The Temptation of Jesus (Part 2)

A Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS 07 Nov 2010 (some material from Jan 2002 sermon delivered to Rocky Mountain Presbytery)


Temptation #1 – The flesh

In the case of the bread, Jesus was experiencing the pangs of hunger, something that God would never experience because He is totally self-sufficient. As God, there would be nothing wrong with turning the stones to bread and satisfying that hunger. The problem was that Jesus was identifying with us humans and not with God while he was on earth, so it would have been out of character for Him as a man to start acting like God again. Jesus chose to be like us and suffer hunger and depend upon God’s provision for His food rather than to act like God.


Furthermore, this may have been a temptation for Jesus to act out of character as God. You see, Jesus had created those stones to be stones from the foundation of the world. As God, He was perfectly capable of uttering a word of command and have hot, fresh, buttered bread with jelly suddenly appear. Would God pervert His creation by turning stones into bread to satisfy a self-centered need?


The one place in the Greek O.T. of Jesus’ day where the words “stones” and “bread” which Satan used are mentioned in Deut. 8:9. Jesus jumped in His mind six verses back from there to Deut. 8:3, where Moses reminds the children of Israel in the desert "You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these 40 years, that He might humble you, testing you [Jesus was also being tested in the desert!], to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry [Jesus was hungry too!], and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.”


There it is! God can be trusted to provide the food we need as we obey Him. The Spirit of God had expressly let Jesus out into this desert to prove His mettle, so Jesus was obeying God by being there. For most of us, the Spirit of God has called us to work heartily in a business of some sort, and as we obey Him, He will provide for us.


So often we become preoccupied with food and let it become more important to us than obeying God.

·         Illustration of Alé taking cookies and hiding to eat them.

·         Joh 4:34  Jesus said… “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.”


Here we have one name for the devil: Tempter/peirazwn –v.3 Thayer Definition: 1) to try whether a thing can be done, 2) to make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining [genuineness, either] 2a) in a good sense 2b) in a bad sense…, 2c) to try or test one’s faith, virtue, character, by enticement to sin.
“Tempter” Only here and 1Thess. 3:4-5  “For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.  5  For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the Tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.”


Jesus passed this test.

·         He continued to trust that God would provide for His needs (as indeed the angels of God did in v.11 – the word “served/ministered” there is the same word the apostles used when they spoke of serving food at tables in Acts 6.)

·         He took Satan’s out-of-context scripture and put it into its proper context

·         He refused to accept the lie that He had to do a miracle to prove who He was. Instead He clung to the word of His Father, “You are my beloved son in whom I am well-pleased.”

·         Furthermore He acted in character as God, not perverting his creation for his selfish desires,

·         and He acted in character as a real man by suffering and depending upon God to meet His needs.


Temptation #2 – The world

Likewise with the temptation to leap off the pinnacle/high point/lit. “wing” of the temple in Jerusalem, it is the nature of God to desire glory and to desire it rightly. As God, he could have done anything He wanted, but this was not His path on earth. Jesus chose to live under obedience to God and not seek glory for Himself but rather endure shame.


Reminds me of High School days when Evil Knievel talked of jumping Grand Canyon on a motorcycle.


A second name for the devil appears in this second temptation. It is Devil/diabolos v.1&5&8 – literally, one who “throws through” – Thayer: slander/ accuse/ defame/ blame/ condemn/ traduce/ calumniate/ willfully misrepresent. “The best stratagem that Satan hath, is by traducing the form and manner of the devout prayers of God's church.”~Noah Webster


Satan quotes Psalm 91

·         which uses the same word for “wing” that describes whatever this high place is in the temple that Jesus is standing on. Ps. 91:4 says that God “will cover you with His wings, and in the shadow of His wing you will find refuge” It’s a Psalm about God’s protection for those who remain in the shelter of the Most High (v.1) and who say that Jehovah is "My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!" (v.2).

·         To sail down from heaven with an angelic parachutes would be sensational Messianic sign to Jews! (ATR)

·         But the protection from harm promised on Psalm 91 is not for the purpose of enabling us to do sensational stunts to build our popularity, it is so that God may be glorified.

·         Satan omitted a phrase from Psalm 91:11-12 “He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways, and they will lift you up in their hands…” This is not a promise to protect us from some Evil Knievel stunt, but rather God will guard us if we are living a life that in “all our ways” acknowledges Him!


Imperfect tense of the word in v.7 describing Jesus’ response indicates to me that Jesus may have already started answering Satan before Satan had finished his sentence: “Again, it is written, you shall not test/ tempt/ try the Lord your God.”

  1. We should not try God’s patience by doing stupid things that are not what He has revealed for us to do. Maybe He would graciously save you from your foolishness in order to preserve your life a little longer, or maybe He will decide it’s time for you to go bye-bye. Don’t try Him out.
  2. This is a quote from Deut 6:12-17, where Moses warns the people of Israel “not [to] forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, for the LORD your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the LORD your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth. You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah. You should diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you.”
  3. How did they tempt him in Massah? [The nation of Israel had just been miraculously delivered from Egypt in the crossing of the Red Sea; He had been providing manna for them to eat each day; and He had even provided quail for them to eat. But that wasn’t enough for the Israelites. In Ex. 17, they came up to Moses and said, “Is the Lord among us or not? [Let Him prove it by giving us water right now!]” “After such proofs as they had of his presence and his kindness, this was exceedingly provoking. Doubting God’s kindness where there are so many evidences of it, is highly insulting to God Almighty.” (Adam Clarke)


Brothers & sisters, let us not doubt that God is with us. The evidences of His love are so many, let us not forget them! Don’t test the Lord your God by demanding more evidence of His love for you!


