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June 2, 2015

Text:  “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.”  Matthew 4:1

Years ago I became friends with an elder in the church, an intelligent and upright man. On several occasions we discussed the question of whether Jesus, while in the flesh, could have sinned. A lot of this consideration centered upon the temptation he endured by Satan here at the first of Jesus’ ministry. Satan offered three trials to God  in the flesh, but there were more temptations after that. Don’t think that Satan gave up. He may have been rejected once, but he persisted with many different ploys.

First, let us consider what is at stake here. There is more at stake here than bread to sustain Jesus’ life. The issue is beyond the mere miraculous rescue of having Jesus jump to see if angels would snatch him from harm. Even more than that, Jesus accepting an  earthly kingdom with its glitter and glory. From these issues we learn much about resistance to sin, but these are mere skirmishes in a greater and more important war. Read on.

Let us ponder the participants who faced off with one another in the desert. The first was  Jesus, crown prince of heaven, who left his blessed estate at God’s right hand to accept the assignment to die for our sins and complete our salvation and freedom from Satan’s death-hold on humanity. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” II  Corinthians 5:21 His tempter was Satan “the god of this world”. II Corinthians 4:4 But could he deliver the goods of his temptations? My answer is unequivocally, “YES”.  If Jesus had known that Satan had no power to deliver his offerings, this occasion would have been a farce. If Satan had known that Jesus was impervious to temptation, he wouldn’t have made the effort.

Then, what is going on here? The issue is simply stated: the continuance and completion of Jesus’ redemptive mission! Should Jesus give in to Satan’s enticements even once, his campaign to establish forgiveness for the sins of mankind would have exploded and been pulverized. He would have failed his mission and been severed from his Father in heaven for his disobedience. He would have been compromised and become the puppet of Satan. The gospel would never been preached and the intent of man’s salvation would have been unavailable to sinners like me and you. We deem that this is the reason that Matthew and Luke place this event near the beginning of their gospels. They wanted readers to know that Jesus was full of faith, persistence and “grit” and remained so to the final great crisis: his crucifixion. All through the gospels there are little hints that Jesus faced subtle and flinty temptation. He comes finally to the Garden of Gethsemane and faces his terrible death. He firmly accepts here his final affirmation that he will follow through despite abuse, injustice, hatred, and a most cruel death.  This menacing knowledge oppressed him. “My soul is very sorrowful, even unto death…” Matthew 26:38a  Yet nothing could deter him! “Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “‘My Father, if this cannot pass it, your will be done.”‘ Matthew 26:42

Make no mistake, this is the eternal design of God from eternity. “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” I Peter 1:20-21

High stakes, indeed! All this for you and me!

So, here is the issue for us. Remember that Jesus was unmoved in temptations to derail his obedience to God in the costly scheme of redemption. Thank God continually for the determination and faithfulness of  Jesus. Serve God with undiminished faith and fervor.









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