What was the devil trying to do when he tempted Jesus? Surely the devil knew Jesus was God. Yet it appears that the tempter knowing human nature is weak and easily tempted; knowing Jesus set aside his divinity as he became human believed he could lure Jesus away from God’s plan. The devil acted on something we fail to grasp; everything Jesus did during his time on earth was done as a human relying on the power of God at work within him. Therein lies a lesson for us who have been clothed in righteousness; we easily give up our glory to satisfy a basic human desire.
There is no mistaking the reality that hunger is a strong human need that must be satisfied. Hungry people become desperate and will do things they would not do under normal circumstances. So the tempter uses Jesus’ hunger to pull him away from God’s plan and he uses our hungers for the same reason.
We know that as humans we have a range of basic human needs that drive our behavior. We will always seek to satisfy our hunger, our thirst and our need for shelter. We have to admit we also hunger for love, for affirmation, for self esteem, to belong, for human touch and so much more. So naturally the tempter uses these needs as his first area of temptation. Remember how Adam and Eve were tempted, they wanted to be like God’s.
When that human weakness within Jesus did not yield to the temptation, the tempter used the next best thing as a temptation – the things offered by the world. We humans do seek to take advantage of all the world has to offer. We desire to be king of the hill, to do it our way and this shows up early in our childhood. So of course the tempter offered Jesus everything the world has in order to destroy God’s plan for our salvation. The world offers us so much – it seems to be able to satisfy every desire we have. The world has the ability to stimulate every sense we have and fill us with so much pleasure. Our problem is we can easily be deceived to go beyond the good things the world offers us in order to satisfy those desires.
Jesus was tempted by Satan to embrace the things offered by the world and yet he stood firm and said no to the temptation. Jesus understood what God offers was a different world.
His saying no provides another lesson for us who desire the kingdom – stand firm in our belief that God offers us an abundant life. Paul repeats this lesson of standing firm over and over again in his epistles. He says stand firm in faith, stand firm in our belief in the promises of God, stand firm in face of powers and principalities that seek to destroy our relationship with God. James repeats this mantra of standing firm when he says “…resist the devil and he devil will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7). We must also stand firm and trust but expect to be tempted over and over again.
When the world failed to tempt Jesus the tempter challenges Jesus’ mission to die for our sins; “throw yourself off the parapet and God will save you.” Jesus is invited to give up his humanity and rely on his divinity. This temptation is the opposite of the way we are tempted. We are tempted to give up our righteousness given to us by the death and resurrection of Jesus and rely on our humanity to save us. Every time we look at the crucified Jesus we need to remind ourselves “he became man so that we might become the very righteousness of God” (2 Cor.5:21).
In reality the temptation to put aside our place in God’s kingdom is a challenge to our heritage as sons and daughters of the living God. That temptation another one used by Satan on Adam and Eve when he said “…are you sure.” He question he uses on us when he says “are you sure Jesus’ death on the cross freed you from sin and restored our righteousness”. Do we doubt what Paul tells us today – “no one who believes in him will ever be put to shame.”
We are reminded today that we will be tempted and those temptations will never stop until we stand in glory with our Lord. We are also reminded of a greater lesson – we too have the power of God at work in us to stand in righteousness.