Luke 4:1-13-The Wilderness Temptations of Jesus.
Luke 4:1-The traditional site where this temptation took place is northwest of the Dead Sea, near Jericho. Jesus was “led about by the Spirit in the wilderness”. God was preparing His Son for ministry.
Luke 4:2-For 40 days He had nothing to eat and He became very hungry.
Luke 4:3-5-Temptation #1-the attempt to Divide the Unity of the Godhead
The focal point of the first temptation was the physical hunger of Jesus. It was the temptation to allow His human needs to supersede the plan of God the Father. For the satisfaction of His physical needs to become more important than His obedience to what the Father intended to do with and through Him. Bread, satisfying His hunger was not to be the number one priority for Jesus. While the food was the medium of the temptation…it wasn’t really the objective of the temptation. Ultimately, the objective of this temptation was to entice Jesus to operate independently of the intention of God the Father. And in so doing…to divide the Godhead. To lead Jesus to elevate Himself above the Father…and in so doing, to divide the oneness of the Godhead. The structure of the Greek wording in this sentence indicates that Satan knew that Jesus was the Son of God. He wasn’t trying to prove or disprove that. But Satan, a proud and arrogant being, tried to attack Jesus at the very point at which he, himself had been vulnerable, his ego. It was the temptation of pride. “If You are the Son of God…” It’s as if Satan was saying, “Well, what does that mean, ‘Son of God,’ if You have to do what You are told? What good is that? You have no will of Your own. You’re just a lackey…doing what Your Daddy tells you to do.” Do you hear the arrogance, the contempt, the disdain, the attempt to incense the pride of Jesus? The attempt to make Him break with the will of the Father, the Godhead.
For an understanding of the sin and fall of Satan see: Isaiah 14:12-15
Satan assumed that because he had sinned when he was tempted in this manner, that Jesus would do the same. Perhaps he thought that if he could somehow divide the Godhead, then he could at long last conquer the Godhead. The response of Jesus made it clear that He knew what was being done and would not forsake His unity in person and purpose with the Godhead. “Bread” (which represents the satisfaction of any human need or desire) is not the ultimate priority. The harmony and agreement of the Godhead takes precedence over all else.
An understanding of the passage from the Old Testament that Jesus quotes in His answer is vital to a clear understanding of what is being taught here. His quotation is a portion of Deuteronomy 8:1-20, specifically verse 3. In that passage, the people are about to enter into the Promised Land. We find Moses reminding the people that…
1.-it was God Who had led them into the wilderness;
2.-it had been a time of testing to prove their obedience to Him;
3.-God had intentionally allowed them to become hungry so that He would have the opportunity to become the source to meet their need;
4.-His intention was to use this physical trial to teach them a spiritual truth…”but man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.”;
5-God did this because He loves them even as a father loves his child;
6.-this incident should be a constant reminder in the future for them to never depend on themselves, but to always depend on Him.
Now, compare those six points to the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness and you will see how they parallel each other. For 40 years the people of Israel had been in the wilderness…now, for 40 days Jesus has been in the wilderness. The lesson to be learned in Deuteronomy was absolute dependence on God and complete obedience to His will. The lesson to be learned in Luke was the same…dependence on God and obedience to His will…even by the Son of God. And, if it be true for Him…how much more so for us. When Jesus replied to Satan, He said, “It is written…” These words immediately showed that He was submitting His will to the will of the Father as it was recorded in Holy Scripture. If we are to be obedient to the will of God, we must know the Word of God.
