Now we're looking in our study of the book of Matthew at the 4th chapter tonight, and ah, this is one of my favorite texts. It seems as though this particular Lord's Day I landed on two of my very favorite passages of Scripture. I remember when I was in seminary, um, in Talbot Seminary on the staff there after I had graduated. I was traveling around the country, and I was preaching here and there and everywhere and doing what I used to call the "Big Four." Everywhere you went they wanted the same thing, either evangelism, sumpin’ on the Holy Spirit, sumpin’ on prophecy, or sumpin’ on sex, and, ah, that was it. And I was about up to here with giving the same thing, you know, the typical evangelist with 50 suits and 50 sermons - you just keep moving. And, ah, I really had a great desire to get into the Word and, and I, I felt God really speaking to me about doing an expositional study and really committing myself to that.
It's very difficult when you're traveling on the road all the time ’cause you can't carry a library around with ya, and it's hard to discipline yourself to study when you’re very busy and - but I decided I was gonna do that. And I was fighting some temptations in my own life and so I decided that I'd - for some reason or other I landed on the 4th chapter of Matthew. And uh, it was really the first passage that I ever really worked over and I spent a month dealing with the first 11 verses. And the Lord really taught me a lot from it, and since that time it's been a very favorite passage of mine.
You know I, I guess I specially love it because it's kind of Jesus’ way of letting you in on His, on His very own secret. Nobody could have known what happens here in these eleven verses except Jesus. This is a very, very special insight into the, into the, the mystery if you will of the confrontation between Satan and Jesus. There wasn't anybody there to record this, this is only ours because Jesus revealed it. This is a special thing in His life, unobserved by any human being whatsoever. And it's Jesus letting us in on His own secret, as it were, in the struggle with sin. It's a tremendous passage and one which unfolds to our understanding the path of victory, for our own temptation. The biggest problem that Christians have without question is the problem of temptation. You eliminate temptation and our, our trouble is over; that's the biggest problem. And Jesus here gives us what I believe is a very good pattern to see. Uh, we will see the strategy of Satan, that strategy is manifest here, and we'll see it in, in light of what we know about, uh, human psychology and about human behavior and how it perfectly dovetails with where we find our troubles. We also see the path of victory.
A pastor once told his congregation about a man who had a dog, and the man was trying to train his dog to be obedient. And what he would do was to take a large piece of meat - good, red, juicy meat that dogs would normally like to eat - and he would put it in the middle of the floor near the dog, and then he would say “no” to the dog. Well, the first few times the no was an irrelevant suggestion. The dog proceeded to grab the meat and got whaled on; and after a few such results, when he said “no,” the dog no longer attacked the meat. But what the man noticed was this: the dog never looked at the meat. When he put the meat on the floor the dog never for a moment took his eyes off his master, seemingly feeling that if he did so the temptation to disobey would be too great. So he just maintained a steadfast gaze into the face of his master.
Temptation is something common to all of us. And I think the greatest way to experience victory is a steadfast gaze into the face of the Master, who has been there and shown us the path of victory. And, if anything, this passage is designed for us to take our eyes off the temptation, focus them on the Master who was victorious, “in all points tempted like as we are yet without sin,” and to be able to enter into His victory. That's what this passage is gonna to do for us. Temptation is common to all of us, victory is not so common. The problem is we look at the object and not the Master. Maybe this will help us change that. Hebrews 4:15 says, "For we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Hebrews 2:18, "For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to help them that are tempted." He has been there; He has been victorious; He can help us. And when 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able, but will, with the temptation, make a way of escape." When that verse comes to us, the way of escape is really the gaze on the Master. He's the One who draws us through the temptation to victory, as we fix our eyes on Him. I think it's also indicated in the 12th chapter of Hebrews, where we are instructed there that we are to "Look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith." And as we gaze at Jesus Christ we find that the obstacles that are thrown in our way are no problem at all.
