A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this morning and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Matthew 4:1-4
As we look at Jesus’ encounter with Satan and the temptations it will be helpful to see them in the overall context of the Matthew’s gospel where the central theme of his gospel is that of Jesus as King. The eternal Son of God who has come in the flesh to establish his eternal kingdom by redeeming men and women from their sin and rescuing them from the ruler of this world.
Matthew writes to a primarily Jewish audience, and it appears he sees Jesus as a second Moses who comes to deliver God’s people from bondage. Like Israel, Jesus has been called out of Egypt. Like Israel passing through the waters of the Red Sea, so Jesus has passed through the waters of the Jordan. Like Israel who spent forty years in the wilderness, so Jesus now spends forty days and forty nights in the wilderness. And it’s here, in this place of desolation, where once Israel was tested, so now God allows Jesus to be tested.
Deuteronomy 8:2 states that “You shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.” The wilderness is no accident. Jesus is led by the Spirit. But where Israel failed, Jesus is victorious.
This was not Jesus’ only experience with temptation. For thirty years he daily experienced the same temptations we all face in growing up. That’s why the writer of Hebrews 4:15 can say, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus overcame all of those temptations which are a part of every person’s private life, and now as his public ministry begins, he is facing and confronting evil in all of its strength and horror.
Now in Matthew 4 the battle against the devil’s temptations reaches new heights as he tries to destroy God’s plan of redemption through God’s son. Jesus is led by God into the wilderness to do great battle with the enemy of our souls for the sake of our souls. Having assumed our humanity he faced and overcame the real temptation brought by the devil so that as the perfect man he could take our sin and our punishment as our substitute on the cross. He came to conquer sin and death that we might know and experience eternal life.
[Read Matthew 4:1-3]
After fasting forty days and forty nights of fasting in this wasteland he is weary, dusty, weak, and hungry. And who appears at his weakest moment? The devil who has been waiting for him. As tired and hungry as Jesus is, he now has to battle the greatest evil he has ever faced as a human being.
When Matthew writes, “And the tempter came,” in verse 3, he literally means that the devil drew near to Jesus. This evil entity was up close and personal. In whatever form he appeared, he is there probing into the depths of our Savior’s weakness, weariness, and hunger to try and turn his heart from obeying God’s will.
When Jesus arrived on earth the devil knew his time was short, so he comes to Jesus in all his wrath to make war. This is a battle that attacks and tempts Jesus’ humanity by trying to get him to use his divinity so that the saving plan of God might be destroyed.
These temptations are real because Jesus’ humanity is real. He is really hungry. He is really weary. He is really dusty and dirty, and Satan knows just where to go and just what to say to tempt him.
He begins by attacking Jesus’ identity. “If you are the son of God . . .” Jesus has just received his father’s loving affirmation at his baptism in the Jordan. He has been given the full measure of the Spirit to fulfill his ministry, and now surrounded by incredibly difficult circumstances Satan tries to make him doubt his sonship by questioning the words God has just spoken in Matthew 3:17.
Satan asserts, “No father treats his son like this.” “How could you possibly be the son of God? God would never let his real son go hungry. Look at you. Ragged, filthy, and weak. Is this the kind of God you serve?”
Does this sound familiar to you? This same temptation often comes to us. Satan questions our identity in Christ as we face difficult circumstances. How often have you had these thoughts? “I’m a child of God and yet I don’t feel like that. Why would he treat me this way? Why would he allow these things in my life? Why would he let this happen to me? Am I really a child of God? I don’t think so.”
Satan presents his case to Jesus: “If you are God’s son, he would not want you to suffer with hunger so use your power to feed yourself.” It’s a legitimate need, and the appeal sounds so reasonable.
But Jesus was led into the wilderness “by the Spirit,” and though he suffered with weariness, weakness, and hunger he was right where God wanted him to be. But Satan wanted to unravel God’s plan by tempting him to ignore God’s will and feed himself. “If you are the son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
Satan is saying, “You’ve just spent forty days and nights fasting, and where’s the food your father should be providing? If he hasn’t provided for you then take care of this yourself. It’s perfectly legitimate to want food. God created your need for food. Your human and you can’t live without it. Surely the Lord doesn’t want you to go hungry.”
