Jesus’ ministry begins with the blessing of the Holy Spirit at his baptism but, as so often happens after great experiences of the Holy Spirit, battles immediately follow.
‘Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test’ (4:1, MSG). The temptations start with the words, ‘If you are the Son of God…’ (vv.3,6). The devil is tempting Jesus to presume on his identity, and thus to test his Father. Sometimes the devil comes to us and says, ‘If you are a Christian, then you are better than others.’ Or, ‘If God forgives everything, it doesn’t matter how you live.’ Respond by following Jesus’ example.
Jesus faced three powerful temptations:
- Instant gratification (economic)There are some things that provide instant gratification but leave you feeling hollow afterwards.Jesus had prepared by fasting for forty days and forty nights. ‘That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the devil took advantage of in the first test’ (vv.2b–3a, MSG). He says to Jesus, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread’ (v.3b).Jesus answers, ‘It is written: “People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”’ (v.4). Although ‘bread’ is necessary it is not enough on its own. Material things can never fully satisfy.There is a deeper spiritual hunger that can only be satisfied by ‘every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (v.4). We need regular spiritual food even more than regular physical food.
- Testing God (religious)Next, the devil puts before Jesus the challenge to throw himself off the highest point of the temple. This is a temptation for Jesus to take his Father’s loving protection for granted, and to test it.The devil goaded Jesus by quoting Psalm 91, but it is a verse taken out of context. Jesus countered with a verse that is in context: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’ (v.7).
- Wrong means (political)Third, the devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and offers them, ‘if you will bow down and worship me’ (Matthew 4:8–9). This is the temptation to be dissatisfied with God himself and to embark on a programme of unscrupulous manipulation to achieve his ends by the wrong means. Jesus responds: ‘Away from me, Satan!’ He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’ (v.10).
To each temptation Jesus responds with a verse from Deuteronomy Chapters 6–8. Perhaps he had been studying these chapters at that time. As you study the Bible it reveals God’s character and loving care for you, and deepens your relationship with him. This protects you against the devil’s lies, and helps and equips you to resist temptation when it comes.
At the end of these battles, Jesus enjoyed the blessing of angels who ‘came and took care of Jesus’ needs’ (v.11, MSG). The period of blessing did not last long. Jesus heard that John had been put in prison (v.12). It must have been devastating for Jesus to find out that his cousin had been imprisoned for his preaching.
Jesus was not daunted. He began to preach the very message that had caused John’s arrest: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near’ (v.17). He was fearless and courageous in the face of his battles.
Life is not just a matter of defensively seeing off the attacks; there are also positive advances to make. Jesus was on a mission. He began to build his team for that mission calling his first disciples: ‘Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women…” They… dropped their nets and followed’ (vv.19–20, MSG). These were exciting times. The beginning of the ministry of Jesus was a period of great blessing.
Lord, help me to follow the example of Jesus in battles and blessings. May I learn your Word so I can respond to temptation and be courageous in proclaiming the