An Encounter with the Overcomer of Temptation Part 1 (Luke 4:1-4)
I have been so blessed already by this new series. I can’t believe I get to do this for a living! If you have been doing the Bible Reading Plan this past week, you probably read the encounter God had with Jacob at the River Jabbok (Gen. 32:22-32). Jacob wrestled with probably a pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. Talk about an encounter! I love that encounter because until then Jacob was a conniver, deceiver and just a proud con man overall. But the text says God touched his hip and left him with a limp. He was never the same after that! The encounter with God turned Jacob’s perpetual strut into a continual limp. In the very next chapter, he goes humbly before his brother and they reconciled.
This is what I want for us! I want us to encounter the Lord in such amazing ways that we are left never the same again! But that’s not going to come with passivity. We have to go after it! I continue to be amazed at the depth of the Word of God. It is like diving for treasure! You can stay on your boat and wait for the treasure to rise up to the surface or you can put your oxygen tank on and dive in and find more than you could ever asked for or imagine! Even with the last two encounters we looked at, two familiar stories which I thought going in I knew it all by heart, but only to be left in awe again. Thank you Lord! Turn in your Bibles to Luke 4:1-13. We are going to look at another encounter today and do it in two parts. Let me read this portion and then we’ll pray and get to work.
Have you noticed that it is really hard to find a good role model these days? Most of you have probably seen the photograph that came out of Olympic Superstar Michael Phelps filling his giant lungs with marijuana. As a result, according to one website, “Several sponsors, including Omega, Visa and Speedo, consider the photo a nonissue. But Kellogg Co. dropped its endorsement of Phelps. Meanwhile, USA Swimming suspended him for three months. ‘This is not a situation where any anti-doping rule was violated,’ said the athletic federation, ‘but we decided to send a strong message to Michael because he disappointed so many people, particularly the hundreds of thousands of USA Swimming member kids who look up to him as a role model and hero.’” By the way, here is a good rule of thumb. Do not have any heroes until they are dead. It is always how you finish and not how you start. Hopefully he will end his life better than this.
I am also a huge fan of baseball, but I am not finding any role models there either. Recently, more baseball players are admitting to having used steroids. How about politics? In our own state of Illinois, Governor Rod Blagojevich was recently impeached. How about celebrities? Rapper Lil Wayne in a recent interview, when asked about whether his pot-smoking, cough syrup-sipping ways are affecting children, including his own, said, “If you need an example for how to live, then you just shouldn’t have been born. Straight up.”
I’m sorry Lil Wayne, just because you have failed to be an example for your fans, does not mean the world does not need role models. But in his quote, I do sense feelings of failure he feels at the pressure to be a role model. I am sure if someone came up to you and said you are his/her role model, you would cringe because you feel the weight of responsibility that brings with it and the fear of failure that seems inevitable. Role models seemed to have disappeared.
But what if you had someone to look up that will never fail or disappoint you? What if someone comes along and says follow me and you will never regret it? Not only that, what if someone comes along and says follow me and I will infuse my life into you so that you too can live the life I lived? Hey, sign me up! Today in our text, we are going to look at someone who has proved Himself to be the perfect person to follow and that is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Are you ready for the next encounter? Now there is so much packed into this narrative, I am going to have to take an extra week to cover it all. The last two weeks we looked at how Jesus began His ministry. We are actually going to go even further back and see how He was prepared for ministry. We are going to take a trip to the desert with Jesus. This is going to be a little different and not an encounter with humans, but with the Enemy of our souls.
Now I will need you to do me a favor. I am sure we have heard messages on this chapter or a parallel passage before. I will need you to erase whatever you have heard in the past about this. This passage has often been used as a manual on how to deal with temptation. In other words, we are told to put ourselves in the place of Jesus to learn how to fight Satan. Yes, Scripture does tell us to walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6) and we do need to resist the devil (James 4:7), but I think something else is going on in this text here. Yes, we can learn a lot about Satan here too, and the fact that we need to be filled with the Spirit to fight temptation and how temptation works, etc. But those are really side issues. Hopefully, I can show you what is really going on in the text here today.
