JESUS DEFEATS THE DEVIL’S TEMPTATIONS
Luke 4:1-13 Key Verse: 4:4
“Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’’”
From last Sunday’s passage, we learn that how John testified to Jesus’ identity, humbling himself. God inaugurated Jesus’ earthly Messianic ministry through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The work of Jesus is the work of the Holy Spirit. May God grant us the Holy Spirit and fire to serve the work of Jesus. Amen!
In today’s passage, the Holy Spirit is leading Jesus to be tempted by the devil in the wilderness. As the first Adam fell into the devil’s temptation which led all human beings to fall under the same curse, so the second Adam, Jesus, has to win this spiritual battle, starting God’s salvation work. Through this passage, I pray that we may learn how the devil tempts us and how to overcome the devil’s temptation. There are three parts.
Human with a physical and spiritual body (1-4).
Look at verses 1-2, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.” Jesus was baptized by John in order to fulfill all righteousness as a human. Jesus was also baptized with the Holy Spirit to bring the peace of God on earth, reconciling God and human beings. In order to begin this work, the Holy Spirit took Jesus into the wilderness, facing the battle against the devil all by himself for 40 days. Since the first Adam fell into the temptation, all human beings have been living under the power of the devil. But Jesus came to save all sinners from the bondage of the devil. Romans 5:15 says, “But the gift of God is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, Adam, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow the many!” Adam fell through his disobedience to God, but Jesus Christ saved through his obedience to God, even to death on the cross. Thus, he could free us from the devil’s condemnation and from the power of sin and death. Thanks be to God for our Lord Jesus Christ facing the temptation to save us from the bondage of sin and the devil! (Romans 7:25) Jesus also set an example for us to learn how to overcome the devil’s temptation; how we can win the spiritual victory!
How did Jesus prepare himself for the battle? He was full of the Holy Spirit and fasted for 40 days. Usually before any fight, we need energy through eating nutritious food. But this battle is not physical but spiritual. Here we learn that we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit to fight a spiritual battle against the devil and win. In this passage, we learn that full of the Holy Spirit means full of God’s word. Even though Jesus was tempted for 40 days, Jesus only shared 3 specific temptations with his disciples. These are the ones Luke the author wrote in his book.
The first temptation of the devil contains three parts. Look at verse 3. “The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’” 1) The devil’s first temptation comes with a challenge to Jesus to prove his identity: The devil challenged Jesus to prove himself to be the Son of God. Jesus is the Son of God, the Promised Messiah; therefore, he has the power. To Jesus, it is too easy to make stones become bread. In fact, he made fish and bread out of thin air. Thus, he could prove that he is the Son of God.
2) The devil attacked the weak point of Jesus. Jesus fasted for 40 days. I cannot imagine how hungry Jesus would be after 40 days of fasting. There is a saying, “A normal person will be a robber for a loaf of bread after 3 days of starvation.” Jesus was extremely hungry, and he could easily use his power to solve his hunger problem instantly.
3) The devil tempted Jesus with the bread problem. It may be the weakest point of most people down through generations. In government policy, the economy and finance have the highest priority. We could have stopped the COVID19 pandemic if we shut down the whole world for 2-4 weeks. But the politicians would not do it because of a possible riot of hungry and angry people, and more people might have died.
The devil tempts us in the same way; sometimes the devil challenges us with our identity, saying, “If you are a true Christian, shouldn’t you be free from bread/job problems or from any disease?” The devil attacks our weak point. Therefore, each needs to know the weakest point and be prepared. But one young man who was sober from alcohol said that he could preach the gospel to his drinking buddy in a bar. He went to meet his friend in a bar and became a drunkard again. Often the devil tempts us to use all our power to solve our bread problem. It seems there is nothing wrong using an ability you have to solve your own problem.