Jesus passed this second test.

·         He continued to hold fast to God’s word, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.”

·         As the perfect man, Jesus continued to seek God’s glory rather than His own, and trust to God’s timing to glorify Him.

·         Jesus held fast to His calling as an obedient servant of God, and, in God’s perfect timing, the words of Psalm 91 were also fulfilled, as v.11 tells us that Angels were commanded to minister to Him - after He obeyed!


Temptation #3 – The Devil

Finally in the case of the kingdoms of the world, it was Jesus’ right to rule over the kingdoms of the world – God had promised this, but He was not pursuing that kingship right now, He was identifying with us humans in order to save us, so He chose the path of a worshipper of God rather than the king that He was.


This offer of the world and its kingdoms to Jesus sounds like a story I heard recently about a burglar who broke into the home of Ed Kanupp, of Newton NC, in 2008. The thief stole a diamond tennis bracelet, a gold-leaf bracelet, and a ruby-and-diamond ring. He managed to get away clean and take the stolen goods to a jewelry store to sell them for cash. What the thief apparently did not realize was that Ed Kanupp was the owner of the jewelry store! The thief was trying to sell Mr. Kanupp the very things that had been stolen from him![1]


In a lot of ways, Satan was like that thief. He was trying to sell to Jesus what Jesus had Himself created and what Jesus was already the heir to. Satan was trying to give Jesus what was already His to begin with.


One important difference: Satan was offering Jesus the easy way out. Jesus knew that to get the kingdoms and the glory, He would have to suffer the wrath of God and die for our sins. That was going to be really painful. Satan was offering Jesus a shortcut to all this: don’t go to all the trouble of dying on the cross; just make me your senior partner, and it’ll all be yours, just like that! Of course, what Satan didn’t mention was that if Jesus were to take this short-cut, then once Satan was thrown into the lake of fire, that would be the end of his ownership of these kingdoms. Additionally, it would be the end of mankind, since there would be no savior to save us all from God’s wrath on judgment day.


Jesus knew that suffering on earth is temporary, but that there are pleasures at God’s right hand which will last forever and ever. (Psalm 16:11)


In Jesus’ response we have a third name for the devil: Satan/satana – v.10 Thayer Definition: 1) adversary (one who opposes another in purpose or act), Accuser. Mentioned more often to the Corinthians than to anyone else:
1Cor 5:5  I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. To be outside the communion of the church is to be under the destruction of Satan.
1Cor 7:5  Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. Satan is a factor in temptation to sin – perhaps by sowing bad thoughts in our minds.
2Cor 11:14  No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Usually Satan offers us things that seem good; we must be on our guard for his disguises.
2Cor 2:11 [Paul set an example of forgiving others] so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes. We must be strategic to overcome Satan, and one key strategy is to forgive those who have wronged us.
2Co 12:7  Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me--to keep me from exalting myself! God uses Satan to mature us in Godliness, turning us away from self and toward God.

The phrase “hupage satana” – occurs twice in the scriptures, both times said by Jesus: first here, and then later, when Peter tried to talk Jesus out of saying that it was His destiny to suffer and die. This was Jesus’ way of dealing with Satan – “get lost!” Let us imitate Christ!


Jesus answers with what appears to be a conflation of two verses near each other in Deuteronomy

1.      Deut 5:9 where the second commandment is given, forbidding “worshipping” or “serving” any false god, and

2.      Deuteronomy 6:10 a few verses before the “you shall not tempt the Lord” verse Jesus had quoted earlier, which says to “fear and serve the Lord your God.” (Deu. 5:9, along with Exo. 20:5; 23:24– the only places in the Greek O.T. where the words προσκυνησεις and λατρευσης “you shall worship and serve” occur).

·         Deut. 6:10 uses “fear” instead of “worship” in it but has everything else Jesus quoted except for the added word “alone.”

·         Jesus probably does this because He is thinking about God’s law in Deuteronomy and he hears the word “worship” from Satan and just puts two nearby passages together, expounding the clear meaning that it is the Lord alone whom we should fear, worship, and serve.

·         This also indicates that Jesus was preoccupied with God’s word rather than dazzled by the prospect of all that wealth and power.


Jesus passed this test as well

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  1. Realize that we will be tempted. An accuser/tempter/traducer who is out to get us. Be on guard. (Eph. 6 armor of God)
  2. Temptation to take what God promised, but apart from God. (Food, protection, and dominion are things God has already promised). Illustration of Alé stealing food.

Temptation to comfort ourselves with indulgence when we are tried. Jesus counteracted with the law of God and obedience to it. Jesus was stuck on Deuteronomy – maybe we ought to be spending more time ourselves studying that amazing book!

[1] Alan Zullo, World’s Dumbest Crooks, Scholastic Books, 2009, pages 35-36.