Actually, this is not really about us at all. Now stay with me as I try to set up the context to show this. Look back atLuke 3:21-22. Jesus gets baptized as a picture of identifying with mankind who He is going to save and to also be prepared to be sent out for ministry. The Heavens open and what does God say about Jesus? He is His BELOVED SON. File those words away.
Then all of a sudden, Luke puts in a genealogy. What are you doing Luke? You are totally disturbing the flow of the story, so we think. This is usually where we start reading a couple of names into the list only to get annoyed by the inability to pronounce them and the feeling of reading what appears to be a boring phone book! So what do we do? We either skim or skip the whole thing and rush over to Luke 4 and continue the story. But Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is a master storyteller. He is not just telling us a story and then sticking a genealogy in there because the editor said so, no he has a theological agenda for what he is doing. There is a method to the madness! Take a look again at the list of names. What is repeated over and over? Notice the phrase, “Son of.”
Luke actually traces Jesus’ line all the way back to who? (Luke 3:38). ADAM! And notice what he calls Adam: A SON OF GOD. So what has been repeated so far? The word “son.” Now look down at Luke 4:3 and then Luke 4:9. What does Satan call Jesus? Son of God! Hmm, is there a possible connection between Adam and Jesus? Now read Luke 4:1-2. We are told of 40 days when the object of God’s affection, Jesus, was led into a desert or wilderness. Go over to Deut. 8:2. We see the same language there used for Israel! God led Israel for 40 years in the wilderness! There is definitely a parallel between Jesus and Israel. Not only that, all of Jesus’ replies to Satan come from either Deut. 6 or Deut. 8, both chapters that details Israel is the desert. In addition, Israel is often called a son of God (Ex. 4:22) in the Old Testament as well! Ok, what is actually going on here is a triangular connection between Adam, Israel and Jesus. Have you ever seen the movie, “Three Men and a Baby?” Well, this story can be called, “Three Sons and a Devil.” So what?
What happened when Adam was tempted by the devil? He failed. What happened when Israel was tested in the wilderness? They failed. Now the question is what will happen to God’s own Son? Will he fail? So this entire narrative is contrasting Adam and Israel with the Lord Jesus! The devil must have laughed when the heavens opened during the baptism and God said, “This is my beloved SON.” “Oh, another son?” Satan thought. “This should be easy. I got Adam. I got Israel and now I’m going to keep my record a perfect three for three.”
What about Jesus? Well, not this time Satan. He is going to be victorious. He is unique and unlike anything you have ever fought before. He is totally worthy to be worshipped and followed and He is going to prove why! He overcame three key temptations that both Adam and Israel could not overcome! So then we are not supposed to put ourselves here in this text as Jesus. Instead, we are to see ourselves as Adam and Israel, total failures, but our confidence is not in ourselves, but in Jesus!
So the question we are going to look at is, why should we put our confidence in Jesus as our Leader? I’m going to give you three reasons. First of all,
I. Because He overcame the temptation of self-sufficiency (Luke 4:1-4).
Let’s get to the text! Luke picks up where he left off at the baptism. Notice the double reference to the Holy Spirit inLuke 4:1. Luke is all about the Holy Spirit. If you ever read the Gospel of Luke and/or Acts, you will see so many references to the Holy Spirit. After all, he is the one who wrote Acts, often referred to as the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. With the double emphasis on the Spirit, he is also making it clear that the whole story was not the devil’s idea or man’s idea or even a haphazard accidental, he-somehow-ended up there kind of event, but God leading Jesus into the wilderness to be tested. This was God’s idea!
