Sunday, January 15, 2012

Luke 4:1-13 - Jesus' Temptation

Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness (James J. Tissot, 1886-94)
Contextual Notes:
Following a birth narrative focused on Jesus’ fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants (Luke 1-2), Luke focuses his Gospel on the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He begins with the message repentance from Messiah’s Forerunner John the Baptizer (Luke 3:1-20), then Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3:21-23a) with its message that He is the promised Messiah, who will fulfill the role of the Lord’s suffering Servant through his sacrificial death. Luke then inserts Mary’s genealogy, proving that, like Matthew 1, Jesus fulfills both the Davidic and Abrahamic Covenants, adding also that unlike Adam, Jesus is the true Son of God (Luke 3:23b-38).

Now Luke shows Jesus’ last stage of preparation and the first and most important challenge in beginning his ministry – demonstrating that he is the true Son of God by refusing temptation in every area. Coordinated by the Holy Spirit, Jesus heads into a desolate area to fast and permits Satan to test the weakened Messiah. Luke demonstrates that Jesus is the ideal human being, unlike the fallen Adam and Eve (Luke 4:1-13). Luke wants you to see that Jesus is steadfastly obedient to the will of His Father in contrast to both Adam the first son of God (Luke 3:38), and Israel God’s son (Exod 4:22-23) and first servant. The true Son of God (not in a Garden but in a desert) and the true Servant of God in the wilderness will emerge from this temptation.

Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 4:1-13 to teach believers that through Jesus we can overcome temptations of the flesh, the mind, and the spirit.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about temptation.
Pray and Read:  Luke 4:1-13

Sermon Points:
1.   Through Jesus we can overcome temptations of flesh (Luke 4:1-4)
2.   Through Jesus we can overcome temptations of mind (Luke 4:5-8)
3.   Through Jesus we can overcome temptations of spirit (Luke 4:9-13)

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   Luke 4:1 – Holy Spirit: Jesus’ conception (Luke 1:35), baptism (Luke 3:21-22), temptation (Luke 4:1) and his ministry (Luke 4:14) are all linked to the working of God’s Spirit.
b.   Luke 4:2 – Temptation: This Greek verb root is peirazo, (to test or to tempt) is an event which places us under great pressure. James tells us that God never tempts people in the sense of luring them to do evil (James 1:13). God does test, however, as he permits the devil to test Jesus, to demonstrate that we can overcome in his strength. Adam and Eve failed. You and I through Christ can overcome.
c.   Luke 4:2The devil is a fallen angel (Isaiah 14:11-15; Ezek 28:11-19) in rebellion against the Creator God. He is hostile to human beings (1 Peter 5:8; Acts 10:38; Job 1-2), appeals to man’s sin nature (Gen 3; John 13:2; Rev 12:9), and exercises great power in this world through the sin of those same people (Eph 2:2; 2 Cor 4:4; 1 Tim 3:7). But he is far from all-powerful. Believers through Jesus’ resources can stand against his schemes (Eph 6:11) and resist him so that he will flee from us (James 4:7).
d.   Luke 4:2 – Fasting: Medicine tells us that 30-40 days of total fasting depletes the body’s resources and causes intense hunger and near exhaustion. Even in this weakened state he remained true to his commitment by trusting and acting on God’s Word. Both Moses (Deut 9:9; Exod 34:28) and Elijah fasted 40 days (1 Kings 19:8), and Israel was in the wilderness 40 years.
e.   Satan tempts Jesus on three levels,[1] the desires of the flesh (Luke 4:1-4), the desires of the eyes (Luke 4:5-8), and the pride of life (Luke 4:9-13). Seen another way (1 John 2:16), Jesus was tempted in every area of his existence as a person, in his body, in his mind, and in his spirit.
f.    These are the same three kinds of temptations in the Garden of Eden: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food (desire of the flesh), and that it was a delight to the eyes (lust of the eyes), and a tree to be desired to make one wise (boasting of life), she took of the fruit and ate (Gen 3:6). The first man did not resist, but the last man did (Rom 5:12-21; 1 Cor 15:21-22, 45-49; Heb 4:15).
Luke 4:1-4
Desires of flesh
Luke 4:5-8
Lust of the eyes
Luke 4:9-13
Pride of life

