Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.
“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,and they will lift you up in their hands,so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. Matthew 4:1-11
This passage seems so simple, a story often heard in children’s Sunday School, yet it has so much to share with us. In it, we have so much to learn. As a boy Jesus prepared for prayer, drawing near to God with study of scripture. Now He would prepare WITH prayer to do the mighty work of His purpose on earth.
As we look into today’s verses, we don’t immediately see prayer. The focus on the story seems to be the temptation of Christ. However, prayer is woven into the passage; intertwined with the action and the words of Jesus.
First, we know that Jesus has been led by the Spirit, to the wilderness. In the story immediately preceding this one in the gospels, the Holy Spirit has descended on Jesus at His baptism. God has drawn near to Jesus and as the Spirit and the Son go into the desert, Jesus will seek to draw closer and closer to God.
How do I know this? We know from the passage that Jesus fasted. In our culture today, fasting means little more than restricting food. People do it for diet, exercise, to raise awareness for a cause, and other non-religious reasons. Fasting, even in the religious sense is sometimes turned into more about staying away from this or that and less about drawing near to God. However, fasting is supposed to be a means to turn away from the physical desires and needs in order to focus soley on God, the Giver of ALL things…the Sustainer and Provider of more than we could ask or imagine. So as Jesus fasted, it is a safe conclusion to draw to say that He did this in an effort to draw closer to His Father.
The verses tell us that the Spirit led him into the wilderness “to be tempted (or tested)”. Surely Jesus knew this was the purpose of the journey. His response? Drawing closer, connecting deeper. Only a total reliance on God, his Father…a total rejection of everything of this world would suffice to bring him through this trial.
In this world we will have many trials. Only God the Almighty, through Jesus, can overcome this world full of trials.
The best part of this passage to me is that it gives us a glimpse of HOW to defeat our enemy that wants to separate us from God. In this passage, we see Jesus tempted to NOT fully trust his Father. Provision, protection, and power were all brought forth as a means to test not just Jesus, but God as well. Each time…(I love this part), Jesus was prepared. He knew that God wasn’t far off, but near…close, connected. For Jesus to resist temptation, He would not use special God-like powers, there would be no “magic tricks”, and compromise would not work (see NIV Study Bible commentary for this verse).
Jesus defeated the devil’s evil schemes with the Word of God. Period. End of Story.
Ultimately, it is because of this Word, which became flesh, that we can proclaim victory over the schemes of the evil one.
We do not need special powers, tricks or ways to ‘get around’ the temptations to defeat them. We need God’s Word. There is no book, magic pill, or person that can pull us away from the devil. We must draw near to God, through prayer, study, and scripture. When we are tested, we must proclaim the truth of scripture…speak it out!
James 4:7-8 shows the correlation between drawing near to God and resisting the devil:
Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
Isn’t this exciting!? There is power in Jesus! Don’t let the enemy fool you. When we draw near to God, rest in Him, and allow His Spirit to rest upon us…we have that power!
My mother-in-law encouraged me to memorize a rather long passage in the book of Ephesians a while back. At first, I resisted…I’m not going to lie…I did not think I could do it, nor did I understand how this verse would one day remind me of God’s power when I needed it most. Today, let this be our prayer, our preparation.
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1: 19-21