“where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry”.
We are waiting for a cool and wet change, a mark perhaps of the end of Summer and the beginning of Autumn, changing of the seasons. As the seasons change in the weather so they do in our church year. For the last two months we heard who Jesus is, God and man. Now in the next two months we’ll hear some of what He did and why it matters to you and me.
And so, after being baptised Jesus went into the desert guided by the Holy Spirit. This was a time of fasting and perhaps preparation for what He was about to do in His three-year ministry culminating in His death, resurrection and ascension. And after 40 days He was tempted by the devil. Tempted in three ways to break the first of the ten commandments, to rely on the gifts that God had given Him, to rely on others for His own benefit and to use God to get His own way. Even today the devil tempts us to reject God in these same ways.
Jesus ate nothing for 40 days, 5 and a bit weeks. He was hungry it says, probably the understatement of that century, most people I know get hungry within a day; and He is human, we die after 40-60 days without food so it’s safe to say He was starving and close to death. But He is also God, creator of all, the devil tempts Him to prove His divinity by using His power to sate His hunger. He certainly could do it, He feed 5000+ people with 5 loaves and two fish; and God brought bread out of nowhere in the desert for the Israelites (Luke 9:12-17; Exodus 16). However, He listens instead to God’s way and His Word, man shall not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3). Of course, Jesus would go on to eat, blessed by the gifts His Father gave Him, but at this time He would not rely on His abilities to satisfy the devil.
We too have many gifts of God, life is the first and the foundational one but also the skills and knowledge we have received through our lives in this world that God has given. And like Jesus the devil tempts you and me to rely on these gifts rather than the God who gives them. A simple small example is when you grab a snack to give you some energy and forget God, in that time you are relying on the snack to give energy, not God who gave you the snack. Certainly there are more atrocious ways we might fall to this temptation of the enemy, like relying on our goodness to get ahead in life or on wealth to benefit and save ourselves. To rely on what is created rather than the creator.
The next temptation was to rely on the devil to receive what God had already promised to give Jesus, all authority, glory and power on earth. Now the devil is the father of lies, so I’m not sure that he could actually give this, but he is also called the ruler of this wicked world (John 8:44; John 14:30, 16:11, Ephesians 2:1-3). Regardless Jesus rightly confesses that we are to worship and glorify God alone, the first commandment, to look to Him when we need help and to live for Him who has given us life and everything we have.
Again you and I hear the whisperings of the deciever when we are tempted to rely on anyone, perhaps even the pastor, for salvation; to worship and glorify someone instead of God. Of course God has given us all the people in our lives, the wonderful ones and the not so wonderful; but again to rely on the gift instead of the giver is to reject God as our saviour. However we can, and should, thank God for the good He brings us through other people, like Jesus being provided for by Mary and Joseph.
The devil’s final temptation, before he leaves to tempt Judas later and orcesrate the crucifixion to his own destruction (Luke 22:3), is to abuse God’s Word and promise implying that Jesus would not have to suffer that death. To display His power and God’s grace to all with all the armies of heaven. Later Jesus reveals to Pilate that He could command all the heavenly armies to come and destroy those calling for His death (John 18:36), but His kingdom is not of this world. And in the same way Jesus rejects the devil and his ways and his twisted usage of the Bible, instead choosing to trust in God’s way that even though it was more painful and difficult that it was the best way and the right way.
Here we can remember that firstly people can twist God’s Words to say what they want and so we, like Jesus, should try to learn the whole of God’s Word and it’s foundation well so we can recognise, by the Holy Spirit’s guidance through the Word, anything off about what someone may say about God, Jesus, the faith and His church. The second thing we can learn is that you and I are tempted to do just that, twist God’s own Word to justify ourselves. The devil may say to you in different ways, ‘well you’re forgiven already for everything, so you might as well swindle that person or lie to your spouse or what have you’. Then when you do fall into temptation, really any temptation, the devil doubles down on this two hit combo as satan the accuser, ‘you’re a terrbile person for doing that, God won’t forgive you’. Of course, he is the father of lies and this is the biggest lie of all, no matter what temptation you fall into, a horrible and wicked betrayal of Jesus even killing Him again it may be, no matter how you fail God, He wants to forgive you and take away your guilt, so turn back to Him and ask for His help.
In the letter to the Hebrews (2:18; 4:15) the Holy Spirit tells us, that our high preist, our leader Jesus, was tempted in every way that you are, but didn’t fall and so He sympathises with you in all your temptations, even your falling into them, and He wants to help; so rely on Him and trust His promises. As we prepare over these 40 days to remember and celebrate our Lord’s death and resurrection let’s remember that He has given us everything we have, has given life to all the people we know and has given us clearly His precious promises of life, salvation and freedom from sin and guilt. Relying on Jesus as He helps us reject the temptations of the evil one.
And the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Chirst Jesus now and forever. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.