Luke 4:1-13 to Tempt or be tempted
I have some chocolates here! Let me come and give you one. (pass around) Now you are probably thinking ‘that was a nice and kind thing to do.’ But was it? What if I gave you the chocolates because I wanted to get something from you? What if I gave you the chocolates just to make myself look good before everyone? Or what if I gave you the chocolates to gain control over you? Perhaps it was just a kind gesture…perhaps there is something more sinister
Now before I create an air of suspicion, I just want to make the point that things are not always as they appear. The good we do for someone, even with the best intentions, can be tainted by alternative motives. The good that we do for others, may be in fact be benefiting us more that the receiver; it is me who actually ends up better off; you get fat and high sugar levels…and I get the thanks and the glory!
In today’s gospel, Luke records the temptation of Jesus. On the surface, what the devil asks of Jesus is not really a temptation, it is more an offering of help; a seemingly good deed by the devil to assist Jesus to get on with his earthly mission. Jesus had just spent 40 days alone in the desert without food and now he was hungry. The devil appears to simply want to help ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’ If we were there at the time, we may have said ‘what a nice and kind person to suggest that’, yet Jesus flatly refuses.
Appearing as a good friend, who never takes ‘no’ for an answer when help is need, the devil offers another good suggestion, he offers the world and all authority to Jesus. How good’s that! Jesus could short-cut his ministry without the cross. What a good offer, yet once again Jesus rejects the good offer as totally out of hand. Finally, what better kindness can the devil offer Jesus? Well, as caring and kind as the devil can get, he takes Jesus home to his Father’s house, to the Temple in Jerusalem.
Perhaps the devils senses that Jesus is feeling so alone after being in the desert for 40 days, that a visit to his Father’s house ort to cheer him up. To demonstrate to Jesus just how much he is loved by his Father and how important he is in the heavenly kingdom, the devil said to Jesus ‘If you are the Son of God,”…”throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’
Once again and for the final time Jesus assertively says ‘no’, to something we would think was a good offer. Things are not always as they appear. The good that is offered, can be tainted by alternative motives. The good that is intended for others, may be in fact be benefiting the giver more that the receiver. Jesus knew this was the case here. The devil’s offers were not good at all; it was a temptation into sin. But how does he know to reject this offer? Was it because he was God and man? Had he read up on ‘manipulative techniques used by suspicious people’ in the latest psychological journals? Perhaps you, as a Christian, are wondering how we can recognise when we are being tempted or worse, when we are tempting someone else, even when offering what appears to be good works.
Jesus had only one criterion through which he filtered every good or bad deed; the one criterion he measured everything by: Does what is being offered give all glory to God. Let me repeat that: does the good offered give all glory to God the Father, or to the one offering it, or to the receiver? That’s it! That’s how Jesus judged the devil’s offers and how he judged the offers of all people, even us and found that we all glorified ourselves, as Psalm14 and 53 declare ‘ There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, … there is no one who does good, not even one.’
The devil tempted Jesus with something good…scripture, but used it for evil. He used it for his glory and to tempt Jesus to do the same. The devil used God’s word to entice Jesus and to gain for him self wealth, power and glory! The great temptation trilogy, that first caused Adam and Eve to sin in the garden of Eden, and the same temptation trilogy that still causes us to fall into sin…wealth, power and glory. Wealth, by telling Jesus he could make stones into bread, power, by offering him authority over the world, and glory, by putting the Lord to the test. Jesus instantly knew the devil’s offer was a ‘wolf wrapped in sheep’s clothing’ by using the only criterion he knew…’does what is offered give all glory to God?’
No, it didn’t! That is why he was able to reply with scripture against scripture. Jesus rightly interpreted God’s word, for he is the word of God in flesh and knew that scripture only gave glory to God alone, as he said ‘If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.’ The devil was using God’s word to bring glory upon him self, Jesus rightly brings glory to the Father answering ‘It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.‘ And ‘It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ And finally, when tempted to take the glory for himself, Jesus responds ‘It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.‘
Jesus’ criterion, ‘does it give all glory to God,’ is how we are to judge everything we do and every temptation we face and is also the best way to understand God’s word. We are to ask ourselves the question ‘is what I am offering or saying giving all glory to God’, or am I getting the glory. Am I tempting someone, even with God’s word, with wealth, power, or glory, so they receive glory instead of God? Am I being tempted, even with God’s word, with wealth, or power, or glory that is not mine to have? If Christ was tempted in every way, we, who are sinful by nature, will certainly be tempted or be the ones who are doing the tempting.
That is why we can praise God and give him the glory because he has given us his Son, Jesus Christ, ‘Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!’ He overcame the trilogy of temptation because we did not; he over came sin, death and the devil because we could not.
We may have the criterion ‘to give all glory to God’, which helps in times of temptation, but the truth be known, we will constantly fall and grasp for our own glory. But praise be to God, for he has given us Jesus, who overcame all temptation and made us sons and daughters of God. It is the blood of Jesus that overcame sin and death on the cross. Jesus blood now covers us and protects us from the punishment we deserve, as St Paul in Roman’s 10 says ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
By faith in Jesus, trusting that he now lives for us and in us, through his word and sacraments, we have already overcome sin and temptation. Even though we continue to temp others, or be tempted ourselves; even though we still give glory to ourselves, by repentance and faith in Jesus atoning sacrifice, the blood of Jesus forgives and covers us…in Christ we have overcome. Hear and believe what Jesus says to us in the book of Revelation: ‘He who overcomes will be dressed in white. I will never blot out their name from the book of life, but will acknowledge their name before my Father and his angels.’
In temptation, in times of trial, and in giving service to others, remember Jesus criteria for judging, perhaps this could best be done by memorizing these words from hymn number 793 in our Lutheran hymnal
‘To God be the glory, great things he has done!
So loved the world that he gave us his Son,
Who yielded his life an atonement for sin,
And open the life-gate that all may go in.