A hurdler soon learns that if he starts looking at the hurdles he's gonna fall right on his face. He must fix his gaze on a point at the finish line, and the hurdles seem to just pass by his eyesight almost unnoticed as he focuses intently on the goal. Well, that's the essence of what I see here, as we look at the temptation of Christ. As we see the majesty of Jesus Christ in His temptation I think we find a fitting view to lead us through similar approaches on the part of Satan. And I guess I would say this also: this is probably the most memorable, the most monumental, the most mysterious battle in all of history - the very personal battle between Jesus and the devil. It really has some fantastic intricacies that I want us to see as we study it.
Now we're gonna to look at three parts. Verses 1 to 11 - the preparation, the temptation, and the triumph. The preparation, the temptation, and the triumph - probably not all of them tonight. First of all, we have to set the scene a little bit by examining the preparation. Verse 1 says, "Then was Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted [or tested] by the devil." Let's use the word “tempted.” "And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward hungry. And when the tempter came to him" - and we'll stop right there. Up until the first part of verse 3 we are dealing with preparation.
Now let me back up a little bit and tell ya what happened. If you weren't here last week you maybe have forgotten; even if you were you may have forgotten. This follows immediately on the heels of what great event in Christ's life? His baptism. Chapter 3, verses 13 to 17, is the baptism of Christ. Now we told you last time that at the baptism the King was commissioned. Remember that Matthew’s focus in his gospel is on Jesus as King. He is seeing Him as King, he is presenting Him as King. That's why the royal genealogy, that's why the, the involvement in the royal birth, that's why the royal visit of the Magi who honor Him as a King. And they were the official kingmakers of the Orient. Everything that Matthew does focuses on the element of His kingship. And last time we saw the commissioning of the King, how His baptism and His anointing by the Holy Spirit and the word of God - "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" - came together to be the commissioning of the King, the anointing of the King for His saving work.
But there is another step in the process and Matthew follows on it by presenting the temptation, and that is this: it is one thing to proclaim the King as king, it is something else to prove it. And in the baptism it is the proclamation; and here it is the proof. In His baptism it is, it is the Spirit, as it were, anointing Him as King, and it is the Father proclaiming Him as a fitting One to be the worthy King, but here it is the One who is proclaimed proven to be the King, the worthy One. He enters into a testing; He enters into a temptation to verify His right to royalty. If He is the King, if He is to receive the kingdom, if He is to redeem and reign over His people, He must not only be declared to be King; He must be demonstrated to be King. And the baptism declares it, and the testing demonstrates it. For here the One who is declared to be King enters into a test, to prove that when God said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," He could live up to God's word. He has been attested by God as being in perfect harmony with the heavenly plan, and now He is proven to be so. And, fittingly, since it is heaven that has declared Him to be fit, He must show His victory, as it were, over hell. He is now to face the disorder and the ugliness of Satan's dominion, to show His power over evil. Goodness at its highest has commended Him, and evil at its lowest will be conquered by Him. The combination of both accredit Him as King.
Now as I said earlier, it is noteworthy for us that the temptation of Christ follows immediately upon His baptism. The baptism would be the greatest victory in 30 years. For 30 years He waited in obscurity; for 30 years He allowed God to function on His divine timetable in perfect submission as a willing son. For 30 years He waited, and then the great moment of baptism, as it were, the great moment of a divine coronation occurred, the moment of the greatest victory He had known since He was born. And following fast on the heels of the greatest victory comes the greatest trial.
Now you'll notice in verse 1 it says that, "Jesus was led up by the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Mark 1:12 adds this: "And immediately the spirit driveth him into the wilderness." And the “immediately” is related to the event of the baptism. It was immediately after the baptism that Jesus was driven into the wilderness. And I submit that it is one of the great truths of life that after every great victory there comes a reaction. There is a reason why the Word of God says, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed” - What? – “lest he fall." It is in our moments of exhilaration that we become vulnerable. We work to gain the victory and in the moment of the victory we are most susceptible to the defeat.
