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 4:8-11
Matthew’s gospel tells the story of the good news that God has come to earth in Jesus Christ. As a Jew, Matthew is writing primarily to a Jewish audience that has been awaiting the coming Messiah for centuries. It explains why he uses so many Old Testament passages to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises, prophecies, and predictions.
In chapters one and two, Matthew establishes Jesus’s Kingship by providing a description of his ancestors and his birth, and then in chapter 3 the prophet, John the Baptist comes on the scene declaring that the Kingdom of heaven has come, and it has come Matthew says in Jesus Christ who is the king of this kingdom.
But Jesus didn’t come only as king. In fulfilling Old Testament prophecies, Matthew tells us he also came as a servant, and a suffering servant at that. This is why in chapter 4 he is led into the wilderness by the Spirit. He must learn suffering in order to be prepared for the sufferings yet to come, and to defeat the devil—not for his sake but for ours.
Although this is Jesus’ final temptation in the wilderness it is not the last temptation he will face. But it is the most blatant one of all. It is this temptation where the devil pulls out all the stops. “We’re done talking about your need to feed yourself, and we’re done talking about your need to prove your father’s love for you, so let’s talk about your need to be king.”
[Read Matthew 4:8-9]
Satan offers a plan to establish Jesus as a ruler with stunning visual effect. From a high mountain or most likely through a vision (he is supernatural after all), Satan shows Jesus the kingdoms of the world and all their glory. “You can be king and you don’t even have to go to the cross. You can have it all, but only if you give me your all.” And it is here we see the real reason behind this offer. Satan is looking to establish his rulership over Christ, and to steal worship from God. This is how he’s always been.
Read what Isaiah writes in Isaiah 14:13-14, “You said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” And what better way is there to achieve this than to get the very Son of God to worship him?
If Jesus will bow down and worship him, Satan tells him that he can have it all. Jesus can doesn’t need to wait or suffer to have the kingdoms of this world. There is no need for him to face the humiliation and indignity of the cross. He can have this now! But in subtle deceitfulness, Satan ironically offers to give Jesus what Jesus already has! As Matthew established earlier, Jesus is already king.
Is this a real temptation? Absolutely. Satan is appealing to the desires that really exist in Jesus’s heart as a human being. The same ones we are tempted by. In 1 John 2:16 we read of how we are tempted by “the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life.” The devil offers us the same thing: “You can have it all if you’re willing to worship me.” But this means worshipping someone or something other than God. This is idolatry.
Why is this such a great temptation if Jesus already knew these kingdoms would be his? It’s because Jesus knows that the road ahead is filled with sorrow, suffering, and ultimately a violent death. He was tempted to consider to have right then what God had promised him without having to walk the path of pain.
And right in his ears are the devil whispers, “If you’re God’s Son why be a servant? You’re a king, so why be crucified? Just worship me and you can be like God ruling kingdoms which is your birthright!”
“Fulfill what God promised you in Psalm 2 now! Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. All the world’s kingdoms with all their glory, all their armies, all their wealth, all their cities, all their allegiance, and think of all the good you can do if you had this power.”
The devil offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world, but what we don’t see him mentioning are the sins of those nations, the sadness of those nations, the corruption of those nations, and the sufferings of those nations. This is always how he presents his offers. Satan holds out pleasure separate from reality. He just focuses on the glories, and enjoyment, but not the shame, guilt, or destruction it leads to. His price always costs more than what he leads us to believe.
Our temptations are not this bold, but Satan whispers many things in our ears. He points to all the things we can have—success, comfort, ease, accomplishments, pleasures, possessions, and tells us, “you deserve them, you’ve earned them, and you can have them without compromising your faith.” He promised Adam and Eve that they could be like God if they ate the fruit, but never mentioned the consequences, and sadly they ascribed greater worth to the serpent’s word than to God’s word.
But see how Jesus responds.
[Read Matthew 4:10-11]
Jesus does not waver. He responds to Satan with absolute authority, not as the divine son of God but as a man who is obedient to the will of God. He will obtain the kingdoms of the world, but now was not the time, and bowing to Satan was not the way. The only way was to humbly obey his father’s will by taking the pathway of suffering and death on the cross.