How did Jesus answer? Look at verse 4, “Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’’” Jesus did not use his own words, though his own word has power. When he commanded a storm, saying, “Be quiet!” it calmed down. When he spoke to the dead Lazarus in the tomb, “Lazarus, come out,” the dead person came out alive. But here Jesus quoted the word of God from Deuteronomy 8:3, which says “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” In this verse, God was teaching the people of Israel the reason why God gave them manna. It was for them to live according to the word of God. In Exodus, God trained the people of Israel to collect manna for 40 years, so that they would learn to eat spiritual daily bread.
This teaches us that a human has two natures, physical and spiritual. We have a physical body, so we need to eat bread. Likewise, we have a spiritual body, so we need spiritual bread. Then, what is our spiritual bread? The spiritual bread is the word of God. Concerning our bread problem, Jesus gave us God’s promise, saying, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” People of the world live for bread, which is material life without God, but it is the most meaningless life. Christians should also work to buy bread because we have a physical body. But the purpose of our life should not be for bread but for God’s kingdom and his righteousness first. Then, God promised that he will provide all our physical needs. When we live according to this promise of God, we experience that the promise of God is true and God is alive today.
Yet, when people do not recognize spiritual needs, they live in two ways; 1) they live only for their physical body like a lion in a jungle, being ultimately selfish in the survival of fittest. 2) they replace the spiritual needs with something else. Some replace spiritual hunger with food. Some replace spiritual high with drugs. Some worship idols in place of God. Jesus invites us to eat spiritual bread, saying, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never thirsty.” (Jn 6:35) How can eat Jesus, the bread of life? It is believing in Jesus that he sacrificed his body for our sins and rose again from the dead to bring us to his eternal kingdom. (Jn 6:29) Jesus also said in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” Jesus’ spiritual food was fulfilling God’s mission, saving one lost soul. May God bless each one of us to eat spiritual daily bread, live according to the promise of God and fulfill God’s mission, and experience God’s provision for our physical needs in 2021. Amen!
Worship God and Serve Him Only (5-8).
The second temptation came with the power and glory of the world. Look at verses 5-7, “The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.’” This time, the devil used the visual effect, taking Jesus to a high place and showing the power and glory of the world. The devil promised that he would give Jesus the ultimate power and glory of the world on one condition: worship him.
If Jesus has the power and glory of the world, it seems that he can save people easier, because people of the world would have to obey him and he can make them believe that he is the Messiah. It seems better because everyone should believe; thus, everyone is saved. It seems a great idea humanly, but it is not the way of God’s salvation. It is not by faith but by force. It is robotic salvation without human free will.
But the devil is the father of lies, a murderer from the beginning. (Jn 8:44) It is the devil’s lie that he has the power of the world and can give it to anyone he wants. Many people live for power and glory of the world, which is like the flowers of the field: here today but no more tomorrow. The main purpose of the devil’s lie is to make Jesus worship him and destroy God’s plan for world salvation through his suffering, death and resurrection. If God could save people with his power and glory, he would have sent Jesus not as a baby in a manger but as the most powerful Emperor of the whole world. There is no cross, then no crown; no death, no resurrection. Without shedding Jesus’ blood on the cross, there is no ransom payment for our sins. Without the burial of Jesus’ body, there is no resurrection; no destroying the power of the devil, which is death.
Yet, we are always tempted to take an easier way of doing God’s work without suffering. Without working hard, we want to make good money through winning a billion-dollar lottery. Without fishing and inviting people, we want to have many Bible students. Without helping each one to obey God’s word, we want to raise disciples. Without going overseas, we want to evangelize the world.
What was Jesus’ answer to the devil? Look at verse 8, “Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”’” Again, Jesus answered with the word of God, Dt 6:5 and 13a. “Worship the Lord your God” means to love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength based on Dt 6:5. Instead of seeking worldly power and glory, Jesus loved God with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength. Instead of serving the devil, Jesus obeyed God, fulfilling the prophecies made to him. Hebrews 5:8-9 says, “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
The core of this temptation is seeking self-centeredness and self-glory. The devil tempted Adam and Eve by saying they could be like God if they ate the forbidden fruit. They listened to the devil and ate the fruit, but they did not become like God. Rather they began to live under the power of sin and death. There was one Japanese writer who won the Nobel Prize in literature. Yet soon after he won the prize, he committed suicide, though the Nobel Prize was the goal of his life.