How many times does Satan tempt us to decide on our own (without consulting with God) what is good or bad, right or wrong? He knew that Jesus was weak physically…so that is where he attacked Him. He does the same thing with us. He identifies our weakness(es) and then begins to tempt us to satisfy that desire, or let that attitude continue, or harbor those bitter feelings. That’s just the temptation…it’s not the sin. The sin is when I follow through on the temptation. We know and recognize that sin. However, it is also sinful when I try to handle the matter on my own. I don’t look to the Lord for His wisdom and strength. “It’s okay God, I’ve got it covered. I can handle this one on my own.” And yet, there is an even more subtle sin. It may not necessarily be something bad or evil that Satan tempts me with. It could be something that is inherently good. The problem is when I become so focused on it, so caught up and infatuated by it…that I begin to lose my focus on God. It’s not a deliberate decision. It just slowly begins to dominate my life. I don’t even recognize it. But after a while it begins to make my decisions for me. As someone has said, “I make my decisions…then my decisions make me.” It is then that I need to remember the model that Jesus has given me, how He overcame this temptation. He knew, ”but man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.” I need to repent, to agree with God that I have sinned by not trusting in Him, discover what He has said in His Word concerning the matter, and put it into practice.
Luke 4:5-8-Temptation #2-the attempt to Dictate the Sovereignty of the Godhead
The focal point of the second temptation was power and control. The answer of Jesus tells us that even having control over the entire world is not as important as worshipping God, God alone, and only God. We are not to give worship to anything other than God...no matter how appealing it may be, no matter what it might seem to accomplish. Satan was tempting Jesus to accomplish God’s purpose for His life through an alternative means. Instead of gaining sovereignty over the world by paying for its sins on the cross, Satan was offering Him sovereignty over the world for giving worship at his feet. The problem though, is that while the world would then belong to Jesus…Jesus would belong to Satan. In gaining the kingdoms of the world, He would have lost the kingdom of Heaven.
Notice that it says that Satan “showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.” There are those who discredit this passage because they say that there is no point high enough in all of the world, much less in Israel, from which you can see all of the kingdoms across the entire globe (to say nothing of the problem that the curvature of the earth would present). But they miss the point. Satan did not just show Jesus the physical earth and the kingdoms that existed at that present moment in history…but, he showed Him all of the kingdoms that had already existed up till that point in history. Notice the words, “in a moment of time”. They suggest that in a flash, like a video in fast-forward, Satan somehow gave Jesus a panoramic view of all the kingdoms up to that point in history. And, he laid claim to his possession of them…with the insinuation being that he will also possess all of the kingdoms of the world that would exist in the future. They all belong to him and he has the authority to allow whomever he wishes to govern them. However, while Jesus would govern the world…by virtue of His having given worship to Satan…Satan would then govern Jesus.
When Jesus responds to Satan this time, He quotes a portion of Deuteronomy 6:13. This passage commands that worship is to be offered exclusively to the LORD God…and to none other. It follows right on the heals of Moses having reemphasized the 10 Commandments to the people of Israel, the First Commandment being…”You shall have no other gods before Me” (Deuteronomy 5:7, NASV). The word “before” means “other than”. Then, in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Moses gives what would later become the great theological statement of faith for the Jewish people…it is called the Shema (means: hear)…”4. Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Jesus is making it clear that God has no equal and that there is none other who can receive His worship. God, and God alone is to be worshipped…regardless of the cost.
If Satan could not Divide the Godhead by tempting Jesus to make decisions on His own that would be contrary to the Father’s will…then, he will attempt to Dictate the Godhead by offering an alternative solution to accomplish the same objective. However, by accepting this alternative solution (to gain the kingdoms of the world by worshipping Satan)…Jesus would become a slave of Satan.
Are you a slave to anything? Is there anything in your life that you would be unwilling to get rid of if you discovered that it was hindering your walk with God? Anything that you know would cause such difficulty, such pain, if you tried to get rid of it…that you would rather be disobedient to God than make the change? It’s possible…
- For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?