By the way, I want you to make a note here of the difference between testing and temptation. In the original languages, both words can be used. We know from Scripture in James 1:13 that God does not tempt or cause you to sin. Your flesh causes you sin and Satan fans the flame. To tempt someone means to create a situation where you can fall into sin. Temptation itself is not sin, but giving into it is when you sin. God, however, does allow circumstances in life to test you always with the purpose to sanctify and strengthen us. But I would add that whenever God tests you, Satan shows up to see if he can manipulate the situation. His intention is to deceive and destroy. God tests to bring the best out of you while Satan tempts to bring the worst in us. What does God want to test? Your obedience and your love.
Back to the story! I am going to borrow some of the imagery here from Ken Gire, in his book Moments with the Savior, where he tells the story beautifully. So the baptism in the River Jordan is over and just west of Jericho, towers a mountain range interspersed with caves. Jesus leaves Jordan and the neighboring beautiful and lush paradise of Jericho to enter into “an almost perpendicular wall of rock twelve or fifteen hundred feet above the plain.” Take a look at the picture. What you see is an endless wasteland filled with splintered rocks and deep dark gorges. As you walk up these mountainous areas, you will probably see some bones here and there of some people who ran here for seclusion, but now these bones lie in the sand to be bleached by the sun. Jesus looks down at his feet and sees impoverished plants reaching skyward like beggars begging for money. It is dry and hot.
Jesus notices that he will not have any place to lay his head but perhaps in those caves where who-knows-what kind of animals now make their abode. Well the first day goes by and the moon begins to rise above the horizon. Do you know what happens to the desert at night? It comes alive! Insects emerge out of their holes. Rats cautiously scurry across the sand while some reptiles slither over the rocks. Jesus settles in a shallow cave carved out of the hillside. His only bed is the cold hard ground; his only blanket the dark of night.
But he is not alone. Mark tells us that he was with the wild animals (Mark 1:13). What an ironic situation! The Creator of the Universe who once walked freely in the garden of Eden in the cool of the day now veiled in human flesh does not have a place to lay his head and having to battle with Satan at the same time. This goes on for one day, hunger pangs fill him, but then two and three days go by and his body metabolism changes…..40 days!!
Usually we think Jesus was hanging out there for 40 days and then Satan came to him three times with three different temptations. Actually that was not the case. Satan wasted no time. In Luke 4:2, the verb there indicates that he was continuously tempted by Satan the entire time and then three more temptations that are recorded came at the end of the 40 days. So it was not just the heavens that opened when Jesus showed up on the scene to begin His ministry. The jaws of Hell also opened and launched a full front attack.
Day 40. Look at Luke 4:2 again. Jesus wakes up to the sun coming up and growing hot. He is barely noticeable. His robe is ripped, his skin is parched. His lips cracked. When you look at his face, it looks like someone was carving it with a piece of rock. And, after 40 days of fasting, he is famished. The hunger pangs have returned and starvation and death can take hold quickly if he doesn’t do something.
“A strategic time to strike!” thinks the devil as he moves closer to his opponent stepping from the shadows. We don’t know what form he took, but regardless his movements are wary and careful. Maybe initially he was not sure if he is a predator or end up as prey, but now looking at his opponent on the ground thin and frail, he grows bold. Besides, the first Son of God was an easy bait and he was strong and healthy in a beautiful paradise. This one is on his face in the desert, so this should be another easy victory.
Athletes train up their body before a contest bringing each muscle and nerve to its very best, but Jesus ready to meet his adversary head on now in a great onslaught of temptations, had trained DOWN his body reducing its physical strength, until it touched a very low point of human weakness. He gives his adversary every advantage: the place, time, weapons and conditions.
Let’s get ready to rumble! Philip Yancey writes, “Like single combat warriors, two giants of the cosmos converge on this scene of desolation. One, beginning his mission in enemy territory, arrived in a badly weakened state. The other, confident and on home turf, seized the initiative.”
