The Temptation of Christ

We are studying the life and ministry of Jesus together from the gospel of Matthew.

Reading Plan

  • Audio Bible
  • Study Bible

Title: The Temptation of Christ

Matthew 3:16-4:11

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. (Matthew 3:16)

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1)

After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. (Matthew 4:2)

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (Matthew 4:3)

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. (Matthew 4:5)

“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.’” (Matthew 4:6)

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:7)

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. (Matthew 4:8)

“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:9)

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:10)

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:11)

As we seek to understand the mystery of Jesus and his ministry: we must take the humanity of Jesus seriously. Few Christians struggle with the fact that Jesus was fully God. But many Christians struggle with the fact that Jesus was also fully man.

But if we fail to appreciate the humanity of Jesus Christ, the gospel story begins to mean less. And stories that would otherwise be filled with beauty and mystery, become fake and tacky.

A good way to test your feelings towards the humanity of Jesus, is to see how you feel about the wilderness temptation of Jesus Christ.

  • Was it an actual temptation, or was it some kind of parody where Jesus was just going through the motions?
  • Was he tempted to do the wrong thing or was this just some kind of weird way in which the outcome was always certain?
  • Was Jesus truly enticed by the dark side?

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)


More than meets the eye.

Bible - diamond One thing that's is amazing about the bible: It's multi-layered. Sometimes you can look at things with fresh eyes and get a totally new of thinking. That's what we're gonna do tonight.

I'm sure you've heard the analogy of the bible being like a diamond where you see it, and you think you've got it, and then you turn it a little bit and you find there's this whole other perspective that you hadn't seen yet.

We're gonna look at his 3 temptations. Amazing: These are the temptations of the church today, not we need to refuse. And also, these are temptations that come to us as people, that we need to refuse.


Jesus - in preparation of his ministry goes to John the baptist. His… (cousin). Following his baptism, the Bible says that Jesus was led by the spirit, some translations say he was driven by the spirit into the desert.

Right AFTER his baptism, and BEFORE he calls his disciples.

This is the last week of Jesus before he starts his ministry.


(Map)

Judean Desert (Pic) - Pretty hardcore - rugged. Maybe even a dangerous feel to it.

In this scene, Jesus is fasting and praying for 40 days and 40 nights. - Paralells Israelites in the wilderness. - In fact, all the scripture that Jesus uses is taken from the story of the Israelites in the wilderness.


What he's doing during this time, is preparing for his ministry.

Up to this point, he's lived faithfully as a carpenter in Nazareth. Which is nowhere-s-ville. Now he's getting ready to take the stage.

Up to this point, it has been all about John the Baptist. But Jesus is getting ready to pick up where John the Baptist left off. - B/C in about 3 years - John will be beheaded.

And his ministry? It's simply this: to bring the kingdom of God.

So now the question is, how? - Thinking, praying, fasting.


Satan comes.

So near the end of the 40 days, Satan comes.

So how does that look? Does he just come strolling across the desert in red suit, forked tail, horns, pitchfork?

"I am the devil I'm here to tempt you. Let me know when you're ready." That wouldn't be much of a temptation, even for you. No, Satan comes how he always comes. Subtly. Disguised. Hidden.

Our own thinking. More times than not hidden in our own thinking. Often times the real challenge is to recognize the devil as the devil instead of a good idea.

So we're not sure if Satan comes as an actual figure and they're having a dialog, or if this is something where Satan comes and the battlefield is the mind. - Doesn't matter.


3 different temptations.

So Jesus will be tempted with three different temptations. All of these temptations are designed to compromise the kingdom of God. Don't miss that.

First temptation is bread. The second temptation is spectacle. The third is power.


Temptation 1

Jesus has been fasting for 40 days and 40 nights.

He's pushed his body to the limits of human endurance. He has brought himself to the place where he is keenly aware of human need.

Satan comes and offers bread.

First off we need to understand what this temptation was not. He was not tempting him to cheat on the last day of his fast. That seems like a lame temptation. I think what was happening was more elaborate. More deliberate.


What Jesus is thinking about - is how to bring about the kingdom of God.

"I can base - kingdom of God - simply meeting material needs."

