step in his ministry. For the most part, he was on the move because his father told him to preach the kingdom of God to the various cities he was sent to.
The life Jesus chose was hard. He told us often that he spoke his father’s words, not his own. His father’s words were met with resistance and hate from most, except from those to whom it was given to know the things of God. Jesus’s response was the harder, but better route. He chose God’s will. He said, 12”…It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
This quote comes from Deut. 6:16. It references the bread incident from the first temptation. Again, we’re told what this was all about in Deut. 8:1-10. God does things his way for our own good, for our salvation, and to give us good things. But we have to trust him by doing it his way, even if his ways are harder than what we think ours will be.
If Jesus would have performed the miracle that the devil tempted him with, he would have been no better than God’s firstborn son, who put him to the test in the wilderness. They remembered their former slavery to Egypt, thinking it was far superior to their journey in the wilderness on the way to God’s promised land. The wilderness was hard. Many of them died there, never getting to see the promised land.
Similarly, if Jesus had proved to all that he was the Messiah by choosing his own will over God’s, the seemingly better route to go, he too would have put God to the test. Instead, he never blames God for his circumstances. He endures, looking at his hope, and thinking about all those he will save by choosing God’s will.
The devil left him, but only until another opportune time. Many of the things he said to Jesus make their comeback through the lips of religious leaders, as we’ll see through their interactions with Jesus in the rest of Luke’s narrative.
There were people who admired Jesus, but still doubted his identity. There were people, particularly those in his hometown, who asked Jesus to heal and perform miracles. When they don’t receive what they want from Jesus, which looks like a request for proof because of their doubt that he was the Messiah, they are denied, and they hate him for it. They attempt to push him off a cliff! Jesus doesn’t budge in following his God’s will, despite the consequences from men.
It is interesting that after the devil’s temptations, that Jesus quotes from scripture in Isaiah 61. We’ll eventually read in the rest of Luke’s narrative that Jesus lives out these proclamations from Luke 4:18-19.
Mixed in the quote is a quote from Isaiah 35 (recovery of sight to the blind). Jesus will indeed perform this miracle too. He’s even going to do it in Jerusalem, proving that he is the Son of God for many to take note of, but it will be on God’s time, and it is to the people God chooses for Jesus to reveal himself to as the Son of God, for God’s own purposes. When you read about this, and the other “Messiah” miracles, be careful to investigate the details so that you will know the exact truth about the things you are learning.
-Juliet Taylor – It’s been a joy to write again for SeekGrowLove.com and I’ve grown tremendously from doing it, so thank you Marcia! Hello Seekers! I am a Biblical Unitarian (BU) living in Tennessee with my husband, Wes Taylor, and our two boys, John and James. God has given me a BU church (Higher Ground), the best BU friend (Amy Swanson) to go through this race to the Kingdom with, an online church to fellowship with (Allegiance to the King), and a profession (Behavior Analyst/Sleep Consultant) that allows me time to study God’s word. God is good!
- God cannot be tempted, because there’s no way to get him to desire anything that he doesn’t already have or will have at his will, as he’s the creator of all. But he can be tested (although we shouldn’t, knowing the consequences). In what ways do people test God in our time?
- Similarly, God does not tempt us to sin, but he does test us like a father tests his child for her own good. In what ways do you think God has tested you?
- What other “Messiah” miracle does Jesus perform in Jerusalem (hint: it’s mentioned in Isaiah 35).