This coming Sunday we will read Jesus temptation in the wilderness from the Gospel of Matthew. This story comes following Jesus baptism. It is also found in the Gospel of Luke. In the Gospel of Mark it is condensed to two verses, (1:12-13) “The Spirit immediately drove [Jesus] out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and he was with the wild beasts.”
There is no mention of it in the Gospel of John. In fact the verse that follows Jesus’ baptism is, “The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked and said, “Behold the Lamb of God.”
There are zillions of temptations--everyone is tempted daily, if not hourly. One temptation some people have is to not believe because of all the discrepancies in the Bible. Remember the Gospels was shared orally for thirty to eighty years after Jesus’ ascension. The four were written to different audiences. Thus, it reasons that the stories would differ, or be missed completely.
This is one of the many lessons to be learned from the story as found in Matthew and Luke. After he fasted forty days and forty nights, and was hungry, that is when Satan approached him. Jesus stayed level headed throughout the ordeal. He combatted the temptations through his knowledge of scripture. As Satan would twist the Word of God to his liking, Jesus would respond with the truth of scripture – three times…
First Temptation – Matthew 4:3-12
Satan: If you are the son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.
Jesus: It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3)
Second Temptation – Matthew 4:5-7
Then the devil took Jesus to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple.
Satan: If you are the son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,” and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11-12)
Jesus: Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Deuteronomy 6:16)
Third Temptation – Matthew 4:8-10
The devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.
Satan: All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.
Jesus: “Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.” (Deuteronomy 6:13)
We also encounter lies in our own lives - in conversations, on social media, and more. Thankfully, God has given us minds to think critically about whether or not the messages we receive are actually true. We can carefully examine their validity and respond to them with godly wisdom. Romans 12:2 urges us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
When Jesus was tempted, he focused his mind on God’s will. We can do the same using our God-given ability for critical thinking to evaluate whether or not messages are true. As Jesus resisted lies and responded in the truth, we should do the same.
So in this great drama between Satan and Jesus, it ends with his victory over the tempter because of Jesus’ knowledge and use of the word of God. Satan made his attacks against every vulnerable point--hunger, trust, and responsibility--and when these were held firmly, there was no other area the devil could attack. He struck at the material or physical need of food, but he found one who knew the spiritual was more important than the physical; he struck at the spirit’s confidence in God, but found one whose trust in the Father did not need testing; and he struck at the carrying out of the divine commission, but found one who was determined to carry out that plan in a divine way. Thus Satan was thwarted, but it wasn’t over, for we read in Luke 4:13, “When the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Jesus until an opportune time.”
What is very clear is the importance of knowing Scripture, being able to use the Word of God in making choices between what is good and what is evil.
I believe it is so important that St. Luke’s has a number of ways for you to go through the Gospel of Matthew. You are invited for worship every Sundays, throughout Lent, until the week after Easter and you will hear a majority of the Gospel. You can join a study group. There is one here on Wednesday Nights from 6-7 PM in the Great Room. There is another one forming, based on the day and time that works best for the most people, contact me to learn more. Your welcome to take time each day and follow the St. Luke’s reading plan: https://www.stlukesbloomington.org/adult-faith-formation.html. And one more alternative is to listen to it online, just 2 minutes a day: (https://youtu.be/mgUWg3ZY_C8). If you start today, it will take you less than 10 minutes to catch up.
See temptations works both ways – Hope you’re tempted to join in our New Year’s Resolution and read the Gospel of Matthew in any way you can, as often as you can. Now for that Heath…
Ongoing prayers and blessings, Rob
firstname.lastname@example.org / 952-881-5801 ext. 103