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Author:Rev. Todd Bordow
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Congregation:Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church
 Fort Worth, Texas
Title:The Temptations of Jesus
Text:Matthew 4:1-11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faith Tested

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Todd Bordow, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

What would Jesus do? This seems to be the question of the day. When you are tempted, what should you do? Well, according to our question, you should do what Jesus did. We see from our passage that when you are tempted by the devil, you should quote Scripture you have memorized, and then you should command the devil to flee from you. After all, that's what Jesus did. If it worked for Jesus, it should work for you.

What is wrong with asking, "what would Jesus do?" Well, first of all, this way of looking at the Bible is very selective. I don't hear anyone suggesting that we fast forty days like Jesus did. We may ask, what would Jesus do, but we end up only doing the easier things Jesus did.

But even more, Jesus was not tempted in the wilderness so that you would have a step by step manual of how to resist temptation. The question, what would Jesus do, fails to take into account that Jesus is uniquely the Son of God. Jesus faced Satan in the wilderness for a unique purpose.

Now that is not to say that considering certain Scripture you have memorized will be of no value during temptations. Surely it can. But that is not how we interpret this passage. We must discern the unique role of Jesus as he battles Satan in the wilderness.

Well, if Israel had been asleep at the wheel regarding the identity of Jesus; Satan had not been asleep. Satan is fully aware who Jesus is. He is fully aware of the threat this man poses to his rule.

It is telling that Satan himself appears to tempt Jesus. We rarely ever see Satan in the Old Testament. After he tempted Eve in the Garden, Satan was virtually unheard of. He reappears briefly to tempt Job, and then he disappears for maybe a thousand years, until he is mentioned in I Chronicles, where it is said Satan rose up against Israel. He is mentioned only one more time in the Book of Zechariah.

Even though Satan rarely showed himself, throughout the OT he was behind the scenes tempting God's people to turn from the Lord. Satan's energies were especially directed towards tempting Israel.

But with the arrival of Christ something had changed. Satan no longer focuses on the nation Israel. He begins to devote all his energies in defeating one person, the Lord Jesus Christ. The devil knows that Jesus has come to establish God's eternal kingdom, a kingdom that Israel only pictured. Jesus was here to plunder Satan's realm by redeeming people from every nation under Satan's control. And so Satan no longer hides behind the scenes like before; he comes to the desert personally to deal directly with Christ.

We see from v. 1 that God arranged this confrontation. God wanted Jesus to be tested. God's Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness. Satan desired to tempt Jesus, but God desired to test him. God was not testing his Son because he needed to be sure of Jesus' faithfulness. God tested Jesus for your sake, that you may be sure of his faithfulness, that you may have confidence in him as your Savior.

As we consider the three temptations, remember that these were real temptations. It is somewhat of a mystery how Jesus could be tempted to sin if he was divine. In his human nature there was at least the possibility that he could be tempted. While it is somewhat of a mystery, you cannot solve the mystery by suggesting that these were not real temptations.

Jesus fasted for forty days alone in the desert. Think how you feel after going without food for half a day. Jesus was really starving. Jesus was really lonely. Satan waited until the end of the forty days to appear; he knew how vulnerable Jesus would be after 40 days of suffering. Now would be the time when Jesus would be the most prone to question his Father's love, and to question his Father's plan for him.

Satan's first temptation dealt with Jesus' hunger. If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread. Satan knew Jesus was the Son of God. The word "if" would be better translated "since." Since you are the Son of God, take matters into your own hands and feed yourself.

Jesus needed to trust his Father to provide for him, yet it didn't seem like the Father was going to provide. Why not use his own power to turn the stones into bread? Yet if he did he would doubt that his Father was going to care for him.

Jesus doesn't give in. He would rather die of starvation than doubt his Father.ÂIt is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from God's mouth. Obeying his Father's Word and trusting in his plan were more important to Jesus than his physical life on earth.