Hear Paul’s words in Philippians 2:6-11, “Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Jesus rejects this temptation with an authoritative command: “Be gone, Satan!” He once again pulls out the weapon of Satan’s defeat: “It is written . . .” He quotes Deuteronomy 6:13, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” Jesus is declaring, “There is no other Lord and no other God but Yahweh alone. He is worthy and deserving of honor, and glory. There is only one who is worthy of worship Satan, and it isn’t you. It is the one who created you and rules you, the Lord God, Yahweh himself.”
With this rebuke the devil departs. The battle is over, and Jesus has won a victory that will carry him all the way to the cross, defeating along the way every temptation. It is a victory that will soon give to him the very same thing Satan offered, but not the kingdoms of this world, but one kingdom, the kingdom of heaven where he will reign in all authority and glory.
If Jesus had succumbed to this temptation he would not only not be the king, he would never be the Savior, but he knew that his supreme duty was to worship God alone, and he expects the same of all who call themselves his disciples. Jesus chose to live a life of suffering and obedience to the Father rather than live in sinful submission to Satan.
The temptations Matthew records for us in this chapter are directly related to the battles we face every day. “Meet your own needs if God doesn’t—test him to prove he cares—you can have the kingdom and world and not have to suffer.” These are battles we face until our time on this earth is over and Jesus is crowned as King and Satan is cast into hell for all eternity. Until then, we must not lose sight of the danger we are in because of the devil’s war against us which is both spiritual and personal.
Revelation 12:10-11 says, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they conquered him by the blood of the lamb, and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”
This victory of Jesus over Satan reaches far into the future, our future: it is the first step towards our redemption, our justification, our ongoing sanctification, our future resurrection and our ability to overcome the devil.
God has given us his Spirit, the same Spirit who led Jesus not only into the wilderness, but also through the wilderness unscathed. This is same Spirit who lives in us. On our own we cannot resist temptation or triumph over the devil in our own effort, but we can as those who are united to Christ.
When we come to Matthew 4:11 we see that Satan has left and the trial is over. Victorious, Jesus is weak and hungry but not alone. Immediately Psalm 91 comes to life as angels arrive.
The angelic help Jesus had said “no” to earlier that would have put God to the test now arrives to serve him. Restrained from helping him in his battle, these angels were ready, and with a word from God they rush to his aid. Now for the time, his temptation is over. More will come, but a respite is needed. He’s human after all.
Ultimately, idolatry is what his temptation is all about, and it’s where Satan wants to lead every person including every Christian. Idolatry started this entire mess. Adam and Eve idolized being “like God”, and it ruined the whole of humanity and the world we live in. They chose to worship themselves rather than God, and Paul tells us in Romans 1 that humanity hasn’t gotten any better, only worse. It is a world that worships the creature rather than the creator. While Jesus had every right to rule the nations, he was only interested in ruling one—the eternal one, the kingdom of heaven—and the only way to get there was the cross.
Idolatry is a temptation every one of us faces every day. How often we are tempted to want to control our lives and others by playing God, and attempting to create the life we want to have rather than obediently accepting the one God has called us to as disciples of Christ.
This temptation is vividly clear and seriously dangerous; we give authority to what or who we worship. If Jesus had kneeled, he would have given away all his kingly authority, but he did not, and while there are many voices intent on tempting us to kneel before some kind of idol; anger, fear, worry, greed, possessions, comfort, ease, lust, despair, bitterness, unforgiveness, hate, and unbelief, we don’t have to because our lives belong to Christ. We have been bought with a price – Christ’s blood shed for us on the cross. He died for us that we would no longer be slaves to the ruler of this world, but slaves of righteousness. He ensures our victory because he was victorious over sin, Satan, and death. We can live godly lives.
Our inheritance and our legacy now as disciples is as those united to Christ, and like Jesus we can resist and overcome the devil by the blood of the Lamb and word of our testimony.
Song of Response
Sermon Audio from Recent Sundays