4th June 2023

The Temptation of Christ 2

Passage: Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Transcript

It is one of the joys of my time here in Salisbury to go around to the different home groups, and they're on different nights of the week, though there is one night where there's three of them, so I don't get to those three as often as the others, but to go around and to hear what God's people of our church are learning from the Word of God. And the different home groups are into different areas of the Scriptures, and one particular home group these last weeks has been on the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. And I think we're on our third week doing that because it's such a storyline with so many interesting things. And it's thrilling to see in the Scriptures how Jesus is always busy seeking to do the will of the Father. And he uses a bit of a metaphor with his disciples; they're off getting food from the local deli, I suppose. But wherever they went and when they come back, Jesus says, "I have meat to eat you know not of." He says, "I've had something more important to do is really what he was saying than just eating." And Jesus has that emphasis on there being a purpose of life and being a plan that God the Father leads us in. And he, having come as the Son, he is God, but yet he is the eternal Son who took on humanity and by so doing entered into a relationship with his Father, which was a model which later we have when we become Christians and enter into a relationship with him, the exalted Christ. The go-between the two is the Holy Spirit. And in our travelling through learning in the Gospel of Matthew recently, we've been looking at the baptism of Jesus. It was the time he went down to the River Jordan and was baptised by John. And as he came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit came from the Father and alighted on him and stayed on him. And Jesus, although he was the Son of God, though he was from heaven, one day go back to heaven, nonetheless, what he did on earth he did by virtue of the Father working through the Holy Spirit on him.

Now we come to the place in the next chapter of Matthew, Matthew chapter 4. We'll put that up on the screen, Matthew chapter 4, where Jesus is being tempted. And it says in the start, "Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." And last week, the burden of the message was the fact that the temptation of Jesus wasn't because of his, like us, sins luring him into something wrong, but was as an example for us also of the fact that God's will sometimes has there to be times of temptation. And we come, it says that he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Although elsewhere in the scriptures, it tells us that God himself tempts no one and can't be tempted himself, nonetheless, he led his son to a spot where the devil did that. And there is to be learned immediately that when it comes to this Christian life that we are in, that there is some unusual mixture of things happening to us that God allows and might even have used or even purposed to happen as with Jesus in this case. And yet it is the devil at work as well. And don't have just a simplex understanding and say the good things that happen, they're from God, and then the bad things happen, that's either me or it's the devil in the world. God is behind all that he allows to happen, even though it may not be his doing. That's just the story with Jesus. And so, therefore, begs the question as to what was going on when Jesus was tempted and what was the purpose.

Last week, just to not go over it again, but we look back to how creation happened with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and how there were two trees, one was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was there really to create the possibility of a test, a temptation for Adam and Eve, which temptation they fell to. It was also the tree of life. And the whole import of last week's message, if you weren't here, was without my repeating it too much, that if you turn to the book of Revelation at the end times, right at the end, there's only going to be one tree, it is the tree of life. The reason why there's no tree for the testing is that in heaven, there'll be no testing done on us. There won't be any temptations, there won't be any difficulties, there's only the tree of life. And the reason is simple, the salvation that gets us to heaven is an enormous work of Christ where he passed the test. And we're reading about it in this fourth chapter of Matthew. It is because he tempted and succeeded that in the end times, right at the end, in the heaven, in glory, there will be no tree of the knowledge of good and evil because the person who is saving us is saving us by virtue of the fact that he passed the test, not us.

I don't know whether you recognize the connection of that to what we did at communion because what we're doing at communion is recognizing how Jesus brought out well by Andrew from Isaiah that Jesus, he was the chastisement of our peace on him that gets us right with God. And our salvation begins with Jesus passing the test and becoming not only sinless by way of being innocent and never being tempted, but sinless by going through all that humanity and life on earth brings to any person. Though he be the son of God, he went through, as the Bible tells us, in all points parallel to us. It's basically trying to say, and he understands, therefore, when we go through things that test us. And he wants us to know that through the scriptures, and he understands where we are.

