I think I was around 6 or 7 years old when I was given my first illustrated Bible. I loved that thing and I read the entire thing many times. There was one story, however, that I loved above them all. The story of Satan tempting Jesus in the wilderness. The picture at the beginning of this post looks very much like the picture from that Bible, and it may be the actual picture.
I was fascinated as a child to read about this conflict between good and evil. I remember wondering why Satan thought it was a good idea to tempt Jesus on things that so clearly, He would not be interested in. I also loved how Satan was depicted as an exaggerated devil in his appearance, even though I didn’t believe that was his real form. As I would finish the verses, triumph would build up inside of me to see how disappointed Satan was when Jesus had the power to resist and cast him away.
As I have grown into an adult, I have come to love the story of Jesus Christ’s temptation at the beginning of his ministry even more. When I get into the story part of this post, I plan to spend some time talking through parallels and ideas I have in more detail, but as a preface, the simple window this story gives into the hearts of all humankind is just remarkable. The world’s conflicts, our foibles and difficulties, the conflicts in our relationships, the stumbling-blocks in our life, and our biggest regrets almost all rise from the three basic temptations Jesus faces: 1) Appetites of the Flesh, 2) Pride/Wealth, and 3) Power/Status.
No matter what you get out of the lesson this week, I implore you to spend some time thinking through this part of the Savior’s life, how those temptations are influencing your life, what you can do differently to overcome or prepare for them, and most importantly how you can talk to your children about facing those same temptations in their life.
CHAPTERS FOR STUDY WEEK 5 – Matt 4, Luke 4-5
– Knowing Satan’s plan and pattern is essential to knowing how we can be prepared for the challenges in life.
– Jesus’s preparation for his ministry is also a pattern in how we can be successful in anything we set our minds to achieve.
– Being rejected or being accepted are not reasons to adjust from being the best disciples we can be.
Context and Timeline:
– There has been much said concerning the manner of Christ’s fasting as preparation for His ministry. While “forty days and forty nights” is a common euphemism for a long period of time, it seems that at least Matthew explicitly states that Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 full days. Luke, in addition, calls out specifically that Jesus did not eat during this time period. It is possible to avoid food for forty days, especially if He had some nutrition to sustain him through drink. Nevertheless, I think the gospel authors are pointing out that He was making a sacrifice to become fully sanctified as He prepared for His ministry. It is also important to know that Lent is a symbolic fast for 40 days that gives us the chance to prepare ourselves as well. I love participating in Lent.
– The Devil and Satan were interchangeable concepts by New Testament times. There has been some discussion about whether the Spirit would lead Jesus to be tempted by Satan, but it seems to me the purpose of the Spirit in both Luke and Matthew is to take Jesus in the wilderness to be prepared for His ministry. Satan, as in the Garden of Eden, defeats his own purposes by tempting Jesus in this moment. Jesus is strengthened and prepared through the temptations culminating with more power from on high.
– It is sometimes assumed that Jesus is quoting a scripture when He claims that No prophet is accepted in his own country, but there is no scripture for that reference. Rather Jesus is making His own assertion, followed by a rebuke of the people in Nazareth in the synagogue. This leads to them attempting His murder, although He escapes into neighboring towns to continue His ministry.
– Each of the gospel accounts provides a different narrative for the beginning of Christ’s ministry. It is hard to tell whether chronology or information was the goal. In my opinion, Luke has the most interesting chronology of the beginnings of Christ’s ministry. I think he shows things in a way that makes the most sense for a history.
1 – Prophecy of Jesus and John’s birth
2 – Jesus birth hailed with Glory
3 – Multiple manifestations and fulfilled visions when Jesus is presented in the temple.
4 – Only account of Jesus being in the temple as a 12-year-old teaching and learning and having vision of His mission.
5 – Jesus’ family moving away from their family.
6 – John creates a following of disciples in preparation for Jesus.
7 – Jesus comes to John to be baptized and shortly after John is arrested.
8 – Jesus goes into the wilderness to be prepared for His ministry.
9 – Jesus comes into Galilee and many of John’s followers begin to follow him as John had told them Jesus was the Messiah.
10 – Jesus is rejected in Nazareth, but continues to build a following in Capernaum.
11 – His early followers (Peter, Andrew, John, etc.) witness him heal and cast out evil spirits.
12 – Jesus prepares to leave Capernaum and calls his first set of disciples to be official followers.
13 – These disciples witness more miracles and Jesus’s following increases. His infamy and conflict with Pharisees increase as well.
