Temptations of Jesus - Meditation

By Henri Nouwen

To be spectacular is so much our concern that we, who have been specta­tors most of our lives can hardly conceive that to be unknown, unspectac­ular, and hidden can have any value.

How do we overcome this all-pervading temptation? It is important to realize that our hunger for the spectacular - just as our desire to be relevant - has very much to do with our search for self-hood. Being a person and being seen, praised, liked, and accepted have become nearly the same for many. Who am I when nobody pays attention, says thanks, or recognizes my work? The more insecure, doubtful, and lonely we are, the greater our need for popularity and praise.
 Sadly this hunger is never satisfied. The more praise we receive, the more praise we want, to prevent our inner fears from re-emerging. The hunger for human acceptance is like a bottomless barrel. It can never be filled.
Jesus responded to the tempter: "You must not put the Lord your God to the test." Indeed, the search for the spectacular glitter is an expres­sion of doubt in God's complete and unconditional acceptance of us. It is indeed putting God to the test. It is saying: "I am not sure that you really care, that you really love me, that you really consider me worthwhile. I will give you a chance to show it by soothing my inner fears with human praise and by alleviating my sense of worthless­ness by human applause."
 Our true challenge is to return to the centre, to the heart, and to find there the gentle voice which speaks to us and affirms us in a way no human voice ever could. The basis of all ministry is the experience of God's unlimited and unlimiting acceptance of us as beloved children, an acceptance so full, so total and all-embracing, that it sets us free from our compulsion to be seen, praised, and admired and free for Christ who leads us on the road of service.

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By Rev. Pavle Cekov

Text: Matt.4: 1-11
Introduction:

Jesus Christ was tempted by the Devil throughout his ministry. The Bible says: "...but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet was without sin." (Heb 4:15) The temptations of Jesus were real. The Bible says: "Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." (Heb 2:18) From the temptations of Jesus in Matt.4: 1-11 we can learn two important things: First, to know the process of temptation, and Second, how to overcome temptation.

I. TO KNOW THE PROCESS OF TEMPTATION

Knowing the process of temptation is very important for us if we want to overcome our temptations. Jesus Christ was tempted in the same way as Adam and Eve. We are all tempted in the same way too. It doesn't matter if we are members of the local church or Church leaders. The process of temptation is the same. So let us look at the process of temptation:

A. First: temptation starts with doubts

(Matt. 4: 3-4) "if you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." The first temptation was on the level of His physical nature, to turn stones to bread. He was hungry and the devil gave him a suggestion of what to do. The devil tempted Jesus through his human physical wishes. In the same way Adam and Eve were tempted. We church leaders are tempted too. But for Jesus God's will was more important than the satisfaction of His hunger. Every day the devil is bringing before us doubts regarding our physical needs. Especially those who are far away on the mission field. Can God provide your physical needs? What about world evangelization? Can God provide all our physical needs in order to fulfill the task? We need to depend and trust on Him. Let us learn the lesson from the people of Israel in the desert. Each day they needed to learn to trust and depend on God.

B. Second: The temptation was to deny the word of God.

(Matt.4: 5-7) "Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. If you are the Son of God, ... throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone."

The second temptation was on the level of His spiritual nature to prove His faith in God. At the same time it was an appeal to manifest Himself spectacularly to Israel. Jesus was not willing to depart from the will of God in the spiritual realm. Jesus depended and believed in the word of God. Israel was tempted in the desert in the same way. God promised to them the land of Canon but they denied God's word. Because of it, that generation died in the desert. When we reject the word of God as leaders and do not trust and depend, than we will fail for sure. Adam and Eve fail because they do not keep and trust the word of God. "The righteous will live by faith." (Romans 1:17)

C. Third: temptation was to defy the person of God

(Matt.4: 8-10) "Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. All this I will give you, he said, if you will bow down and worship me." The third temptation was on the level to defy the person of God. This temptation involved the purpose of His coming into the world. Jesus came to redeem men, not to rule them. Satan's way, still followed by many, required no suffering and death, but Jesus chose God's way, the way of the cross.

II. HOW TO OVERCOME THE TEMPTATIONS?

We know that the first Adam failed and did not overcome the temptation. Why? Because he was weak spiritually. But we praise the Lord for the second Adam who is the Lord Jesus Christ. He triumphed over Satan. How did the Lord Jesus Christ overcome temptation?

A. First: By the leadership and power of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 4: 1)

"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert..." The Holly Spirit led Jesus. With his leadership and power He was able to overcome this temptation. Jesus was not led by His natural desires (sinful nature) but He lived in accordance with the Spirit desires. It was not the same with Adam. He was lead by his flesh and not with his spirit or by the Holly Spirit. "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace." (Romans 8: 5-6) As leaders, we need to live in accordance with our spirit and not our natural desires if we want to overcome temptation. Also God gave us his Holly Spirit. With His power we can overcome the devil.

