I love it when I open my Bible and read a Scripture I’ve read a hundred times over the years and this time the Holy Spirit opens it up to me in a completely different way than I’ve ever understood before. That’s what happened to me this morning. I was sitting here reading Luke 4 which is all about Jesus going through His 40 day fast in the wilderness. We are not told what took place during those 40 days, but I can imagine it was pretty intense. He’s fasting for 40 days, which is incredible. He’s in the desert no less, which is even harder I would think given the harshness of a wilderness. Depending on the time of year, this would have been pretty bad.
The story begins at the end of the fast with Jesus heading back into town. I’m sure He was looking forward to some amazing street food in Jerusalem but the devil does not and never quits on his own. So, as Jesus is walking, the devil is walking next to Him. Notice that the devil is very aware of the situation, and he never gives Him a break, not for one moment. Jesus has got to be at His weakest point after not eating for 40 days and mentally looking forward to eating again. If you think the devil plays fair, think again. He didn’t play fair during this story and he won’t play fair with you either.
Now at first glance, satan tells Jesus to do something which doesn’t seem so bad. He says to Him the following:
“If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Luke 4:3
What’s wrong with this you say? I’m sure that if we were to study this, the number of things wrong would be amazing, but let’s start with what I saw this morning. Never, ever let the devil tell you what to do. The only person who you should listen to is God. It doesn’t matter if what the devil suggests is not evil, or bad, never listen to him. Once you open the door he will put his foot through the doorway and things will get worse. Eve’s first problem in the garden, before she was deceived, was that she actually listened to the devil, thought about what he said and then gave it credence. She then shared that with Adam. If she had rebuked him, and turned away from him, things would have turned out different!
What the devil was doing here, was asking Jesus, the Son of God to prove Himself. Prove to me, the devil that you are the Son of God. As if he didn’t already know. We do not ever need to prove ourselves to the devil. He will always question our identity in Christ but we do not need to prove ourselves to him. Rebuke him if he ever asks you to.
The next temptation is the easy way out. It is the wide road. On their way the devil takes Jesus on a high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And he says this to Jesus:
All this authority I will give you, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I will give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if you will worship before me, all will be Yours.” Luke 4:6-7
The devil will always try to give you a counterfeit version of what God has put into your heart. The call on your life is from God but the devil will try to give you the easy road. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:13 that there is a narrow gate and a wide gate. The devil’s version of your call is the wide gate. It is the broad road that is easy to travel on but leads to destruction. If Jesus had done what the devil wanted, had traded himself in and worshiped the devil, he would not have had to go to the cross. We know for a fact that this had to have been a temptation for Jesus, because as we see later, when Jesus is facing the impending cross He says this to the Father in Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Never assume that this was not a temptation for Jesus, He was flesh and blood and knew what was coming.
As we continue on in this story, it becomes apparent that the devil is walking Jesus to the very place that He would be crucified, Jerusalem. He walked Jesus to the place of His destiny, His goal, His dream if you will. The devil will walk beside you to the place of your destiny as well. And as you walk, the devil will try to persuade you to take the shortcut, just like he asked Jesus to take the shortcut. He takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, and said the following to Him:
“If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you, and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Luke 4:9-11
He is in fact asking Jesus to jump off the temple because God’s angels will protect Him. So now he’s quoting prophecy to Jesus about Himself. This prophecy written by King David in the Psalms was indeed written about Jesus. But it was never meant to take the place of the cross because that is what the devil again wants Jesus to do. Notice what the devil says at the beginning of this temptation: If you are the Son of God. He’s using the same phrase that he did in the first temptation. Prove yourself to me and this time to the world, by jumping off the temple. When you walk away from your jump, everyone will believe that you are the Messiah, and you won’t have to die on the cross. If you fast forward to Matt 27:42 the people standing at the cross, after Jesus is crucified mock Him and say the following:
“He saved others, but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.”
Jesus never came to earth to save himself. He came to die on that cross so you and I could live.
Never let the devil tempt you with your physical destiny. God will never ask you to risk your life to prove who you are in Christ. I’m not saying people won’t kill you! I’m saying God will never ask you to tempt Him to protect you from reckless behavior. Jumping off that temple was reckless behavior. If Jesus had jumped and then walked away, I have no doubt that some of the people would have followed Him and believed He was the Messiah. But the goal was never about proving who He was. The goal was always the cross and that required Him to go through the narrow gate. That required Him to listen to God, not the devil.
The final thing I would like to point out about this story is that the devil will only leave you if you resist Him, as Jesus did, and he will always come back.
“Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.” Luke 4:13
When does he come back? During an opportune time. During a good opportunity. When you are at your strongest? Probably not. Most likely, he will come back when like Jesus, you are at your weakest. James tells us in James 4:7 the following:
“Submit yourselves then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
It is up to us to resist the devil. Just as Jesus quoted Scripture at the devil, find Scripture that pertains to your situation and when the tempter comes, quote him God’s word. God will help you just as He helped Jesus to overcome.