(Luke 9:25, NASV)
Luke 4:9-12-Temptation #3-the attempt to Diminish the Glory of the Godhead
The third temptation was for Jesus to exert His control over the angels for His own glory. But not only His control over the angels; but, His control over the Father. The response of Jesus makes it obvious that He knows that while Satan has tried to present this suggestion in terms of how the angels would react…in reality, what Satan is really trying to do is get Jesus to act in such a manner as to force the hand of the Father…to test Him to see if He would do what He has said He would do. Would He really send His angels to the rescue of Jesus? It was an attempt to make Jesus question the integrity and reliability of the Father. If Jesus was to jump…then immediately the glory of the Godhead would be tarnished, diminished. It would say that the Son does not fully, completely trust in the Father…but, that He had to do something drastic, something dramatic in order to force the Father to prove Himself.
Jesus responds by saying, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the LORD Your God to the test.” This is a reference to Deuteronomy 6:16 (NASV). It reads, “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah.” This verse speaks of a particular test, a specific time when Israel tested God at a place called Massah. We find this incident in Exodus 17:7. It is during the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness and the people are grumbling because they don’t have enough water. God tells Moses to strike a rock with his rod and that water will come out of it. Moses does so and God provides for their need. However, God is very displeased with the people for their lack of faith and their continual complaining. Verse 7 says, “And he named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the LORD, saying, ‘Is the LORD among us, or not?’” “Meribah” means “argument, or strife”. “Massah” means “test”. Notice closely that the key to their complaint and grumbling was their uncertainty, their disbelief that God was with them, “…Is the LORD among us, or not?” Over and over again, the Israelites would question God…His existence, His presence, His love, His provision, etc., etc. God says that when they did that they were testing Him. So, over, and over again, God had to reprove Himself.
Satan tempts Jesus to make the Father reprove His love for Him. “Jump off the temple and make sure that the Father really loves You.” But Jesus refuses to do so…saying that we are not to try to force the hand of God, to make Him do something just for our own satisfaction, or our own reassurance. If He were to do so it would diminish His glory…because now, instead of us being at His beckoning will, He is at ours. Each time we begin to doubt, each time we don’t like our circumstances, God will have to reprove Himself, all over again. And before long, the glory of the Godhead will be diminished into a dog-and-pony-show. God will have nothing to do with that. Don’t put God to the test. Don’t keep demanding that God reprove Himself to you. Trust Him.
Luke 4:13-“every temptation” means all the ones that he had at his disposal at the moment. He would be back.
Luke 4:14-In verse 2, Jesus was hungry...but here, in verse 14, He is in the "power of the Spirit"...the time of tempting in the wilderness has strengthened Him.
Luke 4:16-Jesus attends the Synagogue service on the Sabbath, “as was His custom.” What, couldn’t He be close to God out in the woods, or at the lake, or in the mountains? Sure He could…and He often did so. But on the Sabbath, the day of worship, Jesus was at the Synagogue. That is where the Father had commanded us to be…in worship and in rest. How is it then that people who claim to be followers of Jesus…think that they don’t need to be at church on the day of worship? They must have something that Jesus didn’t have? Not hardly. They’re just sinning and making excuses for it. On that Sabbath Jesus preached. Can you imagine being the member who decided to sleep in that Sabbath day…and missed the opportunity to hear God Himself speak!
Luke 4:16-30-When He preaches, He is initially received by the people. He reads from Isaiah 61:1-2a, a passage that speaks of the renewal of God’s people…the poor, the captive, the sick, the overwhelmed. But then, He is rejected by the people when He tells them that He is a prophet and that just as other prophets before Him were largely rejected by those in their hometowns, so they will reject Him. They became so angry that they were going to throw Him over a cliff. But He calmly walked through the crowd and left.
Luke 4:31-32-Jesus now arrives in Capernaum. He began teaching on the Sabbath and the people were amazed at the authority of His message.
Prayer: Lord, please help me to be able to discern when I am being tempted. Sometimes, when I am making a decision, it is difficult to determine if You are leading, or not. Just because something seems to have become readily accessible, or easy...does not mean that You have orchestrated it. Nor, if something seems difficult, or even impossible...does it mean that You are not leading me to do it. Help me to know You, Lord. And to hear Your voice and allow nothing else to determine what I do.