This is most graphically illustrated to me by a high school friend of mine. He was on the football team. And he was on, I think he was about fourth-string running back; he didn't get to play much. But we were playing this great game, and we were really just givin' it to some other team, and we were scoring pretty well as much as we wanted to. And it got to be the fourth quarter, and we were ahead something like 54 or so to nothing. And it was pretty much of a debacle, and so I remember - I used to call the plays - and so the coach sent this fella in with the play. And I was happy for him that he was gonna to get a chance to play, and we were on about the five-yard line. And we were gonna go in for a score, and he thought it would be nice since this fella was a senior to give him his shot, to score a touchdown.
So he came in and he said, “I-ah-ba-the coaches said that I get to carry the ball.” And he was really, you know, nervous and excited, see. And so we said, “Okay that's great, that's great. We're gonna give ya the ball, and then we're gonna open a hole big enough to drive a Mack truck through. You just get in that hole and we'll be in there,” see. So, you know, he got back there and we put him back in the spot to get the ball and he was goin' full blast by the time he hit that line. I'll never forget it; he went through that hole, it was a huge - nobody touched him - it was a huge, you know, phoomph! And he was goin', and the thrill of it all got him. A real live touchdown, see. And I'll never forget it. He was so exhilarated he turned to the crowd and waved, and he never slowed down, and he hit the goal post dead-center. The football went 10 feet in the air, cracked his helmet, and he was out cold. Great sermon illustration. The moment of his greatest triumph, and he couldn't even enjoy it.
Arnold Toynbee, the great historian, said it is clear that the most dangerous period for a civilization is when it thinks it is safe and faces no further challenges. I think about Elijah, who with a great amount of courage met and defeated in complete loneliness all the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. You've read 1 Kings 18 and you know the magnificence of the courage of the man and, and how he withstood the onslaught of the false teachers, false priests. He stood his ground and prayed to God and won the victory over hundreds of false priests.
Immediately following that exhilarating and thrilling moment of victory in chapter 18 we see him in chapter 19. And in chapter 19 he's runnin' as fast as his old legs will carry him. He is beatin' a path out of town that you can't believe, a cloud of dust behind the prophet. And we stop him and say, “Where are ya goin' Elijah?” And he says, “Jezebel's after me.” We say, “Four hundred and fifty men don't bother you, one woman and all of this sweat?” Maybe some of you can relate to that, I don't really know. And then he gets down there, and he falls over and he says, “God, I wanna die.” From the moment of maybe the greatest victory one man ever gained as a prophet of God to the moment of defeat. There's a sense in which when we realize our greatest victory we flatten out and become unwary, and those become the moments of our defeat. A man who was fearless against hundreds of enemies is in terror of one woman. There's a lesson there then.
Immediately, Mark says, from victory to conflict. And that's how it is in the Christian life, you know. You never get to sit down and rest - you never do. Paul came to the end of his life and he said, "I have fought the” - What? – “the good fight." All the while.
So Jesus faces the greatest temptation immediately after the greatest triumph. Thirty years and His victory only was one day, and then He hit it - forty days and forty nights of fasting and then incredible, climactic conflict with the devil. Many of us perhaps have experienced the very same thing. I don't rest in victory anymore. I work for it and then I try to be sensitive to the fact that no sooner do I feel God has really worked a work in my heart; no sooner do I feel that something wonderful has happened; no sooner do I feel that God is really doing something; then I gotta keep my eyes open because the, the enemy will be right behind it.
Our greatest moments of victory quickly turn to defeat. The Holy Spirit
had just descended from heaven on Jesus Christ. Luke says He was “full of the spirit,” that's what Luke says. He was in
full consciousness of His divine mission, His sacred humanity was filled through and through with the abiding presence and power of God.
And John 3:34 says, "God gives not the Spirit by measure unto him." He was filled with the Spirit, His soul must have been aglow with the Spirit. The joy from the word of the Father must have exhilarated Him. The contemplation of the, the tremendous redemptive work He was gonna to do must have given Him a deep satisfaction. Finally, after 30 years, it was time to do it. And then came the devil. So there's a lesson to learn. I hope you learn it.
