Monday, November 29, 2010 – Matthew 4:1-11 – The Temptations
The following are comments from a lecture I once heard on Jesus’ temptation. I do not remember the source but my scribbled notes indicate the haste with which I wrote. These ideas seem so true and on target.
Verse 3 – The devil is so clever that he knows to tempt Jesus in his most important place – his spirituality. The lesson here for us is that the devil does not tempt us in big, overt, obvious ways; rather, he sidles into our lives carried in on the back of something both we and God find pleasing. This temptation is at once immediate, spectacular, and relevant.
Jesus replies with a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3 – Jesus, even though he is God, knows that the Creator alone gives and sustains life. Even Jesus obeys the Father.
Verse 6 – The devil is so clever that he tempts Jesus by offering him what he already is – the power of God. The lesson here for us is that the devil knows us so well that he knows our loves as well as our faults; and it is to the former that appeals, knowing that we will be less watchful. This temptation is bold, breathtaking, and daring.
Jesus replies with a quote from Deuteronomy 6:16 – Jesus understands that we are never alone, never abandoned by God. Jesus knows that there is no need to demand a sign from God.
Verse 9 – The devil is so clever that he tempts Jesus when he is at his best – praying in preparation for doing God’s work. The lesson here for us is that the devil will creep into our presence when we are at the top of our form and doing our best. This temptation is born of Satan’s envy, greed, and delight in havoc.
Jesus replies with a quote from Deuteronomy 6:13 – Jesus acts on his understanding of both God and Satan . . . and here Jesus rejects Satan soundly with the words we will hear him use again: Get away, Satan!
We tend to believe that the devil takes advantage of us when we are down, weakened, and at the ebb of our strength. It is true that when we are desperate we often lean further into descent rather than pulling ourselves out of the plummet into darkness. Yet here we see the opposite to be true. We are often susceptible to the devil’s clever ploys when we are happy perhaps even more than when we are depressed. When we are doing well we want to extend the happiness, we want to draw out this sense of independence and wellness. When we are doing God’s work with conviction and determination we feel full, complete and content; and this is when the clever demon slides into our thinking and into our lives . . . without our noticing.
Here Jesus has given us a blueprint for a well-executed rebuff of the devil – we are to rely on God alone, because . . . even Jesus does not rely on his own strength. Even Jesus places his trust in God the Father.
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him . . .