I’m very excited for today’s sermon. I get to recite to you a list of 76 names, all of which are very difficult to pronounce! It really is a great section of scripture.
No seriously though, this is going to be a good day, the genealogies first, but then we get into a very strange exchange: one of only four or five appearances of the devil in the entire bible, and he’s talking directly with Jesus!
Genealogies were used by Israelites to show who was a true Hebrew, who was a true Levite and so eligible for priesthood, and also who was in the line of David, eligible for the throne. Luke includes Jesus’s genealogy here for a few reasons we’ll get into, but first let’s read it.
The Son of Adam, The Son of God
READ: Luke 3:23–38 (ESV)
The genealogies, and dry as they may be, can give us a sermons worth of interesting detail. For our purposes today, I want to point out just a few things.
[example: my religion classes at ISU] The difference between Luke’s genealogy and Matthew’s. Not a contradiction. Most likely explanation keys off of the “as it was supposed”, pointing out that this is Mary’s lineage, Jesus’s human, genetic, bloodline.
Matthew’s genealogy shows us that Joseph’s bloodline could not have produced the Messiah, because David’s descendants through Jeconiah would not sit on the throne of David (see Jeremiah 22). Which Matthew uses to set up the necessity of the virgin birth, where he goes next in his gospel.
Luke uses the genealogy AFTER the birth narrative to show that Jesus IS qualified to sit on David’s throne through Mary’s bloodline.
He also uses it to tell us something important: Jesus is a descendant of David, A descendant of Jacob/Israel, and a “son of Adam” – a real man.
In the previous passage’s recounting of Jesus’s baptism, we find God proclaiming Jesus to be his son we see that he is also a son of Adam – a man. Son of God, Son of Man..
And as we go into chapter 4, we find out that Jesus is not just, like the rest of us “a” son of Adam, a man, he is “the second, and better, Adam” – who like Adam a test of temptation, a test of faithfulness, a test of worship, a test of allegiance. Yet unlike Adam, Jesus passes this test.and proves himself to be the Messiah, God’s promised deliverer. Tempted in every way as we have are, yet without sin.
The Spirit Leads Jesus
1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.Luke 4:1-2 (ESV)
Immediately after his baptism, Jesus followed the spirit into the wilderness, to face and ultimately pass the tests over the course of 40 days. In these three temptations, we see echoes of Eve’s temptation in the garden, and Israel’s trials over the course of 40 years in the desert. And we find the key to battling temptation in our own lives.
Temptation 1: Appetite vs Identity
3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’Luke 4:3-4 (ESV)
Remember: “He was hungry.” Hungrier than you’ve probably ever been.
“And Eve, seeing that it was pleasing to the eye, and good for food…”
Brad and I were talking this week about why Jesus even bothers replying to the devil. Why give his temptation the dignity of a response? Why not just ignore him? I think the answer is that Jesus was actually tempted, and actually needed to take action in order to overcome the temptation. It seems to me as well, that the reply was not so much for the devil’s sake. “Oh, good point, Jesus. I guess you win this round.” As it was for his own sake, and for ours.
Jesus’s reply to Satan, is not simply pulling some random verse or command to counter the devil’s temptation. Interestingly, All three of his answers to Satan are references to the same sermon to the Israelites in the desert, by Moses, from Deuteronomy 6-8, just before they were to enter the promised land.
In that passage, Moses is instructing the nation of Israel, looking back on their 40-year journey in the desert, and making plain to them the lessons they were to learn from the trials they experienced in the desert because of their disobedience. When we go and read that section of Deuteronomy, Jesus’s replies to Satan taken on an amazing depth and color and weight and power for us that they do not have.
Jesus is using his one-line responses to refer to that larger sermon, and the bigger picture of the root problem behind Adam and Eve’s weakness, behind Israel’s weakness, and behind our weakness.
In this first temptation, Jesus faces a test of appetite. After a forty day fast, eating nothing, his body was screaming with need. Actual need.
We recognize appetite. We know what it means to be hungry, or to be thirsty. We recognize physical needs of all kinds! Emotional needs of all kinds. And at times, our ability to meet those needs are withheld from us.
In Jesus’s case here, God led him in the Spirit to the wilderness to put him in a position of weakness and reliance on his Father. Jesus’s mission on this earth involved doing nothing of his own strength, or of his own will, but only doing what the Father commanded him, according to the power the Father provided, in the timing he provided it.
Satan’s temptation was not simply about the hunger. It was about Jesus taking things into his own hands, to meet his own felt needs in his own timing in his own power.
And Jesus’s reply was not simply piety, it was a direct quote from a very important passage that explains the whole series of temptations.
2 And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. 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 the Lord. 4 Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years.
5 Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. 6 So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. 10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.Deuteronomy 8:2–10 (ESV)
Jesus is reminding himself, and teaching us, that we have a promise from God of a better life to come, a better kingdom, a time and a place in which all of our needs will be met. When we will eat and be full. When we will lack nothing.
On this earth, in this life, we will suffer lack o things we need. And our adversary will tempt us to go against God’s commands, and to believe God is not faithful to his promises, and he will do so through the channel of our appetites.