We are often tempted in this same way: we are tempted to go outside God’s will to meet our needs. How often I’ve heard, “He doesn’t want me unhappy, so I’ll get that divorce or whatever it is I can do to meet the need myself!
Satan attempts to get Jesus to fail as Adam failed by questioning God’s plan. “If you are the son of God . . .” “Is this really how he treats you, Jesus? He provided manna for rebellious people in the wilderness, what about you? Has he disowned you? If you really are the son of God, prove it! Make this stone into bread.”
It is at this moment Jesus has to decide who is going to be sovereign in his life: God? Satan? Or himself? His temptation to doubt his father’s love is real. His relationship with his Father is under assault in the same way Satan assaults our relationship with our heavenly Father. We wonder about God’s care in difficult circumstances, and Satan stands right next to us whispering, “That’s right, he doesn’t care. He’s not good. Just fix the problem yourself.”
All Jesus had to do was use his divinity to take the authority he had over nature and turn that stone into bread. But if he satisfies his hunger in the way Satan suggests he disobey his father’s will. But God’s plan was for Jesus to learn suffering. His suffering in the wilderness had a purpose. Jesus was called to be the Suffering Servant. He needed to be the Suffering Servant in order to redeem us.
But Satan is telling him, “You can still be the son of God without having to suffer.” What the Devil really means is, “You can have the crown without the cross.”
[Read Matthew 4:4]
While Adam, surrounded by the glory and abundance of Eden, gave in to the temptation to eat the food he didn’t need, Jesus in the barren wilderness, weak and hungry, refused to eat the food he desperately needed.
In his humanity, in all his temptations, and in all his suffering, Jesus did not lose sight of his Father’s love, his Father’s will, and the joy of the cross he would eventually suffer his greatest agony on. Never losing sight of his identity as God’s son, he fought back with the greatest weapon of all: Scripture. No debate, no discussion, just the will of God revealed in the Word of God.
He quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 which immediately follows the passage on God testing Israel. “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
Jesus didn’t attempt to satisfy his need in his own way, but trusted God even as he suffered, believing that his Father was good and would care for him in exactly the way he needed to be cared for. Jesus suffered not just with hunger but with the weight of temptation to go his own way. But being full of the Spirit, Jesus humbly recognized that he could not and should solve the problem by his own effort but look to the Lord. He overcame this first temptation by his obedience and trust in his Father’s will for our sake.
As a church most of us know the gospel well. Jesus came for us. Jesus lived for us. Jesus suffered for us. He died for us. He rose from dead for us. and He will return for us. But we must not miss in this passage that Jesus was tempted for usand overcame Satan for us that we might stand against this powerful enemy who is intent on our destruction.
In light of this, let us remember that Jesus suffered for our sake by assuming our humanity living a life we could not live, dying a death we could not die, to win a victory over the devil, not for himself but for us who are now united to him by his righteousness. He came to this fight to rescue us, and he has, but on this earth—until he returns or we go home to be with him—we still have a fight before us.
We have a real enemy. He is the devil, he is darkness, he is the ruler of this world, he is powerful, he is a deceiver, he is a liar, and he is seeking someone to devour as he prowls around like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8-9). We must take his reality seriously and know how to battle him wisely. We must not underestimate the power of the enemy of our soul. As believers we are freed from the dominion of sin, but we still battle the world, the flesh, and the devil and we must be clear that the weapons of our warfare—and war we are in—are spiritual not natural. Our greatest weapon begins with the words: “It is written . . .”
God’s word affirms our identity, that we are united to Jesus Christ. And since we are one with him, we can resist the devil who works tirelessly to make us doubt God’s love for us, not in our own effort or righteousness but in Christ’s righteousness which has been imputed to us. We stand before God in Christ’s righteousness, and when we face this liar and accuser of the brethren, we can stand in the knowledge that we belong to the Lord, and he has no power over us if we do not give it to him. God’s Word reminds us that Jesus has overcome the evil one “in his humanity” giving us confidence that we can overcome because we are united to him.
Song of Response
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