Formations lesson for March 18: The Temptation of Jesus
March 2 2001 by Ken Vandergriff , Luke 4:1-13

Formations lesson for March 18: The Temptation of Jesus | Friday, March 2, 2001

Friday, March 2, 2001

Formations lesson for March 18: The Temptation of Jesus

By Ken Vandergriff Luke 4:1-13 Temptations, in order to be attractive, must contain some partial truth. Temptations entice us by suggesting that they will enrich our lives. Were we to see the ultimate, destructive consequences of temptations, we would run from them in disgust. By clothing themselves in partial truth and partial beauty, temptations appear more legitimate. The New Testament affirms that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, but without sin (Heb. 4:15). Only in that way could He be completely human. Today's text focuses on the temptations Jesus faced at the start of his public ministry. We should not imagine that these were His only temptations; they are representative of the temptations He faced throughout his ministry.

Using power for personal comfort (Luke 4:1-4) After 40 days of fasting, the first temptation appeared attractive - turn stones into bread. Surely no reasonable person would fault Jesus for attending to legitimate needs. What would it have meant, though, if Jesus had yielded? He would have used the power of God to satisfy His own physical needs, and at that point He would no longer have been human like the rest of us. Much of our time and energy is spent attending to our physical needs; because we are creatures, it cannot be otherwise. As the Son of God, Jesus would not take a shortcut unavailable to other humans.

It is instructive to compare John's Gospel at this point. John does not record the temptations following the baptism of Jesus, as Matthew and Luke do. In the gospel of John, however, temptations come subtly to Jesus while He ministers. According to John 6:26-31, crowds seek Jesus, desiring Him to make bread. In John 6 and Luke 4, Jesus saw that physical needs are not the ultimate concern of life; spiritual matters take precedence.

Using the ways of the world (Luke 4:5-8) The second temptation challenged the means by which Jesus would accomplish His mission. According to God's plan, all glory and authority would indeed belong to Jesus, but the way to that end was suffering and death. According to the devil, Jesus could skip the suffering and death and immediately have the glory and authority, simply by worshipping the evil one.

Had Jesus done that, however, He would have acknowledged that evil has a legitimate place in creation. Evil would not have been rooted out of God's creation. Only through the cross could sin and evil be conquered, uprooted and shown to be illegitimate in God's kingdom. This shortcut would have enabled Jesus to rule, but to rule a kingdom in which evil ultimately had the final word.

It is again instructive to compare John's gospel. According to John 12:27 (see also Mark 14:33-36), Jesus was tempted just before His arrest to seek some other way than the cross. Only the cross could ultimately conquer evil.

Craving religious assurance (Luke 4:9-13) Paul said that we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7), but our human nature is such that we really prefer to walk by sight. We crave religious certainty; we want to move beyond simply trusting God's promises to an absolute certainty of them. That's the point of Jesus' third temptation.

God's word is filled with his promises, and the devil quoted one of those to Jesus (Ps. 91:11-12). Would Jesus trust the promise, simply believing that God is faithful? Or would He demand absolute proof? Will we walk by faith rather than sight? This may be the temptation of the supremely religious person - the craving for religious certainty.

Oscar Wilde suggested that "every impulse we strive to strangle broods in the mind and poisons us. ... The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it." He was half-right. If we strive on our own power to resist temptation, it does fester in the mind until it overpowers us. He was wrong; however, to think that yielding is the only solution. What Wilde overlooked is the power of God working in us. When we think on that which is pure, honest, and uplifting (Phil. 4:8-9), the Spirit of God works in us to give temptations no opportunity to brood and poison.

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3/2/2001 12:00:00 AM by Ken Vandergriff , Luke 4:1-13 | with 0 comments
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