Look at Luke 4:3. “IF YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD TELL THIS STONE TO BECOME BREAD.” The word “if” here should be better translated, “Since you are the Son of God.” He doesn’t want Jesus to doubt himself, but to depend on himself. He is asking Jesus to take a legitimate need and meet it illegitimately. You have been suffering all this time, take the matter into your hands. DO SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF. It is just one stone. It’s been forty days. You’re exhausted. You’re in a desert. Is this how the Son of God is to be? Beloved Son? Ha! Your Father provided manna for the Israelites in the wilderness! Cakes for Elijah! You have access to resources to use upon your own will, so test it and use it. The next town in 20 miles away and so you only other option is to get it NOW while you can. If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will! You can take care of yourself better than God can!
Warren Wiersbe notes, “Satan subtly used this same approach on Eve: ‘God is holding out on you! Why can’t you eat of every tree in the Garden? If He really loved you, He would share everything with you!” He is not good after all! Adam and Eve failed. The people of Israel were constantly reminded and provided for, yet they disobeyed and distrusted God. They failed. The devil has no new tricks. He uses the same scheme in different packages, that’s all. Jon Courson adds, “And it’s the same temptation he sets before you whenever he whispers, “Don’t you deserve a moment of satisfaction, a moment of pleasure? Why should everyone else have all the fun? Aren’t you a child of God? Don’t you think He wants you to experience life and be fulfilled?”
But Jesus doesn’t take the bait. Instead he remembers how God was a like a good Father to his people, Israel though they hungered in the wilderness, making them trusting God’s promises that he will ultimately provide manna to them AT THE RIGHT TIME. This is because the right thing at the wrong time is the WRONG THING.
Jesus remembers Israel in the wilderness and quotes Deut. 8:3: “It is written: Man does not live by bread alone.” He will not short-circuit God’s path. He will not complain. What matters in life is obedience to God’s will and not taking care of self. Ken Gire has a great comment here about Jesus’s decision: “REGARDLESS OF HOW CONSUMING HIS HUNGER, JESUS WOULD RATHER BE FED WITH THE SMALLEST CRUMB OF HIS FATHER’S WORD THAN TO INDULGE INTO AN ENTIRE LANDSCAPE OF FRESH BREAD FROM ANYWHERE ELSE.”
Illus: Today we live in a world of instant gratification and self-sufficiency. How many of you are familiar with the show Survivor? If you have, maybe the name Richard Hatch may ring a bell. Hatch was once in the American public spotlight as the one who walked off the island with a million dollars in the first summer edition of the blockbuster hit reality show. Hatch had his moment in the sun and milked that moment for everything he could. In addition to the cool million, Mr. Hatch appeared in 60 broadcast interviews, hosted a morning radio show in Rhode Island, appeared in one of those “Got milk?” ads, was on David Letterman and even wrote a book called 101 Survivor secrets: How to make $1,000,000, lose 100 pounds, and Just Plain Live Happily. This is just an example of an attitude in society today that says that life equals getting smart money while you can, however you can and as fast as you can. “GO FOR IT!” “YOU DESERVE IT!” “DON’T DENY YOURSELF.”
Waiting and trusting God is unheard of in our generation. We can barely wait for our computer to get on the internet or to sit at a drive-thru or for the traffic light to change. We want instant everything! Instant food, instant connection, instant messaging! But it’s worse than that. We cannot wait for the right marriage partner and we take the matter into our own hands and marry whoever pays attention to us. Or look at any kind of sexual sin. We fall into sexual sin because we do not want to do it God’s way and we do it our way. Instant gratification. We do not have enough money to pay for that luxury item, so we put it on our credit card and get into all kinds of debt, now unable to give to God and His work. Instant gratification. We rely on ourselves to get by.