We face this temptation constantly. No need for worship, no need for communion table, discipleship, etc. - Just go feed the poor and that's all.

Very tempting. One of the reasons, this is a type of Christianity the world will actually accept and appreciate.

Jesus in much of his ministry ministered to the poorest of the poor.

Jesus recognizes the temptation.

"No. It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."

Meeting material needs is incredibly important. And if you know me, you know I'm committed to that. - (Give to Syrian Refugees).

But by itself, with nothing else, isn't enough. Love of neighbor is one side of a two sided coin. We have to have the spiritual discipline to become a person who actually cares for our neighbor.

Paralells: Israelites Mana. This parallels God providing food for the Israelites in the wilderness, remember mana from heaven. And how long did that keep them happy?


The whole law can be summed up as "Love God and love your neighbor." But you can't take off that first part.

If we turn the kingdom of God into JUST a social justice institution, then we're not giving people what they really need. - The spirit of God that can actually change a life.

I think of social justice like a band aid. Take the syrian refugees for example. We need to help them. We need to buy blankets for them. We need to buy tents for them.

We start with the love of God. And the fruit of that is love for your neighbor.

You can never separate the love for God and the love for neighbor. In fact, love for neighbor is the biblical 'test' for whether or not you really love God. And BTW love of enemy is the bible 'test' for whether of not you really love neighbor.

But: Both.

This church - feeds hungry - every week. - Giving

Man cannot live by social justice alone.

Practical Component

: Being a good person is not a substitute for being someone truly connected to God.

It's not enough for you to be a good, moral person. There's also this part about having a connection with Jesus. Committed to him, and his words are the words that you live by.

Different than you were 5 years ago. You've grown. You've learned. Your less selfish now than you were then. And in 5 more years, you'll be even LESS selfish than you are now.

It's not bread alone. It's the words of God that sustain you.

Temptation 1: Meeting the material needs of ourselves and others is enough. The truth: People need more than food. They need Jesus.


Temptation 2

He's transported to the city of jerusalam. - 70 miles. 3 days. (Pic) - To the temple. - To the pinnacle on the SE corner - (Pic) - 180 feet tall.

Imagine: During - great pilgram feast - 1,000's watching.

Looking at him, he leaps (like suicide) but is magically caught and saved by angels who gently set him back on the ground.

All of the crowd will be overcome by the magic of it all. And will fall down and worship him.

Man, that seems like it would be pretty sweet! That's really jumpstart the kingdom of God!

Jesus : ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ 'Do not make God prove himself.'

Athiests DO have a point if you think of it like this: "If God wants everyone to believe in him, why doesn't he show up and let us see him and we'll believe?" Of course, anything can be doubted.

BUT, that undoes everything. - He WANTS us to perceive him by faith.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky "God's miracle of restraint."

Soren Kierkegaard "God's 'Light Touch'."

God leaves room to doubt. Why? B/C room to doubt is room for you.

Wanting God to 'Prove Himself' is the 2nd temptation.

But man, we really love spectacular things, don't we? - "Why can't I come to church every sunday and see some kind of crazy miracle?!" Why can't someone jump off a building a then have the angels come and catch him, that would be awesome!!!"

Doesn't work that way.

Popular culture is not big on: contemplation, meditation, reading, sacrament.

No, we're given to spectacle. Wow Factor.

Want America into one big: las vegas.

Same w/church: Idolize Wow Factor.

If we're not careful, instead of worshipping Jesus, we worship magic.

Know this: Not good for your soul.

Practical Component

If you confuse God with sensationalism, you'll miss the still, small voice.

If God always needs to come and impress you, it will strain your relationship.

If you always have a higher hoop for God to jump through, you'll miss him.

I love a great event. - I love a great conference. - Guest speaker.

But if I NEED that, I'll misunderstand what is means to be a Christ follower.

Outlet That's why here at outlet, we're very restrained. We're not the kings of crazy flashing lights and disco balls. But Christian life: more like marriage than concert

Temptation 2: What the Christian faith needs is more 'Wow Factor' Truth: The only real way of knowing God is through faith. And true discipleship is a marriage, not a concert.


Temptation 3

Big One. - Devil saves his best for last.

He's thinking about the kingdom of God, but how to do it?

