Matthew 4:3 (NIV): The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Matthew 4:6 (NIV) “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down.”
What an amazing encounter in the desert!
Can you imagine what Jesus must have felt at that time? He was about to start his public ministry, and there was no more symbolic place to start than to be baptized in the River Jordan by John, known as The Baptist. John, you will recall, was actually Jesus’ cousin, and he was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy that Elijah would return to herald the Messiah.
When Jesus approached the river, John, filled with the Holy Spirit, recognized him as the Messiah, even though the two had never met. John called out that this was the Messiah, the One who came to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
When John baptized Jesus, an act that John performed only because Jesus commanded him to, Jesus emerged from the water, dripping wet and was greeted by the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove and the Father’s voice sounding from the heavens, that “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
In the mosaic of one’s life, being recognized as the beloved Son of God must surely rate at the top, well above making the Dean’s List, publishing a popular novel, being voted “Mom of the Year,” or batting .360 for 10 consecutive years. The top items in our personal review pale in comparison with what Jesus just experienced.
He must have felt on top of the world — exhilarated, pumped, energetic, raring to go!
IF LIFE COULD BE PIECED TOGETHER with moments like that.
In Paradise, life will, but this isn’t Paradise, and Jesus — like us in this world — would not stay in that moment.
Scripture tells us that as soon as the Christ emerged from the river, He was led by that same Holy Spirit into the dessert to be tempted by Satan. What a graduation present! That’s far worse than being given a toy and finding out the batteries are not included. This would not be an easy temptation, either.
No, Jesus, by himself, with nowhere to lay his head, fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. At the end, He was fatigued, famished, and parched, and the Tempter struck.
“You think YOU are the Son of God!” the Tempter shrieked. “YOU! What makes YOU think you’re so special. Wherever did You get that notion.”
When the Tempter let his taunt sink in, he followed it up with a test.
“You’re hungry with a Big H,” he said. “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
There it was. If you really are who you think you are, you can do something about it. You can turn the stones into bread and gorge yourself. But — maybe you can’t do that. Maybe you really aren’t the Son of God. Then what?
Jesus did not fall for the trap. He told the devil that God’s Word was more important to him than food.
Round One: Jesus.
The devil wasn’t done. He had scored a knockout punch in the Garden of Eden when he incited Eve and then Adam to taste of the forbidden fruit. This was an important test served on a platter, and Satan wasn’t about to give up.
He took Jesus in the spirit to the top of the city and challenged him: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” He even quoted some Scripture to add salt to the wound.
Again, Jesus did not fall for the trap. He told the devil that man should worship only God, and that’s exactly what Jesus would do, regardless of being hungry or thirsty or grimy or tired. He would not betray His faith.
Round Two: Jesus.
THERE WOULD BE A THIRD ROUND, and Jesus would win that one, too. At that point, Scripture tells us the devil fled. We can only imagine Satan was angrier than ever at the Father who had thrown him out of heaven long before.
All of that is fine, but we need to ask this: What does all of that mean for us?
Really, Jesus was, in fact, God, so He was bound to win against Satan, wasn’t He? That doesn’t mean we can win.
Oh, but it does.
You, see, Satan will use the same question against us.
“John, you feel led to start a citywide program to teach underprivileged children to improve their reading skills. Who do you think YOU are?”
“Mary, you think God is calling you to organize a neighborhood watch group to ensure the post-school safety of grade school children until their parents come home. Who do you think YOU are?”
FRANKLY, I HEAR THAT SAME VOICE.
Who do you think you are that you should write a blog?
Who do you think you are that you should lead a church prayer group?
Who do you think you are that you should witness boldly for your faith?
I don’t think I’m anyone that should do any of those things. Satan knows those taunts are effective against me.
If I just leave it there, I’ll stop. I won’t do anything.
But that’s not the end of the story. Because the Lord sent His Holy Spirit to be our counselor and advisor, I don’t have to stand alone. With the help of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, that’s how I can lead a life of witness.
It isn’t by my power or by my strength or by my goodness.
With the help of Jesus Christ who gives me that strength (Phil. 4:13), I can do anything.
BY THE WAY, SATAN. Yes, you in the ugly red suit. You with the horns. I’m talking to you.
Just who do you think YOU are!
PRAYER: Our Lord, just as Satan tried to derail Your perfect plan to reconcile the world through the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus, so he tries to derail each of us from obeying Your will for our lives. We pray that Your counselor, the Holy Spirit, will protect us from assault and keep us on the path that You’ve laid out for us. In Jesus’ Name. Amen