We all have failed. We are part of Adam’s race. We are Israel. We have failed. But there is One who did not flinch in the face of this temptation. He overcame! Praise Jesus! See the devil’s way to use his power is to dazzle, coerce and force you to obey. It is external. It is also the world’s way. You can force any human being to do whatever you want with external force. God’s way is internal and not coercive. I want you to obey because you love me. He had heard at the baptism that He was God’s beloved Son. He had heard that God’s affection was placed on Him. He had heard that God was pleased with Him. His physical strength had left Him and He relied on His identity and relationship He had with the Father to sustain Him.
What we tend to do when we fail is to say to God, “God I know I failed this time. Help me to be better and not do it again.” That is another form of self-sufficiency. Victory never comes with self-effort. We need to learn how to say, “God, I know I failed. I am like Adam, led away by my fear and my lusts. I am like Israel, quick to doubt and not trust you. But I thank you for Jesus. Thank you where I have failed, He has triumphed. Thank you that I stand here forgiven because of Him.” See the difference? It is relationship that brings change. We must grow to love Jesus and it is that love that will cause the change we are looking for.
I want to stop here and continue next time go through the next two temptations. As I close here, I am not going to give you 10 steps to overcome temptation or 4 ways to fight like Jesus. No, instead I am giving you an invitation. I am giving you an invitation to come close to Jesus.
Wayne Corderio, a pastor out in Hawaii, shares this humorous illustration of the time he dated his wife.
When I was dating my wife, Anna, one thing I admired about her was her love for sports. I love sports too, but there are two sports I don’t like. Forgive me if you like these, but I don’t.
The first is bowling. I can’t understand it. You pick up this cannonball and throw it on this beautiful maple floor that’s tilted. And it goes down and disappears, thank goodness. All of a sudden—swbump!—it comes back again. You throw that thing down again, and it goes down and disappears. All of a sudden—swbump!—it comes back. All night you’re trying to get rid of it. Finally when you’re done and you try to leave, they make you pay for throwing that ball down on the ground. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
The other is roller-skating: four wheels, none of them turn, and they expect you to go around in circles.
This is a true story. On our first date, I knocked on Anna’s door. I was so excited. I said, “Where would you like to go tonight?” She said, “Do you like bowling?” And she picked up her own bowling ball. She had her own bag. Now, I was in love, so when she asked if I liked bowling, my answer was, “I love bowling.” And we went bowling all night. We had a great time.
The next week I knocked on her door. I said, “Where would you like to go this week?” She picked up her skates. She said, “Do you like skating?” I said, “I’ve been waiting for months for someone to ask me go skating. I love skating.” And we skated all night.
I look back on it now and think, what made it easy for me to change? Did I have to work up this thing to change my desire for bowling and skating? No. It was because of my relationship with that girl. Because of the love that I had in relationship with her, change was easy.
The power to change is predicated upon your relationship with God. How often I think, God, it’s hard to do what you’re asking me to do, hard to change. Do I just grit my teeth? “No,” the Lord says, “why don’t you just come closer to the cross? Why don’t you let me restore and renew my relationship with you? Would you come close?”
How many of us have been self-sufficient all week? Trying to get by with our devotions and gritting our teeth trying to obey God? Have many of us have fallen into times of instant gratification? Here is the invitation by Jesus, who says, “Behold, I am a high priest who is able to sympathize with every weakness. I have been tempted in every way as you, yet without sin. So come with confidence, draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of your need (Heb. 4:15-16).”
Will you come today?
 http://www.pluggedinonline.com/cultureclips2/a0004498.cfm accessed 12 February 2009.
 http://www.time.com/time/quotes/0,26174,1877642,00.html accessed 12 February 2009.
 Gire, Ken (1998). Moments with the Savior (62-67). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
 Yancey, Philip (1995). The Jesus I Never Knew (70). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
 Wiersbe, Warren (1996, c1989). The Bible Exposition Commentary. (Lk 4:1-13). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
 Courson, Jon (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (307). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
 Gire, 64.
 http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/weekly/02-05-20/13675.html accessed 13 February 2009.