I put down on my list of verses for the person in the corner back there where my introduction was going to be, and it is from the book of Hebrews in the book of Hebrews and two spots, chapter 2 and verse 18, "For because he himself has suffered when tempted" and I want you to notice the wording, "suffered when tempted," it'll be important shortly. "He is able to help those who are being tempted." Now I told us last week that the word sometimes in the scriptures, there are different words for tempting and testing, but one particular word means either you can't tell whether it's trying to talk about a test or a temptation. The reason being, of course, in the minds of that language, those people, the two were so vitally connected together and tied together. And so here it is, Jesus says he suffered when tempted, when tempted.

Now let's turn to the scriptures and read some things there. There is another Hebrews verse. I'll jump over that, and we'll go to Matthew chapter 4 again and verses 1 to 11. This is the passage in Matthew we've come up to, you know, exposition through the book of Matthew. And it says, rather interesting to be tempted by the devil. And then it says, verse 2, "After fasting 40 days and 40 nights, he was hungry." And the tempter came and said to him, da da da da da. And so some of the commentaries will bring out that this tempter coming and saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread." Now, in actual fact, there's something going on there that our English-speaking or modern-day minds glided over without noticing. But it says, "After fasting 40 days and 40 nights, he was hungry," which constituted the conditions by which that temptation about turning stones to bread makes sense. But there actually was temptation going on earlier than that if we look at a parallel passage in Luke. We'll go to Luke chapter 4. They're both in chapter 4 and compare. Remembering the verse 2 there from Matthew. But in Luke, it says, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from Jordan, led by the Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days." Now, you could glide over this and fail to notice that the very first thing in which Jesus was actually being tempted was that which occurred during his fasting.

Now, maybe you've gone on a fast to lose some weight. You can see I've never done that. Or you might be a person that's had a fast. I've been on a fast when a friend of mine, for spiritual reasons, called. He and I were in a team preaching team to have his dad was a pastor. The parents went away for holidays and they had, we had a house then. And he says, "We'll have 40 days of fasting just like Jesus." And he was always an enthusiastic for the most drastic thing. And I joined him, not sure about being able to last 40 days. I have a problem. It's a health problem. I keep getting hungry. And anyway, I went along with it and we had a wonderful time. And we got some visions for the future and things. But I couldn't stand the whole 40 days. And I made up an excuse to visit my sister in Canberra who just had my first little cousin, a cousin, my sister's nephew. And so I said, "I have to go and see my sister and the child." And so I drove down to Canberra and left about halfway through the 40 days. But the reason is that there is a suffering and the suffering through fasting is to get yourself to keep doing it. And the temptation involved was the one that I fell to, make up an excuse and leave. God answered a lot of the prayers that we'd had in the first two weeks, mind you. But I learned on that occasion that when you really fast, it is a painful thing. And particularly if you go past the time, you know, actually it says that he suffered, he Jesus hungered after the 40 days. That's what you call a second hunger. And the second hunger is when all the sugar's been used up in your bloodstream, there's nothing left. Your body is attacking your organs to get sugar out of it so you don't die. And you're gradually going downhill and will die if you don't eat soon. The second hunger leads you to die. And when you hear people on a hunger strike and they're in jail or wherever they are, they are actually lying down unable to do much. They've got no energy. They're dying. And if they don't get someone to break their fast, they will die. And the temptation lies in the agony of the feelings of that, having no energy and in the fear of death that's coming with it.