Let me say a word about the devil. There are some people who don't believe in a personal devil, but Jesus confronts one right here. And I would add this: nobody would know about this conflict if Jesus didn't tell them. So Jesus believed in a personal devil. Now if you wanna deny a personal devil, you're gonna have to get over the hump of the fact that Jesus didn't deny a personal devil. He entered into a conflict with one and reported that conflict, as a reality, in this passage. The Bible knows of a personal devil. He constantly is in conflict with Jesus Christ. You go on to the 13th chapter and you see Jesus and Satan at it again. You go on to the 16th chapter and you see Jesus and Satan at it again. You even go to the end of the book and you'll see in the Garden of Gethsemane it's going on again. Go past that at the cross and you see it again, the conflict between a personal Christ and a personal devil. The apostles believed in it, the writers of the New Testament. Having been cast out of heaven, the devil is full of envy, full of fury, and his hatred is directed against God. And his hatred, again, is against Jesus Christ, and he just uses people as pawns to accomplish his ends, of defeating Christ and God. People don't matter to Satan; they are means to his end; he wants to wrest them out of the hand of God. He wants to steal them, as it were, from the potential of divine salvation. And so he forever attacks Christ, forever attacks Christ. And even as Paul says, when he attacks us he's really attacking Christ; we just bear in our body the marks of Jesus. And so here comes Satan with a direct attack. He really comes to Christ, and his approach is to tempt Him with sin.
Now let me talk about it for just a minute, because there's something here that's important. You'll notice the word “tempted” in verse 1, “Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Now I want to mention about this word that it is basically a neutral word, peiraz n, “to tempt,” peiraz. But it's a very important word, a peirasmos is a, is a temptation or a testing - it could be either one. It could be a testing for good; it could be a tempting for bad - and that's what we have to understand. The English word has a bad connotation. When we see the word “tempt” we think of a bad thing. It means to entice somebody to do evil, to entice somebody to, to do wrong, to seduce somebody to sin. The Greek word does not necessarily carry that connotation. The Greek word does not necessarily have to mean enticement to evil. It, it can mean a test of a positive nature. So, the word can be positive or negative.
Now let me show you the difference. From God's viewpoint, it is a test. From the devil's viewpoint, it is a temptation. From God's viewpoint, it is a way to prove that the Son is worthy. From the devil's viewpoint, it is a way to tempt the Son to be unworthy, ya see? Now whatever happens in our lives, all of the things that happen in our lives, the things that come our way to entice us, from the devil they are negatives to draw us into sin; but God may allow them as ways to prove us. The Bible talks about we are tempted; the Bible says that God also tests us. Let me show you the difference by having you look at one passage which presents both, James 1. In James 1, verse 2, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various peirasmos." “Into various” - certainly not temptations, not with a negative sense. "Knowing this, that the testing of your faith works patience. And let patience have her perfect work." Now here is God's side of it. God allows testing. God allows things in our lives that give us opportunity to exercise spiritual muscle. And they have a positive thing in mind.
Now some times they are the very same things that the devil is, is bringing about. But God's intention is that we be proven righteous. But, on the other hand, the same word is used in verse 13 of chapter 1 of James, "Let no man say when he is peiraz, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. [That when] - then when lust has conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Now isn't it interesting? You have the very same word, but here it is negative. Now God will allow a test to prove righteousness, God will never entice someone into sin. So that things that come into our lives from Satan's viewpoint are enticements to evil; from God's they are ways to prove our righteousness. Look at your own life. When you have tests in your life, what does it prove? When a test comes into your life, what does it prove? Does it prove you're righteous or unrighteous? Do you pass or fail? Is it vindicated as a test from God because you're proven righteous? Or does it come out to be a temptation from Satan in which you're enticed into evil?
Now here in the sense of Jesus Christ, go back to Matthew 4.
