Luke 4:1-12
The Temptations In The Wilderness

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

 We have entered Lenten season.  From now and spanning six Lord's Days we will worship humbly as we keep in our hearts the life of the Lord as he heads for the cross.  The scripture passage given to us on this first of the six Lord's Days is the story of "The Temptation In The Wilderness," which I read you just before.

 First, please look at verse one and verse two.  "Well, Jesus was filled with the Spirit and went back home from the Jordan river.  Then, he was guided by 'a Spirit' into the midst of the wilderness, and for a forty day period he underwent temptation from an evil spirit [Satan]. During that time, he did not eat any thing and when that period was over he felt very hungry."

 Luke begins the story with the words "Jesus was filled with the Spirit and went back home from the Jordan river."  By means of these words Luke ties this story back to the baptism of the Lord Jesus in chapter three.  When Jesus received baptism, the text says, "the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus as a dove in a figure visible to the eye," (3:22).  So, the same Lord "filled with the Holy Spirit" reappears in this text.  Luke alone has purposely recorded in this text the words "filled with the Holy Spirit."  Furthermore, the same expression appears repeatedly in the Acts of the Apostles.  In the Acts of the Apostles the ones being filled with the Spirit are the disciples of the Lord.  What might the significance of this be?  With the words "baptism" and "filled with the Spirit" the Lord Jesus and the church are being made to overlap each other.  Of course, the temptations which the Lord undertook have a side to them as temptations that have to do with the Lord's consciousness as Messiah.  But, the point of Luke's emphasis was not on the particularity of the temptation that Jesus undertook as Messiah.  That wasn't Luke's emphasis, rather Luke is looking at how the temptations that the Lord Jesus had undertaken were also the temptations which later Christians would undertake.

Temptation And Testing

 Well, in the first place what might "the temptation" be, which has become the subject of this text here?  The one who is doing the tempting here is "Satan."  This we understand.  But, the problem is before that.  The record says "he was guided by 'a Spirit' into the midst of the wilderness."  We understand that passage as he has the strong will of God [motivating him].  The one who is doing the tempting is Satan, but God has allowed it to happen.  In other words, this is something that simply contains contents which cannot be expressed in the word "temptation." The word translated  "to undergo temptation" is a word that can be translated "to be tested" as well.  That word is also related to the term "testing, ordeal, trial."  When we see Satan as the doer behind the term, it becomes the word temptation, and when we see God as the doer behind the term, it refers to when we are being tested and when we have trials.  A temptation is at the same time a test and a test is at the same time a temptation.

 These considerations lead us to notice that what we have written here is connected with the history of Israel.  The people of Israel were once lead into the wilderness.  The word "forty days" also causes us to remember the forty years in the wilderness.  It was none other than God who lead them in the wilderness.  What was the purpose of that?  Later the Lord Jesus would quote the words of Deuteronomy 8:3, "A person does not live by only bread," but here is what it says in verse two just before:  "Please remember this journey of forty years in the wilderness when the Lord your God guided you.  Thus, the Lord tested you with hardships, he made you to know that which was in your heart, that is whether you would keep his commandments."   This was the purpose of God.

 In this manner the Israelites were tested in the wilderness until coming to their entrance into the promised land.  Even the Lord Jesus experienced the test of being led into the wilderness. Therefore, the church experiences the test again.  With this, Israel, the Lord Jesus, and the church are connected in one continuous line.  Further still, in the way Israel had so experienced it, so would Christians be tested and whatever was inside of them would be made clear.  This testing process is inevitable and necessary.  The church had discerned this inevitability from the beginning.  In the New Testament Peter has written the following record. "O beloved persons, you should not marvel, as if something unexpected was produced, at the fiery testings which have befallen you in order to test you," (First Peter 4:12).  Again, it is written in the following way as well.  "...Now for a long while, though it may be that you must suffer through various testings, your faith will prove out as the genuine thing through those testings and as it is refined by fire it is by far more precious than gold which decays and when Jesus Christ appears, he will grant you praise, glory, and honor," (First Peter 1:6-7).

