Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve."
- Read Matthew 4:1-11
How often have you thought of the pressure on our Lord when it came to temptations?
While looking at a Google photo of a magnificent snow-capped mountain near the Himalayas, my mind raced to Matthew 4:1-11 and the temptations of Jesus. Too often, we think lightly of the pressure on Jesus all His life. Let alone in His ministry years or this time of temptation.
Satan had the opportunity to tempt Jesus after Jesus emerged from a forty-day fast. Satan did what he does best. He tempted Jesus in three selfish ways, as that is Satan's character.
Firstly, to turn stones into bread, thinking Jesus would be starving by now. (With the lack of goodness in the bread we buy today, they may as well have been made from stones.) Secondly, Irresponsibility. On the surface, the second trial was for Jesus to be rescued by angels after a leap of irresponsibility.
Another selfish trait of Satan. How many times has Satan convinced people to leap off bridges and commit suicide? Thirdly, to rule the world, under Satan, of course. This is the ultimate in greed and self-interest, another mark of selfishness. We find that rulers of the world rarely share their many $billions with the poor unless there's a tax deduction involved. They prefer to rule them.
Think about the ways Satan uses to tempt you, and you'll find they have a foundation of selfishness. This is how you spot temptation. Christians are reborn to be involved in good works for others, not self-absorption. (Ephesians 2:10)
The first temptation was food. If Jesus failed in this one, He would probably fail the subsequent two tests because that's how failure works. The deeper reason for the other two tests was about spiritual control and world domination—world offices currently under Satan's power.
This one is about easily giving in to the most basic temptations, something to eat or drink. It's why Esau sold his birthright (Genesis 25), and Gideon's water-gulpers lost their chance of being in his army. (Judges 7). They were both at their weakest and pressed for basic needs. But how needy must one be to trade a glorious future for food or drink?
Jesus' determination to follow His Father God overcame His natural senses of thirst or hunger as we do with any successful diet. His mind never lost its vision, and these trials were distractions to sidetrack him. Nothing truthful. Satan cannot tell the truth.
As we read, Jesus successfully overcame all temptations, and we are to overcome ours. He remained faithful to His Father God—His primary purpose. We can falter in thinking Jesus is so far above us, so spiritual, that He couldn't even relate to the temptations. We think, "Oh, He was the Son of God; of course, He wouldn't fail." Or, "It was easy for Him. He wasn't even interested in all the stuff Satan showed Him." Or "They weren't really temptations. Satan should have shown Him some of the stuff I have to go through!"
Further on in Matthew 16:24, we see this little diamond. "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."
After His fast and temptations, do you think Jesus knew what he was talking about? Jesus denied himself, and we should do the same.
There are many small but salient points in these temptations. We must desire to rid ourselves of the impulses drawing us to these and other unholy objectives. Not one of them offers us entry to Heaven. They do the opposite.
In Matthew 4:9, Satan himself said to Jesus, "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me."
After spending life chasing wrong ambitions, most people wind up in a lost eternity. They find themselves with a distorted character, an unspiritual mind, and a heart missing the priceless piece because they inadvertently worship Satan. They have fallen down before his feet and will spend eternity in Hell. What a waste of a life?
The pressure on Jesus all His life was real. Our pressure is real as well. The abandonment of selfishness keeps us from falling under the great grinding wheel of temptation. Once we abandon self-desires, most temptations will drop away.
This freedom only comes through repentance and placing our trust and future in the Lord Jesus Christ. From there, we live a needs-based life in place of a cravings-based existence.
Today's prayer: Dear Lord, I can see Jesus' temptations were far greater and more in-depth than at first glance. Would you please awaken and strengthen me against the appealing side of wickedness?