He was led by the Spirit, and He was tempted by the devil. Now you say, “Wait a minute. If God tempts no man” - as we noted, James chapter 1 – “then how in the world can the Holy Spirit drive the Son of God into a conflict with the devil?” Oh because, you see, from God's viewpoint it was a test to prove His righteousness. It was only a temptation from Satan's viewpoint. And you can't really tell the difference until you see the outcome, okay? God allows things to happen in my life. If I pass, that’s a test that proves my righteousness. If I fail, that's a temptation on which I was enticed by my lust into sin. We don't really know how to define it until we see the result of it.
So, the Holy Spirit leads Him into the wilderness for a test; the devil is there with a temptation. When it was all said and done, He passed the test - God was vindicated; Satan was defeated. And that is the way we must look at the events and circumstances that occur to us. Let me show you a verse in the Old Testament that'll help to clarify the distinction, the 50th of Genesis, the 20th verse. Don't look it up, just jot it down. Genesis 50:20, now listen, "But as for you, [Joseph said] you thought evil against me; but God meant it for good." Did ya get that? There's the difference. Satan means it for evil, but God means it for good is the same vicissitudes. The same struggles, from God's viewpoint, are for good to strengthen you; from Satan's point are, are evil, to cause you to fall.
Now as I mentioned earlier, this isn't the only time the devil tempted Christ. Some people say, “Well this is it.” No, it's not. No, in fact in Matthew chapter 16, verse 23, Jesus looked Peter right in the eye and said, "Get thee behind me” - Whom? – “Satan." And what did Peter just say? “You don't need to go to the cross, Lord. That's not gonna happen. Don't let it happen.” And Satan was tempting Him to avoid the cross. He, He had conflict there with Satan. He had conflict with Satan in the 13th chapter of Matthew; tremendous conflict there. We find in Luke 22:28 that He said to His apostles - listen to this - Luke 22:28, "Ye are they who have continued with me in my peirasmos." This was a continuous thing for Him, from here all the way to the Garden of Gethsemane.
Now you say, “Well when, when the devil came and tempted Him, was it a real temptation?” People always ask this; theologians always ask this, “Was it a real temptation, after all He's God, and I mean, could you reall y tempt God?” Well, let me say at the very beginning that the, the mystery of Christ's nature is the mystery of His temptation, and I'm not here to solve the problem. But let me answer those questions as, as specifically as I can. Could Christ - let's look at it this way - could Christ have sinned? The answer is, “No, definitely no. Christ could not sin.” You say, “Why do you say that?” Because He is God, and God according to Habakkuk is "of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity." God literally oozes with holiness. God overflows with righteousness; His character is without evil. God is not one who can sin. In fact, in God's own deity He is not tempted. It is only in His humanity that that could occur. James 1 says, "God is tempted by no one." The deity element has no way to even respond to such things. But as far as it is concerned with Jesus, He was God; the temptation could come because the humanness was there; the sin could not occur because the deity was there. And the Bible makes it very clear again and again the sinlessness of Jesus Christ. Second Corinthians 5:21 says it as well as any; it says, "For he hath made him, who knew no sin." Christ knew no sin, none whatever. In John, I was thinking of chapter 8, I think it's verse 46, "Which of you convicteth me of sin?" He said. And He, He could put that charge out and know that nobody would respond. First Peter 2:22, "Who did no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth." Absolutely no sin. First John 3:5 is another one, "And you know that he was manifested to take away our sins, and in him is no sin." He never sinned; He had no capacity to sin because the power of His deity overruled any weakness in His humanity. He was filled to overflowing with holiness. You say, “Well then John, if Christ could not have sinned, was His temptation real? The answer's “Yes, definitely yes.” You say, “Well how can you have real temptation if you don't sin.” Let me ask you this: “Every time you're tempted, do you sin?” Hopefully not. “And just when, the times when you don't sin is the temptation just as real?” Of course. Hebrews 4:15 says, "He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Yes, He was tempted.
