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The Temptation Of Jesus

The Temptation Of Jesus   Saturday, December 16, 2017


By James L. Thornton

We could entitle this study, Show Down In The Desert

Mark 1:12. And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. 

13. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.

For a time in the wilderness of Judaea human history hung in the balance. No human witnesses were there to tell the story.

For some reason Jesus felt He should disclose this moment of struggle and personal weakness, no doubt, to His Disciples. The story is told in detail in Matthew 4:1-11, and Luke 4:1-14.

The Gospels assert that Jesus was none other than God's own Son, sent from heaven to lead the fight against evil. They also assert that Satan, the prince of the power of the air, ruler of darkness of this world, instigator of all spiritual wickedness, the champion of evil, with a few thousand years of experience, came to the wilderness of Judaea as the adversary of our Lord.

Some look upon this meeting as a get-acquainted session between Jesus and Satan. Satan did not know for sure whether Jesus was an ordinary man, or a manifestation of God, or perhaps an angel with limited powers like himself.

For Jesus the greatest strain was probably a willingness to put up with the temptation in the first place. Why not simply destroy the tempter and save human history from his evil plague. Why did He not just annihilate Satan and there would be no Saddam Husseins to cause human lives to be lost?  

No Adolph Hitlers to exterminate Jews,                                                                                                                   

No concentration camps, 

No gas ovens to destroy millions of lives,
No wasted bodies of slave laborers who starved to death.

If Jesus had destroyed Satan, there would be no long lines of human beings filling the roads, fleeing their homes and countries in search of relief and food. We would not have the situations in Bosnia, or the Middle East, or Africa.

All I know is that Jesus, facing evil head on with the power to destroy it, chose a different way.

Satan offered Jesus the opportunity to wear a crown and not carry a cross.

Satan offered bread without being subject to the fixed
rules of hunger and of agriculture.
Bypass the laws of nature.

He offered the right to be king, ruling not over just Israel, but over all the earth. "You don't have to be a Suffering Messiah." I think this hit closest to home with the suggestion that Jesus throw himself from a high place to test God's care for him.

No one wants to suffer. And Jesus was no exception. Here Satan is offering him a way out. He prayed in the garden to be spared the sufferings of Calvary.

Matthew 26:39. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. 

That temptation would surface again and again.

Peter one time had rebuked Jesus when he spoke of his death.

Matthew 16:23. But he turned, and said unto Peter, get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. 

While nailed to the cross, Jesus would hear the last temptation repeated as a taunt, by a criminal.

Luke 23:39. And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on Him, saying, if thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 

Even the spectators took up the cry.

Matthew 27:39. And they that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads,
40. And saying, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

Also the religious leaders mocked him.

Matthew 27:41. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,
42. He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.
43. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. 

But there was no rescue, no miracle, no easy, painless

That fact he must have known as he faced Satan in the desert.

The Gospels reveal a Messiah who did not use miraculous powers to benefit himself. Beginning with the temptation, Jesus showed a reluctance to bend, or change the rules of earth.

"Command that these stones be made bread."

"Found your kingdom on sound socioeconomic planning and principals"... "Bread to feed the world."

Every utopia could have been brought to pass, every hope have been realized, and every dream been made to come true. What a benefactor, then, Jesus would have been. He would be acclaimed the world over.

In short, Satan was offering Jesus the chance to be the kind of Messiah we think we want. Set us free of toil, labor, and sweat. Take away the curse. Take away the thorns.

In the early part of last century Communist Revolutionaries were organizing themselves in Russia. They promised to "turn stones into bread" and guarantee safety and security for all citizens in exchange for one simple thing: their freedom. Communism would become the new church in Russia, one founded on mystery and authority, and miracles.

In the next temptation Satan offered Jesus all authority over the world if he would only worship him.

Satan has the power to coerce, to dazzle, and uses force to obedience, and to destroy. Humans have learned that with a bull-whip, or a billy-club, or an ak-47, they can force other human beings to do just about anything they want.

But, after seventy years, the Soviet Empire was crumbling; Mikhail Gorbachev was giving away to Boris Yeltsin. They had to admit that the Marxist pursuit of power had produced the worst nightmares the world has ever seen.


Why did not communism work? The principals sound good.

The answer is simple, it took away human freedom. The freedom to think and act as one chooses.

Satan was telling Jesus to use his powers to force worship of him. To dazzle, to coerce, to force people to worship him by being ruler of the world. But by resisting Satan’s temptations to override human freedom, Jesus made himself easy to reject.

Jesus surrendered his greatest advantage--the power to compel belief in him. Do we, in fact, enjoy too much freedom? We have the freedom to harm and kill each other, to fight global wars, to live without restraints. To live as though the other world did not exist.

I want God to take a more active role in human affairs. To control wars, to stop crime, to stop natural disasters, earthquakes, hurricanes, and all the deadly viruses that plague the earth.

I want God to take a more active role in my personal life. I want quick and east answers to my prayers, healing for my diseases, protection for me, and my loved ones. In other words prove yourself to me, God.

I see in myself a thin hollow echo of the challenge that Satan hurled at Jesus two thousand years ago.

God resists those temptations now as Jesus resisted them two thousand years ago. He settles instead for a slower, gentler way. 

He chooses many times to let evil work its will. Casting out, not merely controlling Satan.

Jesus would forcibly cast out demons, but the spirit He replaced them with was far less possessive and depended on the will of the one possessed.

In the wilderness temptation I see in Jesus the miracle of restraint. His mighty power was yielded to restraint. But this restraint granted us the power to live as though he did not exist, to spit in his face, to crucify him... All this Jesus knew as he faced the tempter.

All the powers of omnipotence can force obedience but only love can summon a response of love. That is the reason God created us... To love him.

John 12:32. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw (not coerce or force) all men unto me. 

Love has the power, the only power, ultimately capable of conquering the human heart. That's how love is.

Hosea 11:4. "I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: ..." 

So now remember when Satan comes with his test of us, then God also gives us the power to chose which way you will respond.

When Satan asked for the chance to test Peter and sift him as wheat, Jesus did not refuse his request. Instead he told Peter.

Luke 22:32. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. 

He exposed Judas but did not try to prevent his evil deed. Day by day each of us is faced with the choice of what we will do with our life.

It is up to each of us to make this choice because Jesus did not take it away from us.

Luke 9:23. And he said to them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. 

24. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
25. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?
26. For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his father's, and of the holy angels.
27. But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God. 

The day will come when Satan will no longer have the power to tempt, to hurt, or do any manner of evil, this will be the final confrontation between Satan and the Lord.

Revelation 20:10. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. 

Hope you enjoyed this study. We hope you will read the other studies on the home page of this web site. Leave us a message in the guest book or by e-mail.


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By, James l. Thornton





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