Jesus shows us that the path to overcoming temptation, is to cling to hope in the promise of a vastly better life to come.
Jesus’ response to Satan’s temptation “if you are the son of God, command these stones to turn to bread” is “Because I know who I am and what is coming for me, I don’t have to.”
Temptation 2: Power vs Worship
5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’ ”Luke 4:5-8 (ESV)
“Eve, you will be like God”
Again Jesus’s reply here is not simply “the bible says I shouldn’t worship satan.” It is calling out to the bigger picture. Jesus knows that he is not to take power, authority, and glory by his own strength and own actions, but rather is to wait patiently and faithfully, in obedience to God’s, until God gives him the glory, power, and authority, that God has planned for him.
His quote from Deuteronomy pulls out this larger context:
10 “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.Deuteronomy 6:10–13 (ESV)
Jesus’s reply to Satan’s temptation “bow to me, and I’ll give you all this power and authority and glory” is – “Because I worship God, I already have something better coming for me.”
God is going to bring you into a good land, God is going to give you blessing of power and glory, in his time and in his way, don’t take it for yourself, and don’t forget God.
Temptation 3: Faith vs Forcing-it
9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11 and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” 12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”Luke 4:9-12 (ESV)
In the Garden, Satan tempts Eve: “Did God really say?”
Satan takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, and tells him, “Step out in faith! You believe God’s word, right? Are you sure? Let’s see your trust! Do you think he’ll actually come through? I don’t. But you could prove it to me…”
Having just heard Jesus fight temptation with scripture, the devil pulls a brilliant ploy. Using scripture.
Jesus’s response is simple, yet resounding.
‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’
This is where C.S. Lewis got Aslan’s growl. “Do not cite the Deep Magic to me, Witch. I was there when it was written.”
Jesus is continuing the passage he just got done citing, and again shows us a bigger picture. Again one of a coming future day when we will inherit eternal life in a renewed, sin-free, pain-free earth.
16 “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. 17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. 18 And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the Lord swore to give to your fathers 19 by thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the Lord has promised.Deuteronomy 6:16–19 (ESV)
And with that test concluded, God thrusts Jesus’s enemy (and our enemy) away from him.
13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.Luke 4:13 (ESV)
Jesus’s example to us: is faithful diligence to the commands and promises of God, all of them. That if we want to see God come through for us, we ought not demand action of God, ought not step out blindly and command him to catch us. Rather, we should cling in simple, faithful obedience and trust to what he has clearly told us to do.
And we recognize this same temptation today. Is God really going to come through for me?
Many of us fall down here, and suffer more spiritual harm than we should because we have been taught to claim promises that God never promised. We go beyond what is written, and shipwreck our faith because we turn God into some sort of Genie who grants us our wishes. Or perhaps, as the devil does in this third temptation, we misuse and misapply a scripture, or isolate it from its broader context, and personalize something that wasn’t intended for us.
There’s also a similar, more subtle temptation to neglect some biblical priorities, promises, commands, and principles for others. Imbalance in an area of life “to do spiritual things”. For me in college, I neglected many of my studies because of ministry activity and social life. I graduated by the skin of my teeth because I’d find an excuse in activity for campus ministry or bible study.
Many ministers throughout the centuries have fallen into the trap of neglecting homes because of a ministry “calling”. Either neglecting their wives and children, or not paying attention to their personal finances. The biblical call is that a minister’s character is proven primarily on the home front, in their marriage, in their children, in the way they keep their household.
In all three of these temptations, Jesus’s example to us here is careful and diligent observation of all God’s commands and promises and charges, so that it will go well with us, not just in this life, but in the life to come. He shows us that if we want to fight temptation in this life, we need to have our eyes on the next one.
This requires that we actually know what the commands and promises are and how to understand them and apply them, and this requires study, community, and that we be willing to help each other by gently instructing, and calling one another out when we see imbalance or misapplication, and that we listen to our brothers and sisters when they call us out.
Jesus’ temptation and ours
Sometimes when reading these passages it can be easy to dismiss this test as having any relevance for us. “Of course Jesus passed the test. He was God!”
I think it is important to remember that the resources Jesus faced these temptations as a man, in the flesh, with the same appetites and needs and frailties that we have. And that the resources and power source he used used to overcome temptation, is the same one we have access to.
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.Hebrews 4:15–16 (ESV)
Because of Jesus’s faithfulness and obedience, we can have access to the same Holy Spirit that filled him in his temptation. The Holy Spirit helps us in our time of need as we draw near to God, and embrace the promises of our loving father as more desirable than the appetites of the flesh, the allure of the power of the world, or the lies and accusations of the devil.
The key to fighting temptation is to not attempt it in our own strength. But to rely on God’s word and promises, to look ahead to the glorious future in a renewed heaven and earth, the place for which our heart and body ache now. We cling by faith to God’s promises, we obey his commands with his strength, and we rely on the power of God’s Holy Spirit in our weaknesses – when the temptation seems to be too much, we thrown ourselves on his mercy, asking for his help, trusting that he is going to provide a way, even if we, like the Israelites spend 40 years wandering in a desert, he is faithful to his promises, and will bring to the good home, the good land we are longing for.