Now just what the psychological and the emotional and the spiritual progresses were, we don't know. But I know in His humanness that He was sensitive. I know He agonized in Luke 12:50. I know He experienced affection in Matthew 19. I know He understood sympathy in Matthew 23. I know He understood compassion in Matthew 12. He, He had anger in Matthew 17, gratitude in Matthew 11. He yearned for sinners in Matthew 11 and Matthew 23. He was weary in John chapter 4 - He was thirsty. You know all those things about Him. There was humanness there; real humanness, one hundred percent man. And it's not surprising that it says here in verse 2, "That after he fasted forty days, and forty nights, he was hungry." He was hungry. He was in a weakened state physically. He needed to eat like any other human being. And so He was susceptible to temptation on a human level, but not to sin. And by the way, lemme me add this - and this has always been a point that I've thought through - not only could Jesus be tempted, but He was tempted to the absolute limit of the capability of Satan to tempt, with every temptation that He ever got. You know why? Because He never gave in. And so, every temptation ran to its limit. Do you understand that? Satan tempts us, and at one point we give in. If he tempts us in a scale of intensity from one to a hundred, we may give in at thirty or forty or fifty or seventy or eighty or ninety. If Jesus never gave in, then He took every temptation to its full limit. Not only could He be tempted, but He was tempted in absolute, total temptation at every point, yet never giving in. The full blast; the full extent; without sin.
There's another thought, and I'm still kind of rambling around with some preliminaries here, but there's another thought that hit me in this: not only the idea that, that He was tempted to, to the limit; not only the idea that He could be tempted, that it was real temptation. But I, I, I notice also - and we'll see this as we get into it - that Satan always tempts us, as he did the Lord here, in special ways that hit us where we are. It's almost as if we are tempted in a way that nobody else could be tempted. He plays with the fringes of our strengths. For example, Jesus was the King, so Satan tempted Him to take the kingdom in a bad way, right? “Bow down to me and I'll give it to ya.” Jesus was the Son of God, and God was His Father, and so he tempted Him to throw Himself off the temple - just to see how good God was gonna be in taking care of Him. Jesus was the Son of God and deserved the sustenance of God, and so he tempted Him to make bread, rather than to wait till God provided it. You see, Satan tempts us at the point of our own strength.
Now um, notice again in verse 1 that He was led. This seems to refer, as we look at the word, to an internal impulse. We don't know just exactly how the Holy Spirit did this, but when the Holy Spirit anointed Him there, and then the Holy Spirit - He was filled with the Spirit – “the spirit drove him,”
Mark says, literally “drove him.” In fact the word in Mark is “cast him forth,” literally “threw him out of the, the area” that He was in at the Jordan and, and threw Him into the wilderness, to be tested. So that kind of gives us a little preliminary, some insights into what's gonna happen.
Now let's look at the place of temptation. Verse 1 says, "He was led up by the spirit into the wilderness." Now what is “the wilderness?” Well, the word in the Greek is the word for “desert.” When you leave Jerusalem you go down, I mean you go really down. Jericho is on the - down on the flat where the Dead Sea is, and it's one thousand somethin' or other feet below sea level. It is really down; you go down, and I mean down into a desert wilderness. Now He was not far from there, no doubt at the Jordan River, when He was baptized by John. The area is the - known as the wilderness is very likely the area between Jerusalem - Jerusalem sits up on a plateau - and the Dead Sea, which is sunken way down. The area in the middle is known as the wilderness; it would be on the west bank of the Jordan. In fact, um, the Old Testament calls this area Jeshimon, and Jeshimon means “the devastation.” It is called “the devastation,” about a 35- by 15-mile area, just absolutely God forsaken desolation. George Adam Smith described it in these words: “It is an area of yellow sand, crumbling limestone, of scattered shingle. It is an area of contorted strata where the ridges run [all] in all directions as if they were warped and twisted. The hills are like dust heaps, the limestone is blistered and peeling, rocks are bare and jagged, often the ground sounds hollow, it runs right to the Dead Sea and then there comes a drop of twelve hundred feet down.” I should say it runs right to Jerusalem and, and then the drop twelve hundred feet to the Dead Sea. In that wilderness, says Smith, Jesus would be more alone than anywhere else in Palestine.