The Three Temptations

 So, when we have experiences that are like being led into the wilderness, what kind of temptations do we undergo and in what way will our faith be tested?  Let's give some thought to the three temptations which are recorded here.  First, please look at verses three and four.

 "There the evil spirit said to Jesus.  'If you're the Son of God, you should command this stone to turn into bread.'  Jesus answered, 'it is written that a person does not live by only bread.'"

 This was the first temptation.  That this is a temptation is clear from the Lord's reply.  The Lord answered by quoting from the words of Deuteronomy in which is written "A person does not live by only bread."  In other words, the temptation of Satan was something which separates one from that truth.

 Satan said "if you're the Son of God."  This phrase is related to verse twenty-two.  There we have recorded that a voice was heard from heaven which said, "You are my beloved son, the person suited to my heart."  In other words, what was being put under question with the words "if you are the son of God" was the relationship he had with God the Father.  On the basis of that relationship [with the Father] he says he should command this stone to turn into bread.  If he had decided to change the rock into bread because of that command it would amount to the fact that God gave bread to "his beloved son."  For, that is clearly a miracle from God.  The text says the Lord "felt very hungry."  Whenever the son is hungry and would ask for bread, the father will give such to him.  It seems to us as being a very natural thing to do.  However, the Lord refused to use the power of God to obtain bread.  The Lord refused to embrace a relationship of father and son as a relationship wherein bread is given in a time of hunger.  The reason is if one only assumes a relationship of father and son as that kind of nexus it would surely amount to saying "a person lives by only bread."

 If we apply this situation to ourselves we would understand how big a temptation this was.  A human being has many different needs.  He or she seeks to have those needs meet.  In a relationship with God he or she appeals to God for those needs.  We think a miracle should come out of it.  And, in truth, God will meet our needs for us.  Previously, when Israel made a journey in the wilderness, God caused manna to fall from heaven.  However, there was a problem on the part of the person who received that [heavenly food].  At the time of hunger when the bread was given to him or her, the person then ended up snugly satisfied.  The main focus in a relationship with God ends up thought as something that lies in getting our needs met.

 But, the Lord says, "A person does not live by only bread."  In Deuteronomy 8:3 which Jesus quoted Moses was speaking in the following manner.  "The Lord afflicted you and let you go hungry and then fed you with manna which even your ancestors had never tasted.  A person does not live by only bread, but a person lives according to every word which comes out of the mouth of the Lord, for I have made you know (it is so)."  The focus of the relationship between us and God or the focus of the relationship in which we are made sons of God in the Lord Jesus lies in the place where we live according to the words which come out of the mouth of God.  Within such a relationship, a person becomes one who truly lives.  But, the temptation that seeks to separate us apart from such a relationship is working [on us].  That is the meaning of this first temptation.

 Next, please look from verse five to verse eight.  "Moreover, the evil spirit brought Jesus high up and showed him all the nations of the world in an instant.  Then Satan said.  'I will give you all the authority and prosperity of these nations.  Such has been put into my charge and so I can give it to the person I feel like.  Therefore, if you worship me, all will become yours.'  Jesus replied.  'It is written Worship the Lord your God, and serve only the Lord.'"

 This is the second temptation.  I think this is easier to understand than the first temptation.  It is easier to understand because in the history of humankind, there have been as many people as the number of stars who have tried to get in their hands power and prosperity by selling their lives to Satan.  One person has called this "the temptation of middle age."  For, there are many persons in middle age who dream of getting rich quick even if they go crooked off the right road in order to achieve their purposes fast and furiously.  As I myself am soon approaching that age of life I have come to have some understanding of that middle age mindset.