– We have 4 lists (Matt, Mark, Luke, Acts) given to us with the names of the primary twelve disciples, later called as apostles. I want to list their different names and some meanings associated with them and their names:
1 – Simon – Simon Peter – Simon Bar Jonas (Son of Jonas) – Cephas (Rock)
2 – Andrew (Peter’s brother) – First Disciple along with maybe John
3 – James – Zebedee – Boanerges – Son of Thunder – James was likely Jacob
4 – John – Zebedee – Boanerges – Son of Thunder – James brother – beloved disciple
5 – Phillip
6 – Bartholomew – Nathanael
7 – Matthew – Levi
8 – Thomas – Thomas Didymus – Doubting Thomas
9 – James – Son of Alpheus – James the less – James the Younger
10 – Thaddeus – Judas, the brother of James
11 – Simon the Zealot – Simon the Caananite (translates as zealot not Caananite)
12 – Judas Iscariot – Iscariot meant he was likely the only non-Galilean as the name is derived from Kerioth and can mean from Jerusalem – Iscariot also means he was likely from a Sicarii family (zealots who assassinated using daggers)
We begin, immediately as we left off, with Jesus having just been baptized. We are now told, that as Jesus is basking in the Spirit from His baptism and God announcing to those present that He is the Messiah, the Spirit inspires him to go into the wilderness to prepare. He begins to fast, and according to the accounts fasts for 40 days. There is something powerful to learn from fasting as a preparation for spiritual needs.
As Jesus is fasting, Satan takes upon him the opportunity to tempt Jesus. In this famous encounter, Satan begins by attacking what appears to be the low hanging fruit in Jesus’s hunger from fasting. “If you are the Son of God then turn the stone to bread!” Of course, Jesus quotes scripture back at him with the famous line, “One does not live by bread alone.”
In Luke and Matthew, the second and third temptations are flipped, but undaunted, Satan shows Christ the kingdoms of the world and promises him all the authority and glory that comes with ruling them. Again, Christ quotes scripture and says, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve him alone.”
Finally, Satan takes Jesus to a high mountain and challenges him by saying, “if you are the Son of God then prove it by jumping and commanding the angels to save you!” Again, Jesus rebukes him with scripture, “You shall not test the Lord your God.”
Satan then leaves, planning to return at a better time, and angels come to minister to Jesus. The power Jesus sought in his preparation had come, he had overcome the temptations and was now ready to begin. What I love about this story is the parallels to our lives. Whether or not those were the actual words exchanged by Jesus and Satan, what is important is that they parallel another famous story when Satan tempts Adam in the Garden of Eden.
- Appetite of Flesh
- Adam – You may eat any tree
- Christ – You can turn that stone to bread
- Adam – You will not surely die
- Christ – Jump, you cannot get hurt
- Power and Status
- Adam – You will be like God
- Christ – You can have all the world’s kingdoms
The parallels here to both Christ and Adam are important because I hold to the belief that when you can find parallels to both then you are seeing something that is applicable to our normal selves but also to our best and potential selves. This means that these temptations are going to be constant in our lives and hold a key to becoming our greatest selves. What we do to think through these things and change our lives as a result will potentially empower us to accomplish great things as disciples of Christ.
I want to point out one other thing, and that is the separate nature of the wilderness. We have seen with John, and now with Christ (there will be other times as well) where they go into the wilderness to be with God, to meditate. I think we all need to apply this in our lives as well, especially with the internet and social media. We need a place to be separate with God, so we can recharge, prepare, and be ready for the temptations and trials we will face.
Shortly after the temptation, Luke and Matthew give us stories we have already been told by Mark. The lone exceptions being a more detailed explanation of Jesus’s rejection in Nazareth, calling of more disciples as Jesus prepares to take the message further through Galilee and Judea, and a final message from Jesus, when asked about fasting, where Jesus informs all the people present that He is the bridegroom and has come to make old things new.
This brings us to similar points in the narrative. Jesus has been prepared for the ministry, He has built his notoriety, He has called disciples, and many are seeking to know of Him. He is ready to begin His teachings and His mission in earnest.
What value is there in fasting as a preparation? What other things can be fasted from besides food and water for one day? Why should a true and fervent prayer be a part of a fast?
Why do you think the reception for Jesus in Nazareth was so different than his early ministry in Galilee? Why is no prophet acceptable in his own country?
How difficult would it be to drop your temporal, parental, and spousal responsibilities and fulfill new spiritual responsibilities? Even though we might not be required to do that now, what can we do to be prepared to do more for the cause of discipleship if necessary?
What kind of difficulties do you think arose from the calling of these new disciples? They were all so different, and Jesus had a mission, how do you think you would deal with those beginnings? Is this similar to starting a family and training up our children? How can we have the right patience to help them?
Key Moment or Scripture: Matt 4:11
11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
This last part of the verses depicting Jesus’s conflict with Satan during his fasting, is such a wonderful verse. Imagine Jesus being weak and tired from his fasting, and yet feeling so much adrenaline from overcoming the conflict with Satan. The relief he must have felt, and then God sends his angels to minister to him. I see in my mind’s eye feelings of gratitude, joy, and conviction at accomplishing his coming mission.
I have had experiences in my life that have been harrowing and during the midst of them it felt that I would never feel any relief, but I have also felt the sweet joy I imagine the Lord feeling after his temptations. I think it probably can help us to remember that as we continue to face trials throughout our life.
It is so easy in our lives to think that we cannot live without this, or that. We focus on our professional success, or our kids’ success in sports. We can become overrun with all the things we must do, or what we think people need us to do. In the end, however, what we really need is to be close to the Savior. We need to know what He wants from us. The good news is that we usually get to do all the things we love and want as well, but when the foundation is Christ and we live by more than just bread alone, then whether we get what we wanted, or something else, we have peace, joy, love, and goodness in our souls and our relationships.