Devil - takes him to a high mountain.

He thinks about other kingdoms. Empires. - Egypt, syria, babylon, persia, greece, rome.

Jesus - idea "I could do that!" "I could be the next great ruler!"

Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory and he said "All of this has been given to me, and I can hand it over to anybody I choose. And if you will just bow down and worship me, it's all yours."


Was Jesus tempted to worship the devil? Yes. But not in a Church of satan. Not in a pentagrams and your mom taking you to hot topic kind of way.

But he was tempted to follow the beast. Beast like power - ruling over. Instead of lamb like power - self-sacrificial love.

The worship of the devil that I'm concerned with is forsaking love to gain power.

That was the temptation of Christ: Get power and force people to conform.

(A great pastor wrote:) "What could Jesus have accomplished if he had set out on the same path to kingship as the pharaohs and Caesars (or even the Israelite kings of old)? Could he have raised an army? Could he have become a great general? Could he have been the second coming of Joshua or David? This is what people expected the Messiah to do. Could Jesus have led an Israelite army into victorious battle and liberated the Jewish people from Roman oppression? Could Jesus have taken up the sword against Israel’s enemies and “beat them fine as dust before the wind”? (As King David said in Psalm 18) No doubt Jesus was capable of all this . . . and more. Could the miracle-worker of Nazareth have led an army to march upon Rome, overthrow Caesar, and install himself as the new emperor of a new empire? Who could doubt that Jesus was capable of all of this? If Alexander the Great could conquer the world by the time he was thirty-three, so could Jesus of Nazareth. Of course there would be a crucial difference—the motive would always be to achieve righteousness and justice. But . . . it would not be the way of God!"

Jesus “No. For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

You can't serve both God and power.

In the 3rd temptation : I think of gandalf. Rejected the offer of Frodo to give him the ring of power. "Don't tempt me Frodo. I dare not take it. Not even to keep it safe. Understand Frodo, I would use this ring from a desire to do good, but through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine."

Jesus was tempted (by Satan) with the ring of power. He had another way. - The way of the servant.

Of course, God would become, and is, the great king. He would become and is the great savior, great deliverer, great liberator, but it was by the cross, not by the ring of power.

In the 3rd temptation, Jesus rejected the way of cesar, or another way to say it: Jesus rejected the sword.

Continually tempted by this.

When Peter vows his commitment to never let him be taken, and Jesus responds 'Get behind me Satan, you're a stumbling block to me.'

Or upon his arrest in the garden, when Peter lops of the guards ear with the sword. 'Live by the sword, you'll die by the sword.'

The church needs to learn this. Forcing people to conform is pointless. God looks at the heart. God is concerned with the heart. And when we force people to act the way we think they should, if anything, their heart drifts further away from God.


Practical component:

The way to win the hearts of people is not by force but love.

This is true in marriages, dating relationships, friendships, churches, families. We're not to be domineering people, but to be humble, forgiving and loving people.

Temptation 3: The ultimate goal is power. Then we can just make people do whatever we want. Truth: The way of the cross is not forcing conformity but loving your enemy.


(Prepare - Communion)

The temptation of Jesus Christ. In bringing the kingdom of God, Jesus was tempted to create a social justice program only. Feeding people and that would be enough. No one would kill him for that! Seems like an easier way. But man doesn't live by bread alone, but by every word of God. Jesus was tempted to win people over by spectacle and sensationalism, pull at the heart strings and people will come. But we're not to make God prove himself. Jesus was tempted to gain power and wealth, to rule over others with the ring of power. But we're only to serve one master. And we can't serve both God and power.


Now we come to the table of Jesus

Communion

The Kingdom - did bring. - Different. Emphasized - Outcast / Weak / Powerless


Communion - coming / recieving. - Not about you - Him.

As - Pass - Spend - minute

In what ways do you trust the 'Ring of power' instead of the 'Cross of Self-Sacrificial Love'.

Our culture tends to like the ring of power more than the cross of self sacrificial love.

(Pass)


When you think God is a vicious lion, you'll always be partially afraid of him.

No matter - Where you are / done

He wants - Win LOVE - beauty - love.

May your eyes continue to be opened - to the way of the cross.