 However, in truth this is not the simple "temptation of middle age," because the issue here in this text is not simply "whether you worship Satan or not."  The Lord is making a quotation here from Deuteronomy 6:13.  The original text of Luke and a number of the words [from Deuteronomy] are different from each other, but it is written in the following way in Deuteronomy.  "Fear the Lord your God, serve only the Lord and vow in his name.  You should not follow after other gods, the gods of the many surrounding nations," (Deuteronomy 6:13, 14).  In short, the issue is a matter of whether you are worshipping God as Lord or are you worshipping something else.  If we think of the persecution of the church at a later period, we can understand the dimensions of this temptation.  If they had only abandoned worshipping the Lord or given up worshipping only the Lord, there would have been much to be gained or there would have been much difficulty that was avoidable.  Wait, although that was a church of a peaceful era it constantly had great temptations.   Even among us as well I'm sure we face the temptation seeking to get things into our hands instead of making the sacrifice of worshipping God.  So, in the final analysis, what is being made clear through such a trial is "if you are seeking for the kingdom of God or not." This second temptation is one that says may you please seek the things of this world instead of the kingdom of God.

 Furthermore, the following is written about the third temptation.

 "Then Satan lead Jesus along to Jerusalem, made him stand on the top of the roof of the temple and said.  'If you are the son of God, you should jump down from here.  For, it is written God will command the angels for you and will cause them to preserve you securely .  And also, In order that you do not hit your foot against a stone, the angels will support you by the hand.' Jesus answered, 'It has been said, You shouldn't test the Lord your God.'"

 At this point Satan recited Psalm ninety-one.  You must take precautions whenever the Bible is quoted to justify an action of some sort.  If the quotation has no connection with the line of reasoning of the context, one is only doing it by means of Satan.  The Bible must be read and understood as a whole.

  Well, at this point in the text the Lord makes a quote from Deuteronomy 6:16.  It is written like this.  "You should not test the Lord your God in the way you did when you were at Masah," (Deuteronomy 6:16).  What did the Israelites do at Masah?  They did not have any water there. Consequently they immediately started to make the complaint, "Why did you lead us up out of Egypt?  To kill me, our children, and even our cattle from thirst?"  Then, they tried to stone Moses to death.  The text in Exodus 17:7 says the following.  "He gave the name to those places Masah (testing) and Meribah (strife) because the people of Israel said, 'Is the Lord really among us?,'  and strove with Moses and tested the Lord."  In the following way they did not do good in the middle of the test of being tested by God, they tried to stand on the side where they tested God.  Even though their reliance on God was being questioned, they were questioning God as they were asking for a visible sign of God's love.  That is exactly where the conceit lies that does not bear in mind one's role with God.  The third temptation is one that tries to ensnare [a person] into this error.

 Satan says, "If you are the son of God."  Satan makes a problem again of the word spoken by God from heaven, "You are my beloved son."  Satan urged, if he was really God's beloved son, he ought to ask God for proof of his love.  But, the Lord rejected that.  He avoided the temptation by quoting the words, "You should not test the Lord your God," and kept his absolute reliance upon God the father going.  So, there is a reason this temptation was placed third.  This third temptation points way out to the passion narratives of the Lord.  It will come in no time and it points to the events in the same Jerusalem.  This is something we get from what is written in verse thirteen, "Satan ended all his temptations and left Jesus until the time comes."  You know "the time will come."  That will be the time the Lord is on the cross.  The high priests yell out.  "You trust in God, but if it is God's will, have him save you right now, because you said, 'I am the son of God.'"   But, the Lord overcomes the last temptation at that point as well.  He said, "O father, I entrust my spirit into your hands," (Luke 23:46) and the Lord gave up his breath.

 We shouldn't be surprised at all when believers experience testing.  It is all the more unavoidable.  We should be alert so that we are not ensnared into temptation.  I'd like us to keep this matter in our hearts during this Lenten period because we know the One who already experienced the test and won out.  Later, Christ told the following words to his disciples. "When I had encountered all types of tests you constantly stood with me.  Therefore, as my father has entrusted me with authority to rule (if translated literally, his kingdom), I also will entrust you with it," (Luke 22:29 [KJV 22:28-29]).  Generations of the church have heard this as an address to themselves personally.  With the Lord we stand.  There is no victory when we are separated from Christ.

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