I was thinking about the fact that that was quite a different place than the place where Satan met Adam, the first Adam, wasn't it? What a horrible, devastated, desolate place. The Second Adam, Jesus Christ, confronted Satan. The first Adam confronted him in an absolute paradise. The beautiful perfections of the garden, the incredible beauty of Eden, all the abundance, the special garden - you know even the good earth wasn't good enough for Adam. God made him a special garden, in an already perfect earth. That Eden must have been sumpin’. Put there every good thing, and there Satan and the first Adam entered into conflict. And the first Adam lost, in a perfect environment. Here is Jesus in an environment of desolation, in a wilderness which Deuteronomy 8:15 calls, quote, "The terrible and great wilderness, wherein are fiery serpents, and scorpions, and thirsty ground, where here is no water." And Mark 1:13 adds that the wilderness was a place inhabited by wild beasts. In that terrible wilderness, surrounded by snakes and scorpions and beasts the King met the foe, after 40 days of fasting - 40 days of total fast, in weakness - indeed a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. But what Adam lost in a perfect environment, the Second Adam won in an imperfect one, and the difference was the character of the individual. And it's always the way; it's not the circumstances that cause the fall, it's the character of the individual. And so we see the place.
The plan? "When he had fasted forty days, forty nights, he was afterward hungry." Jesus was there for forty days and forty nights. Why? Perhaps for meditation. After all, Moses had been separated for forty years; Elijah had gone to be at the brook Cherith. Paul had gone to Nabataean Arabia for three years. There was something about the work of Christ that after His commissioning He needed some time, maybe some time alone with the Father. Even in His perfect humanity He needed, as we do, time for quiet thought, time to prepare for the coming trial, time to realize the great danger, time to adjust to the difference between the quiet seclusion of Nazareth and the noise and the crowds of Jerusalem and Galilee. And it was when this was over and He was weak that the tempter gave Him the full blast. Satan's like that, he wants to catch us in our weak moments.
I was reading one time about a man who traveled much in tiger-infested country. And he wrote that no man who sees the tiger before the tiger sees him is ever killed by it. And the reason is that the tiger always attacks from the rear, surprising the victim. This is undoubtedly true in the spiritual world. Temptations which have been seen in advance, temptations which have been anticipated, temptations which have been watched for and prayed against, and prepared for, and for which the commander-in-chief has been called to bring His resources to bear have little power to hurt the soul. Jesus put it this way to His disciples, Mark 14:38, "Watch and pray, lest you enter into” - What? – “temptation." When you guard against it, you're on your way to victory. So that the great enemy of the believer is spiritual unpreparedness, lack of vigilance. Well Jesus, after forty days and forty nights of fasting, was not unprepared - He was vigilant; He was ready. And by the way, Mark 1 and Luke 4 seem to indicate that He had also been tempted during the forty days, but that the great climax of temptation comes in the moment when the forty days and forty nights are over and He is hungered. Apparently He was not aware of the hunger before this time; at least that seems to be the indication of the text. He was afterward hungered. But it may have been that He was tempted at some time by Satan.
