Today's reading is in Matthew, chapter 4 verses 1-11. It’s a very familiar passage to most of us – Jesus being tempted by Satan. But how many of us have actually thought about it? Jesus, Son of God, God in flesh, being tempted. Maybe we find it difficult to digest this concept because of the very nature of our definition of temptation.
Temptations come in all shapes and sizes, colors and smells. And depending on the culture around you, they come in a wide variety of forms. They can be obvious or subtle, big or little. They affect different people differently. And what is a struggle for someone else may not even turn your head.
There is a temptation I've noticed someone very close to me struggle with, grapple over, lose the battle with more times than not. The person I’m referring to is my husband, Ron, and the temptation he fights comes in a form that might surprise you.
She is elderly and smiling and generous to a fault. She's not pushy or imposing, but always ready to give. Doesn’t sound too dangerous so far? She's not the problem. It’s what she's doing that's the problem. You can usually find her in the refrigerated section of most grocery stores. She's armed with oven mitts and a toaster oven, and believe me, she knows how to use them. Yep. I’m talking about the free sample lady.
My poor husband is putty in the hands of a smiling Grandma toting a sausage on a toothpick. Ron just cannot say no. We have this talk every time he goes with me to the grocery store. I say, >Remember, honey, they’re just sweet little ladies. You're big. You're strong. You're ... not hungry! But just as soon as we grab our buggy and clear the produce section, Ron disappears. He thinks I don't notice; I’m too caught up in my shopping. But I’m onto him. I've seen the writing on the wall. I've smelled the sausage on his breath. Yes, this is one temptation that seems to be a losing battle.
But the temptations we read about in Matthew chapter 4 are very serious ones. They deal with life and death – literally, the Creator of Life and the author of death. This was Jesus, pre-crowds, pre-disciples, presenting Himself to be tempted all alone. Or was He? Look at the very first verse of chapter four:
Then Jesus was led out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted there by the Devil. ~ Matthew 4:1
The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted. That meant that God was doing the leading. He was in control. This incident was no accident. Satan didn’t surprise Jesus by showing up at His weakest point. And we shouldn’t be surprised when Satan shows up at ours. God was in control in the heat of the desert, and He can be in control in the furnace of your life.
Jesus knows what heat is like. He was thirsty. He was tired. He was hungry. And Satan provided a very real temptation. He used what Jesus' body yearned for, what He craved. Satan tempted Jesus with physical nourishment, the key to life. Or so Satan thought.
I love what my very hungry Jesus had to say to the tempter.
But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People need more than bread for their life; they must feed on every word of God. Matthew 4:4
Can you see the picture? This was Jesus talking – all-God yes, but all-man as well. And at His weakest point physically, Jesus was teaching us something very important about temptation.
It isn't hopeless.
I’m not helpless.
God's Word is timeless.
My source of life, your source of life, comes not from oven-fresh bread, but from Father-authority Words. God’s Word. Temptations will come and go, but the Word of God is permanent. And just as Jesus so definitely pointed out, between those pages are all the promises, all the love, all the grace we'll ever need to meet any challenge we may face.
I like the way the New Living Bible commentary puts it. It says that temptations, when resisted with God's help, become tests that purify our character.
Temptation. Jesus experienced it. Jesus overcame it. With His help, we can too.
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