g.   And Jesus settles the issues like a good rabbi, by quoting Scripture. The first is to use his supernatural power to satisfy his purely material needs by turning stones to bread. Besides being 100% God as the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus is also 100% human being with normal mortal needs.
h.   Yet there is a logical incongruity on Satan’s part in this temptation for me. How do you ask Someone who created you, who has supernatural powers beyond yours, to satisfy his own purely material needs? Wouldn’t a Supernatural Person have the ability to overcome natural hunger if he wanted without temptation?  But this is the perfect Man, but a Man with natural hunger nonetheless.
i.    Luke 4:3-4 – If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread: The devil subtly challenges Jesus to fulfill his hunger and at the same time prove his Messiahship (Isaiah 49:30; John 6:30ff) by performing a form of witchcraft called shape changing. Jesus quotes Deut. 8:3, knowing that he could depend on God’s provision of manna in the wilderness because God was his Father as he was Israel’s (Deut 8:5).
j.    APPLICATION: “Our first temptations are often through our physical nature or our temporal circumstances, provision, our physical health, financial pressure. Remember the subject of this temptation was a real man with a  mind as liable to discouragement, despondency, and the depression that come from physical weakness as yours and mind Remember also that it is your faith that the enemy assails, and discouragement is usually the gateway to doubt and unbelief. Your worst faults and falls are not so important to the great enemy of your soul as the use which he intends to make of them in crushing your spirit and destroying your confidence. Remember, then, the stirring message of Peter who was tempted: ‘Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings’ (1 Peter 5:9). ‘So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded’ (Heb 10:35),”[2] and remember that “no temptation has come to you except that which is common to man. 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 stand up under it” (1 Cor 10:13).
a.   Luke 4:5 – kingdoms of this world: They may have been given temporarily to the devil (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2, they did not belong to him Dan 4:32) as an usurper (1 John 5:19), but they have been promised to the Messiah (Psalm 2:7-8; Luke 3:21). Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:13, which prohibits idolatry (Deut 6:14), a commandment anyone who worships a created, fallen angel like the devil would violate. No created being can demand or receive that which belongs to Creator God.
b.   APPLICATION: This next attack was on his ambition, his future, his plan for growth and expansion, and he is presented with the opportunity for compromise. If only he would put himself beholden to a political boss, join a certain organization, follow a certain unwritten and unofficial order to make someone happy or to appease someone so that you can “get along,” but Jesus refused the bribe. He didn’t need the devil’s crown. He had a mightier dominion waiting for him one day when He could say, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:18-19).
a.   Satan returns a third time to the attack in an appeal to his spiritual pride by quoting Psalm 91:11-12, but he omits “in all your ways,” thus changing a general rule of life to one clearly contrary to God’s will. The Lord again answers from Deuteronomy 6:16.
b.   It is striking that all three of Jesus’ quotations are drawn from contexts about Israel’s being tested by God (Deut 8:2), putting God to the test (Deut 6:16) in the wilderness at Massa when the Israelites refused to accept that God was among them until He gave them a sign (Exod 17:7). Jesus is a true Israelite, not putting the Lord to the test, but trusting His Father’s word at his baptism (Luke 3:21-22).
c.   APPLICATION: “17Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” (Heb 2:17-18). “15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:15-16).

[1] Matthew’s second and third temptations are Luke’s third and second respectively. Over a period of six weeks, in the midst of this great temptation, it need not be seen as a contradiction, but merely a difference in what each Gospel emphasizes. Some have seen in these temptations a message to the contemporary politics of first century Judea. The first temptation parallels the Herodians, who would have kept the masses quiet by feeding them; the second the Sadducess who were willing to cooperate (and compromise) with the Romans to maintain their position; and the third the Pharisees were the nationalists who hoped for a miraculous intervention of the Lord Himself.
[2] A.B. Simpson, Christ in the Bible Commentary, 4:274.