The text of the sermon on the Devil’s temptations of Jesus in the wilderness according to Luke 4:1-13 is below. His resistance to taking the short-cuts suggested by Satan is very much counter to our culture of instant gratification, as explained in the introduction. The sermon audio from this morning’s message at MacAlpine Presbyterian Church in Buffalo, New York is available here. I would highly encourage listening to it if you have the choice between listening or reading. It just so happens that the free audio book this month (January 2018) from ChristianAudio is 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You. The plan for the next three Sundays is as follows: Luke 6:20-26, Luke 7:18-35, and Luke 9:28-36. Helpful background for next Sunday’s message on Luke 6:20-26 is the curses and blessings of Deuteronomy 27-28.
We live in a day and age of instant gratification. We are being trained to want what we want now rather than later. We are not taught to look beyond our present circumstances. And whatever it is that we want, we often can get quickly. And it is getting closer to instantaneous all the time. Amazon has even talked about delivering your purchases via drone – getting your package to you within 30 minutes. We still have a ways to go before we have replicators like in Star Trek, but that seems to be the trajectory. After all, how different is a replicator from a 3-D printer? No matter how much we may appreciate being able to get things faster, this is a shaping influence in our lives today. I’m not a Luddite—the term comes from a group of textile workers and weavers who destroyed weaving machinery that was putting them out of a job—thus a Luddite is a person who is against technology. I just think that we should be aware of the way that technology shapes us, that we shouldn’t uncritically accept its influence, and that we may even need to push back in one way or another. One of the problems that we face minute by minute is the tyranny of the urgent. For example, we spend time opening emails and texts even though they are unimportant because they have immediately shown up on our phone. We can begin then to fill up our day with unimportant but urgent tasks. And we often will learn to make decisions based on whatever urgent situation confronts us this moment. If we had to face one of those seemingly urgent and very important issues like eating rather than being hungry, we have become accustomed to taking the short-cut. Jesus, however, didn’t make decisions based upon what was urgently pressing upon Him. He actually refused every short-cut that Satan offered Him. Hear the story as Luke tells it:
- After the forty days of being tempted by the devil, the devil challenged Jesus three times to take a short-cut.
- The Devil’s first challenge to Jesus was for Jesus to assert some independence from God and go ahead and turn a stone into bread. Satan was encouraging Jesus not to wait on God to give him food, but to take it into His own hands. For forty days the Devil had been trying to wear Jesus down and after those forty days of fasting Jesus was hungry. It would appear that it was time to eat, the forty days being over, but Jesus did not have any food to eat. So the Devil suggested a short-cut. No need to wait any longer—after all Jesus was the Son of God, right?
- The second challenge was for Jesus to break with God and worship the Devil in exchange for ruling all the kingdoms of the world. There is a sense in which Satan is the prince of this world, so what he says is at best a half-truth. But this path was a different one than God’s plan. The Devil was suggesting a short-cut – to skip the cross and go straight for the crown of glory.
- And the third challenge is the Devil’s specialty – Did God really say? That was the question that Satan posed to Eve in the Garden of Eden. Now Satan, who correctly understands these Scripture references to be talking about Jesus Christ, challenged Jesus with did God really say that He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you, and did God really say, “On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone”? If Jesus threw Himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, then God would save Him. And it would prove to everyone that Jesus was the Son of God. This too was a challenge to take a different path to glory than God’s plan. The Devil was suggesting yet another short-cut.
- But Jesus passed the tests as one of us, trusting in God’s provision and timing.
- Jesus, in the midst of His hunger, trusted God to provide Him with what He needed to eat when He needed to eat it. He knew that He needed food. He was hungry. Any of us would be. The Devil tempted Jesus to doubt God’s provision. We may not know what it is really like to go without food for forty days and then when the forty days are over to still have no food, but we can imagine. It would be natural to focus on the truth that we need food in order to avoid starvation. I doubt that many people would fault you if you were in the same kind of situation and decided to take a short-cut and steal some bread. But Jesus saw the deeper principle involved rather than the immediate urgent need. He knew what it would mean if He turned the stone into bread, and He resisted the temptation. And He trusted God’s provision and timing concerning food. He said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” Jesus was quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3: “And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Thus Jesus is repeating the story of Israel without the rebellion of Israel.
- And Jesus passed the second test to take a short-cut to power and prestige and instead trusted God’s plan and timing. The Devil even tempted Jesus to doubt God’s power. Power and prestige are just as attractive today and if we thought that we could have them without some suffering along the way – well that would be very attractive indeed. I doubt that many people would fault you if you were facing death on a cross, if you recanted of your faith. We too would be tempted to doubt God’s power if we were facing such a horrible death. But Jesus saw the deeper principle involved rather than going for immediate authority and glory. He knew that God alone deserves worship. He knew that God’s plan and timing was best. Indeed, if Jesus took the short-cut then we would never arrive at the destination. His death on the cross was necessary for our salvation from sin and death. Thus Jesus said, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’” This quotes from Deuteronomy 6:13 where the people of Israel were being warned not to forget the Lord after they are brought into the Promised Land. Thus again Jesus is repeating the story of Israel without the rebellion of Israel.
- And we could say much the same with regard to the third test. The Devil even used the word of God to tempt Jesus. Jesus was tempted to doubt God’s protection and again to prove that He was the Son of God. We also have our doubts from time to time about being God’s children and about whether God will really protect us. But thankfully Jesus saw the deeper principle involved. He knew that to do this would be to test God. It would seem to be a short-cut to recognition as the Son of God by the people, but it would again be rebellion against God’s plan and timing. He said, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Now Jesus is quoting a couple verses later from Deuteronomy 6:16: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah.” Massah means testing and the place was named this because it was there that Israel tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7). It was there that Moses struck the rock—representing Christ—and water came out. Thus again Jesus is repeating the story of Israel without the rebellion of Israel. Jesus repeats it even to the extent of being on the cross and being pierced in the side and water and blood coming out. The opportune time when Satan came back to attack Jesus was when the betrayal and arrest of Jesus. The charges against Jesus were Satan’s accusations. As Jesus said to the religious leaders of Israel when they came out with swords and clubs to arrest Him, “When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53). (So like us in every way, just as we are, Jesus endured all these temptations and trusted God. And He did so, Luke tells us, “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1).)
- Thanks be to God: you also have the Holy Spirit – so let me encourage you to be filled with the Spirit and trust in God’s provision and timing as you follow Jesus.
- The apostle Paul makes it clear in his letters that all Christians have the Holy Spirit, but he also tells us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We can be filled with the Spirit because Jesus has poured out the Spirit upon us. This is all because He did not take any short-cuts but died on the cross for your sins, has been raised from the dead, ascended into heaven, and poured out the Spirit on Pentecost. The Spirit is a deposit on the future inheritance. When we are filled with the Spirit we are able to see the long-view and our hearts are able to understand the deeper principles involved rather than getting caught up living in the moment and seeking instant gratification. Indeed, no matter what our present circumstances – no matter what crosses we have to bear – we are able to look beyond them – to look to what will last, to look to the eternal.
- Thus we can learn to trust in God’s provision and timing as we follow Jesus. We know that whenever we take a short-cut on our own that we are just getting off track instead of getting there faster. It would be like taking a road that the map tells us is a dead end and thinking that the journey will be shorter and easier. So instead of striving to be independent of God we strive to follow Jesus and trust God. Our culture and society teaches us that we “need” any number of things – urgently – everything from the news to the latest iPhone. But we trust that God knows how to give good gifts to His children, will give us what we need and more when it is best, and He wants to give us a greater portion of His Spirit. Hallelujah! Amen!