There is so much to encourage us in this chapter. And so much to learn from. We start the chapter at the temptation in the wilderness, and end it with Jesus’ introduction to his public ministry. The purpose he was born for is so very near!
At the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus, and from there he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, “being tempted by the devil for forty days”.
The first thing that intrigued me about this chapter was the process of the temptation. The three famous temptations—-where the devil started off with the big “If you are the son of God…” and Jesus answered each one with, “It is written….”—-all took place at the end of the forty days! What, I wonder, were the previous temptations? It says that he was there for forty days, being tempted by the devil for forty days!
We aren’t told what was said during that time, but can we imagine? The fact that, at this point, the devil is saying “if” suggests to me that until now the devil possibly had tried to turn Jesus completely away from his conviction that he was truly the messiah. This conviction was born of his understanding of scripture and confirmed by the Voice at the Jordan River. It told him that he was the Sent One who would be not just the saviour of the Jewish nation, but, in truth, the Saviour of the world. Maybe the early temptations came as challenges to that conviction. Perhaps he heard, “You are nobody special; your brothers have you pegged rightly; you are proud and want attention. And nothing good has ever come from Nazareth.” I don’t know for sure if it happened that way; but it sure sounds like a song most of us have heard at some point in our lives.
But it didn’t work on Jesus. He’d seen himself in the prophecies. He’d heard the stories; he’d heard the Voice.
So, having failed to sway Jesus, the devil turns to “If you are, then let me help you. Let’s do it my way.”
Turn this stone into bread.
I can get you that power you want.
I can make you famous.
And what was Jesus’ response to it all?
Jesus answered every lie with what he already knew from scripture. Always, he went back to what he knew. And those scriptures were the Way Out of those temptations.
From the wilderness—from all those encounters with an enemy who tried and failed to get him to go another way—-to this overcoming victory: “Jesus returned in the Power of the Spirit to Galilee”, and his ministry began.
Maybe there’s a lesson for us all in this. No matter what form our temptations take—whether to ignore the life lessons in scripture, or to disbelieve God’s faithfulness in the midst of a trial, or to choose our own way when we know better—the faithfulness of God and the integrity and power of His word will be our way out. It is our Answer.
“With my lips I declare all the decrees of Your mouth…. I will not forget Your word,” (Psalm 119:11, 16b).