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Often in life a ‘high point’ – a success, a time of joy – is followed by a time of trial, a ‘low point’ when we struggle, doubt or question. We may think at such times that we are the only one to have such an experience, but that is not the case. We see this clearly in the experience of Jesus. We turn now to consider Luke 4:1-13 The battle in the wilderness.
1. The necessary preparation
The encounter here is no accident – what happens ‘in the wilderness’ (v1) is planned by God. Note Jesus is ‘led by the Spirit’ – al is in the hands of a sovereign God. Jesus confronts Satan – he goes into the wilderness to do battle, and he goes at the divine initiative. The wilderness is a place of hardship and testing – as it was for Israel, when the Lord ‘tested them’ at Marah (Exodus 15:25). It is now the place of testing for the Messiah. After the high point at the Jordan, his commitment is now tested – will he walk the hard path assigned in God’s decree and how will he use the Spirit’s power? The devil comes and tempts him – these are real temptations, he ‘suffered when he was tempted’ (Hebrews 2:18), but as a result he ‘is able to help those who are being tempted’. The Holy Spirit is crucial – ‘full of the Holy Spirit’ (v1).
2. The triple assault
As he is ‘tempted by the devil’ (v2) Jesus is still acting as the representative of his people. Our first representative, Adam, gave way to temptation and plunged his descendants into sin (1 Corinthians 15:22). Jesus is ‘the last Adam’ (1 Corinthians 15:45) and he will stand where Adam fell, and the benefits will flow to all who are ‘in him’ by faith. How could a sinless saviour be tempted? It is perhaps best to see the temptations as being to attain a good end through wrong means, in particular avoiding the cross. Note:
(i). ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread’ (v3). He is to prove his identity with a miracle for his own benefit, but he ‘came to serve’ (Mark 10:45), and answers with Deuteronomy 8:3. The Word is his weapon and obedience his delight.
(ii). ‘all the kingdoms of the world’ (v5). Satan could offer only the allegiance of sinful men. Jesus will not accept the offer – salvation for sinners comes only through the cross and his is a righteous kingdom. He answers with Deuteronomy 6:13, the path he walks.
(iii). ‘throw yourself down from here’ (v10). The devil quotes part of Psalm 91:11-12, suggesting one spectacular test of God’s promise. Jesus will instead walk the road of daily trust in his Father, and he quotes Deuteronomy 6:16 in answer to the devil.
3. The ongoing warfare
The Messiah was victorious, but ‘the devil…left him until an opportune time’ (v13) – the battle will continue throughout his ministry, but with the same outcome. We too are in a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10ff), but we share in the victory of Christ by faith, and ‘he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:18). He won the victory for us.