The word “devil,” maybe we could say a word about that – diabolos, it means “slanderer.” And he goes by many names in the Bible, all of which indicate that he is a real person. You don't give names to a floating fog, or an idea. He is called, “the prince of this world,” “the prince of the power of the air,” “the god of this age,” “the prince of demons,” “Lucifer,” “Satan,” “the serpent,” “the great dragon,” “the evil one,” “the destroyer,” “the tempter,” “the deceiver,” and “the spirit that works in the sons of disobedience” - he's got a lotta names. Here he is called “the slanderer,” diabolos, “the devil.” And he comes to Christ, and he comes to tempt Him right at the point of His strengths, you know, and he does this to us. If you have charm, Satan will tempt you to use your charm to get what you want. If you have a way with words he wil1 tempt you to use your ability to communicate, to produce glib excuses, to justify your conduct, and to talk people into what you want. If you have mental brilliance you will be tempted to use it to become the master and not the servant of men. It's a grim fact, people, but it's true. Temptation usually comes where we are the strongest, and where we think we're really being strong we get pushed over the edge. Jesus entered a real confrontation with a real devil, and Satan hit Him right where He was. To this very day, if you were to visit the wall of Luther's - Martin Luther's room in the castle at Wartburg, in Germany - you would see an ink stain on the wall. And that ink stain is there because Luther was fighting with the devil one night and he threw his ink bottle at him. That's how real he was, to him - a real tempter, with a real, subtle temptation.
What have we said then? Preparation. Jesus was led by the Spirit, immediately after the moment of His greatest triumph, be aware. He was led by the Spirit for a test to prove that He was a worthy king. But from the devil's viewpoint, it was a temptation to prove that He was unrighteous. And so we need to be aware, the things that come into our lives either prove us righteous or drive us to sin, depending on how we respond. Satan came when Jesus was the weakest, the most vulnerable, and then tempted Him at the point of His strengths to try to push Him into sin. Well, how did Jesus respond, and what were the specific temptations? That's for next week.
I had hoped that we would cover some other things that would have tied all of this together, but the Lord knows we'll save that for next time. I wanna say this to you, and it's on my heart. If you don't know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior there is no way - there is absolutely no way - that you can handle temptation. You are a victim. You are enticed by your lusts. You are driven by the prince of the power of the air. You're a victim, and that need not be - that's a tragic thing. Jesus Christ waits to give you the victory; it's a matter of your willingness to come and take it. On the other hand, if you are a Christian and you've given your heart to Jesus Christ, but you, you're not experiencing that victory, then maybe you've got your eyes on the temptation and not on the Master. When the temptation comes you try to fight it on your own instead of going to your knees immediately and reporting in to the commander-in-chief Who has the troops to handle it. I hope as a Christian you're really dealing with this in our life, you're really watching and being alerted, because you're no use to God if you keep falling into sin, see. It's in the times of victory that we have the times of fruitfulness. Let's, um, just commit ourselves in a fresh way to Christ in prayer in this specific area. Let's pray.
Father, we know that the biggest problem we have is temptation. But like the man with the dog, we pray that we might be able to focus on the Master. The One for whom all temptation turned out to be nothing but a test, which He passed and proved His righteousness. We thank You that we can look in the Master's face and know that “he was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” That He could feel the fury, the blast of temptation, to its ultimate sense without sinning. And so He can comfort us; He can sympathize. He can succor us in our temptations.
We see that the circumstances didn't even matter; that the best of men, the best of men - the unspotted man Adam, in a perfect environment - fell. The Second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, in a terrible environment, was victorious. His is the path of victory, whatever the circumstance, whatever the intensity. We see also, Father, that He was tempted in the areas where He was strong. His temptations were unique to who He was. Make us wary; make us alert. Help us to watch, lest we be made vulnerable in our weakness, in the moments of greatest victory, at the point of our strength. Help us to realize the devil is real. “He comes as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” He cares not for us, but we are pawns only in his attack upon God. May we not take sides with that.
Father, help us as we study this in the weeks to come, to see afresh in our lives a new victory over sin. Help us to gaze on that wonderful Jesus Christ, who is our source of victory. Like a soldier who sees the enemy coming, he doesn't run to attack the enemy; he tells the commander-in-chief, Who sends the troops. May we watch for Satan, for temptation, and when we see it may we report to the commander-in-chief and not fight it in our own strength, but let Him call His hosts to our defense. Give us victory, Father, through Him who won the victory, who conquered the foe, and on the cross vanquished him. And we'll thank You for the joy that'll be ours in such victory, in Christ's name, Amen.
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