Satan does not give up; he tries a different tactic. He takes Jesus up to the top of the temple. We are not sure if this is a vision or they are actually on the temple. This temptation is more subtle than the first. Since Jesus was more concerned with his relationship with God than with earthly food, Satan would tempt him concerning his relationship with God.

The devil challenges Jesus to prove God's love for him by throwing himself from the temple, so God would rescue him. Surely the fact that God has left you suffering out here in the wilderness demonstrates that he doesn't really love you. Since you are God's beloved Son, make him prove his love for you by rescuing you from danger. After all, does not the Old Testament say that God's angels always protect his loved ones from harm?

Jesus does not give in to this temptation either. It is written, You shall not test the Lord your God.ÂIf Jesus jumped, he would doubt God's statement made at his baptism, that this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased. Jesus does not need to put God to the test. He believes the word of his Father. He knows that even though he is suffering, the Father loves him.

In the third temptation Satan drops all subtlety and goes for broke. He takes Jesus to a high mountain and shows him all the kingdoms of this world and their glory. Satan offers to hand these kingdoms over to Jesus if Jesus would worship him.

Now it is important to understand that this was a real offer. Satan was the ruler of these kingdoms. He held the kingdoms of the world under his power.

Satan knew that Jesus had come to establish a kingdom for God, so he appeals to Jesus' mission. Since you came to establish a kingdom, I'll make it easy for you. I'll give you all these kingdoms right now, and you won't even have to die on a cross to have them. Just bow down and worship me, and you can have everything you came to earth for.

This would be the most difficult temptation. Jesus was horrified at the thought of crucifixion. Here was a way he could fulfill his mission and avoid the cross.

Jesus did not give in. Jesus did not come simply to own the kingdoms of this world. If the Lord would have accepted Satan's offer, he would own kingdoms full of sinners; kingdoms destined for destruction.

But Jesus came to redeem a kingdom for heaven. To bring his people to heaven he would have to go to the cross for them. That is why Jesus does not destroy Satan on the spot. He could only defeat Satan's hold over us by dying in our place. And of course to accept Satan's offer he would have to cease serving his Father. Jesus responds, Be gone, Satan, it is written; you shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only.

Satan could not tempt Jesus to turn from God. Satan cannot stop this king from establishing his kingdom of heaven. So the devil leaves, planning on other ways to stop the Christ.

What are the results of this victory? Well, first of all, this victory demonstrates that Jesus is the Second Adam. Both Adam and Jesus are representatives.

Both were tested by God; both were tempted by Satan. Where Adam failed, Christ succeeded.

The test given to Christ was much more difficult than the test given to Adam. Adam could eat from any fruit in the garden. Adam had no need for the forbidden fruit; his stomach was full.ÂJesus, on the other hand, was starving. Adam had a helpmate in Eve. Jesus was all alone.

As the fall revealed Adam's utter sinfulness, the wilderness temptations reveal Jesus' perfect righteousness. If we are to be saved, we need one better than Adam to represent us before God, one who can be righteous on our behalf. Jesus is the second Adam who can represent you before God; he passed the test that Adam failed.

Notice how God sends angels to minister to Jesus after his victory. The angels probably gave him bread as well as comfort. What did God send the angel to do after Adam sinned? God sent an angel of judgment to keep Adam out of the garden. God sends this better Adam an angel to serve and care for him.

Well, not only does this victory demonstrate that Jesus is the better Adam, it demonstrates that Jesus is the true Israel. Remember that in the first 7 chapters of Matthew Jesus is reliving Israel's history. As Israel was led into the wilderness for forty years, Jesus is led into the wilderness for forty days.

We read in Deut 8 that God led Israel into the wilderness to test them; to see if they would obey God. Now God leads Jesus into the wilderness to test Jesus; that we may see if he obeys God.

The three Scriptures Jesus quotes are taken from chapters 6-8 of Deuteronomy. This is important. In these chapters God commanded Israel how to obey him in the wilderness. They were to be more concerned with their relationship with God than with their physical well-being; thus not living by bread alone. They were not to test the Lord and doubt his promises to them. And they were not to worship idols; they were to worship God alone.