It does not mean that we should never have power and glory of the world. God may give it to us. When God gives these, we may use these to serve God and take care of people. But it is almost impossible for a selfish human being to do so. Even the 12 disciples were fighting with the topic, ‘Who is the greatest?’ But nothing is impossible with God. In Jesus, the creation order is restored; God, and man just under God, taking care of all God’s creation. In God’s creation order, we no longer live but Christ lives in us. In Christ, we do not live for earthly glory but heavenly glory, which will never perish, spoil or fade. How wonderful it is to worship God and serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness!
Do not test the Lord your God (9-13).
Look at verses 9-11, “The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”’” The devil took Jesus to the highest point of the temple and tempted him, using the word of God from Psalm 91:11-12. This is the promise of God for those who dwell in the protection of God. But the devil used God’s word out of context and thus misused it. It was testing God’s love and his protection just as the devil did to Adam and Eve in Eden. The devil is telling Jesus to commit suicide, testing God’s protection, saying, “Even if you fall, he will save you because he promised to save you.” In the same way, the devil is tempting people to make use of God’s promise to commit sin, saying, “Even if you fall, God will save you because he promised you.”
What was Jesus’ answer? Look at verse 12, “Jesus answered, ‘It is said: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’” Again, Jesus quoted the word of God, Dt 6:16. Testing God is the devil’s last resort. God’s word should not be tested but believed and obeyed. Testing God’s promise makes people fall into temptation and self-destruction. There is just one exception: giving tithes, as it says in Malachi 3:10. After the fall, just as Adam blamed God, people blame God that he did not keep his promise, instead of repenting of their sin of unbelief. It is not believing God’s promise but testing of God’s love and power.
We cannot test God, but God tests us to grow in him. But we do not need to worry about our failure, because God gave us the promise, saying, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Co 10:13) In Genesis, God tested Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. When Abraham believed and obeyed, God stopped him and provided him a ram to be sacrificed instead. Therefore, he called the place “Jehovah Jireh”, which means “God will provide”.
Here we see one common tool Jesus used to defeat the devil in all three temptations. That is the word of God, saying, ‘It is written,’ or ‘It is said.’ Jesus did not use his own thought but used the word of God to defeat the devil. How much more should we use the word of God? To John, Jesus himself is the incarnate Word of God. When we have the word of God, we have Jesus and abide in him. The word of God is the sword of the Spirit in spiritual battle according to Ephesians 6:17. Even if you have all the gear for a battle: a helmet, a shield, a breast plate and boots, you cannot defeat your enemy without a sword. Thank God for Jesus who defeated the devil’s temptation with the sword of the Spirit! May God bless each one of us to be filled with the word of God, so that we can fight the spiritual battle. In that way, we may win it not only for ourselves but also win many souls over to God as a good soldier of Christ.
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Jesus until an opportune time. Jesus won the battle this time, but the temptation of the devil was not over. He will come back again. This means that the devil will come back again any time, even if we may win once; therefore, we have to ready at all times with the sword of the Spirit.
Through today’s passage, we learned how the devil tempted Jesus and how Jesus defeated the devil with the word of God in three different cases: the temptation of bread, the temptation of earthly power and glory, and the testing of God’s promise. They are three major temptations all human beings have to face. But we have sure victory in Jesus when we are filled with the sword of the Spirit. I thank God for giving each one of our members a key verse for 2021. May God fill our hearts with the word of God daily so that we can win the victory against the devil’s temptations not only for ourselves but also for others and experience God’s provision physically and spiritually. Amen!