B. Second: by the power of the word of God (Matt. 4: 4, 7, 10)

"It is written: Man does live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." Jesus was able with the power of the word of God to overcome the devil. There is such a power in the word of God. Apostle Paul experienced the power in the word of God. That is why he is saying: "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentiles." (Romans 1: 16) The word of God is our sword with which we attack our tempter. "...the sword of the Spirit, which is word of God." (Eph 6: 17)

C. Third: By the power of Prayer and Fasting (Matt. 4: 2)

"After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry." Jesus was known for his prayer. Very often He was praying. Look in (Mk 1: 35). Jesus was praying and fasting and therefore he was able to overcome the temptation. We leaders today need to learn this lesson from Jesus.

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by Victor Hoagland, C.P. 

The temptations of Jesus in the desert probably reveal his human side as much as any other gospel story.  

Though scripture says he was “like us in all things except sin”, we tend to see Jesus unlike us: a miracle worker, an assured teacher, a master of circumstances, someone above it all.  

But look at him in the desert, weary, vulnerable, struggling for footing in a dangerous land. Was much of his life really like that?  

Think of the demands people made on him. The blind man shouting from the roadside, the paralytic lowered from the roof, the woman pleading for her daughter were just some of the many who pressed their cares on him at every turn. Did he tire of it all?  

Is the Evil One’s first suggestion, that he turn stones into bread, a lifelong temptation Jesus had to lay down this everyday burden, the burden of doing good, and rest?

 Lord, art thou weary? Is the work
 the father trusted to thy care,
 his ruined temple to restore;
 beyond thy mortal strength to bear?
 Is thy omnipotence indeed
 too sorely pressed in this our need?
 Lord, art thou weary? --Janet Erskine Stuart 

 And what of the other temptations in the desert? Think how pressured he was by the political and religious establishments of his day to conform to their standards and be quiet. Just go along, they said, and you have a place with us, even a place of honor. Jesus called those powerful people “children of the devil”.  

Yet was he tempted to conform and go along just the same?  

Even his own disciples were his temptors. Listen to their advice to him: “Leave this place and go up to Judea, so that your followers will see the things you are doing. No one hides what he is doing if he is well known. Since you are doing these things, let the whole world know about you.” ( Jn 7:3-5)  

Why waste time here in out-of-the-way Galilee? Use your spectacular power, they told him. You can be a world-wide success.  

He must have responded to them as he responded once to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan.”  

The desert temptations must have been temptations Jesus faced everyday. If they are, how like us he is: tempted to give up under our daily burdens, tempted to compromise and follow the crowd, tempted to seek some extraordinary power rather than the quiet power found in ordinary life.  

Can we be like him?
Tempted, but still victorious?
Will he not deliver us?  

Lord Jesus,
we would rather see you strong
than hungry and weak.

 Forty days alone,
 no miracles, no eager crowds,
 no friendly space to buoy you up,
 no companion but the Evil One.

 This is not the Jordan
 where the Father said:

 "Here is my Son, listen to him."
 And the Spirit, like a dove,
 watched your every step. 

 Here alone,
 you are a weary man,
 tired by the daily strain,
 at the limits of your strength. 

 Where would we learn this story,
 but from you?
 And did you speak of a lifetime
 more than forty days
 Were your days like ours? 

"Turn these stones into bread."
 Were there days like desert stones,
 when you walked in waterless places,
 and grew weary doing good? 

"All these kingdoms will be yours, if..."
 Were there days
 when promises looked better broken;
 right and truth only unreal dreams;
 and life secure somewhere else?

 "Throw yourself down..."
 Were there days
 when the journey step by step,
 simple words and simple deeds,
 hardly seemed to make a difference?
 By the mystery of your temptation in the desert,
 Lord Jesus, have mercy on us.

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  HOW SIN DEVELOPS...
      1. The first stage is TEMPTATION (14)
         a. This stage involves two things:
            1) LUST (desires, NKJV) - a strong desire for something
            2) ENTICEMENT - an opportunity and encouragement to satisfy
               the desire
         b. Put into a mathematical formula:
 
                  Temptation = Desire + Opportunity
 
         c. E.g., a small boy is TEMPTED to steal some cookies when he
            WANTS them (desire) and has a good chance to get them and
            not be seen (opportunity)
         d. But remember, it is NOT a sin to be TEMPTED - cf. the example
            of Jesus, He 4:15
      2. The second stage in the development of sin is SIN ITSELF (15)
         a. Temptation leads to sin only when you yield and ACT upon it
         b. Sin therefore requires the added step of ACTION
         c. Putting it again in mathematical terms:
 
                  Sin = Desire + Opportunity + Action