Israel failed on all three counts. As soon as they became hungry and thirsty, they murmured against the Lord. They were more concerned with bread and water than with serving God. Later, when they were thirsty, they tested God; they demanded he prove his word to them. They did not believe God would provide. And of course Israel worshiped idols when they thought idols could give them what God wouldn't. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy because Jesus is the true Israel who obeys God in the wilderness; Jesus receives all the promises to Israel.

So our passage demonstrates that Jesus is the second Adam, and he is the true Israel. Thirdly, we see that Jesus is our perfect and sympathetic High Priest. Our Savior knows what it is like to be tempted. There is nothing you can go through that Jesus hasn't himself experienced. And because he was tempted, he has sympathy when you are troubled by temptation.

Though Jesus is in heaven, he can actually say, I know what you are feeling. I've been there. I have also felt all alone, I know what it is like to be tempted by bread. Jesus can have sympathy because he was tempted in every way.

But unlike us, Jesus never gave in to temptation. This is where we need more than sympathy. We often succumb to temptation. But our Savior succeeded where we so often fail. When you give in to temptation, you can repent of your sin and know you are still God's beloved because your Savior did not fail; he obeyed perfectly in your place. Jesus is a perfect high priest. So when you fall do not despair. Instead confess your sin and affirm your trust in the Lord Jesus.

Now we said at the beginning that you should not look at Jesus' temptations as a manual for how you should deal with temptations. For example, Jesus spoke directly to Satan, but nowhere in the Bible are you told to address Satan. As a matter of fact, you should never speak to Satan in any way. That was for Jesus to do, and him alone.

But this passage does aid you in resisting temptation. You do see how Satan tempts you to turn from God. He tempts you in your desire to avoid suffering. He knows you like the easiest path; he knows you desire happiness and peace, so he tempts you to seek peace and happiness by sinning against God.

For example, many of you struggle with telling little white lies. I don't mean big lies, but little ones. You lie because you know at that moment if you told the truth it would lead to trouble.

Maybe you tell little lies at work to look better. Maybe you tell lies to your spouse just to have peace in the home and avoid problems. Maybe you refrain from telling your children the truth because you want to be popular in their eyes.

So instead of pleasing God and speaking the truth, you choose the path of least resistance; you tell that little fib that you think will avoid problems. In that moment you doubt God's care for you; you choose earthly bread over your relationship with God. You treat your heavenly inheritance as nothing.

Satan knows your desire for companionship, so he will tempt you to find in others what God gives. God will not meet your needs, look to a boyfriend, or a girlfriend. When we compromise our faith for other people, we make those people our gods.

When these temptations come, think of this passage. Remember the suffering one, who, if he gave in just once, you would be lost in your sins. He is resisting for you. He must obey for you. Let his love for you seen here melt your hearts, and you will find strength to resist temptation.

When you are tempted to sin, remember Jesus suffering for you in the wilderness, and this suffering foreshadowed his sufferings for you on the cross. He resisted so that he could have you in heaven forever. Remember your heavenly inheritance as you are tempted to compromise for earthly bread.

And in those times that you fall, when you feel ashamed that you gave into the temptation, and when Satan tempts you to think maybe you just can't be a Christian, remember this passage. Remember that Jesus succeeded for you. Jesus is your righteousness. Then confess your sin, ask God for strength not to do it again, and walk in joy that you live by grace and not by works.

Finally, remember, there is no temptation or suffering you could go through that Jesus himself has not actually experienced. He understands your weakness. He is sympathetic toward you as you face temptation.

Beloved, you do not have to ask the question, what would Jesus do. Instead, take comfort in what Jesus actually did for you. When you are tempted, the question should always be, "What did Jesus do? And your answer is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus won the victory for you through his sufferings and death, and now you have a perfect and sympathetic high priest in heaven, and you have an inheritance that cannot be taken away. That's what Jesus did for you. Walk in faithfulness to your Savior. Confess often. Trust in his righteousness for you. Amen

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Todd Bordow, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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