And Jesus was in the wilderness, you know. He'd walked a long way out into the wilderness, and now he's in a state of health. He had no capacity of walking out again. And yet he believed that God had a mission for him. But his body would be telling him, you know, he'd be expiring soon. And that difficulty that he began gradually to fall into was actually a temptation in itself, which is why Hebrews talks about how he suffered in the temptation. It also explains why some people think there's a contradiction in the Bible because there's a bit of a difference between how Luke writes and how Matthew writes. And here, Luke is saying that being tempted by the devil for the forty days. Now, you know, there's three of the, what we call the synoptic Gospels. They're the ones that all cover the similar materials if you're looking through one perspective that touch on the temptations. And the third one is Mark. And actually, something that is in Matthew and Luke, you can resolve the appearance of a contradiction. The contradiction actually is the order in which the following testings happen. And Luke has it in one way around and Matthew has it the other way. While we're in Luke, we're still in Luke, I believe. Yes, it'll tell you that, um, "After about if you are the Son of God, command the stones to turn become bread." That's verse three. Jesus answers it. But then, if you move that move the screen on, the next thing that happens is that the devil takes him up to a high mountain. I think this is right. No, he took him to Jerusalem. And he said, "No, can you go back a few? I'd better get this straight." Okay, so he's taken up on a mountain, and the devil says, "All the authority of the things of the world, I'll give to you if you worship me." Then, after that, um, no, I've got it the wrong way around. Anyway, one of the Gospels has it on the mountain first and the temple second, and the other one has it in the temple first and the mountain second. And folk who criticise the Bible find opportunity to say, "Here, the two Gospels are contradicting each other in the order of those temptations." And if you go to the other one, which is Matthew's Gospel, chapter four, if you've got your own Bible, we're actually comparing Matthew 4:2 and Luke 4:2. And in Matthew 4:2, "After fasting 40 days and 40 nights, he was hungry." So it makes the temptation about turning the stones into bread after the 40 days, whereas the other one, Luke, made it during the 40 days. And so that's where people think there is a bit of a tension. Yeah, the thing is that the way it's actually worded is very interesting because one Gospel isn't actually trying to be quite so chronologically strict. The one here that we're looking at, which is Matthew, says, "After fasting 40 days." But if let's go back to Luke again, and it's Luke chapter 4, about verse 2, and here in verse 2, it says, "For 40 days being tempted by the devil, and he was hungry at the end." And so I think actually Luke is the most accurate to what happened, but Matthew is just not saying things so precisely. But it is actually this one that says, "For 40 days he was tempted by the devil." Both are actually true because the temptation of when the fast was severe after the 40 days is how the other Gospel said. And this one that we've got on the screen at the moment, which is Luke, it says, "For 40 days being tempted of the devil."

So it tells you that the temptation lasted through all the fasting time. Let's go to Mark's Gospel, the third one, only in chapter 1 and verses 1 and 2. This is the third of the three Gospels that are very similar, and they're called the synoptic Gospels because of our similar layout. But here we're in Mark, please Mark chapter 1, verses 11 and 12, I believe it is. And in Mark 1, verses 11 and 12, we'll get there in a moment, the Spirit immediately drove him to the wilderness. No, go one step further. I got the verses wrong then. And he was in the wilderness 40 days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels ministering to him. So the way Mark says it, Mark always does things in the shortest compass possible, shortest way to get to the big point. And he's only got two verses, whereas the other Gospels have 11 and 13. And here you see from what Mark says that it's a simple statement that he's there for 40 days, he gets tested by the devil and tempted, and that's it. He's with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him, which happens right at the end. So Mark simply says, yes, it was 40 days. And if he's tempted for 40 days, as one of the other Gospels says, then the temptation included the actual fasting time as well. What that taught me was that my time in the house with my friend's parents away, and we were meant to have, according to my friend, 40 days of fasting, there was a testing happening for me. The temptation was one because I do not like fasting. I get very hungry. And then when it's going too far, you get fearful, and you get fearful for your life. And that was a part of the test.

Well, it's interesting that the Scriptures are teaching us things further to just Jesus fulfilling a test that Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden, as last week I was telling you. But also, Jesus had to do this for reasons that had to do with the paradigm that was set up in the time of the Jews and the time when Moses started things of the old covenant. Jesus is the one who, in these readings that we're doing in Matthew and in fact all the Gospels, it is a transition period between the era when the old covenant was in force and the new covenant was to begin. And this transition period is where Jesus is still under the old covenant, but he's setting up a paradigm for us in the new covenant. That's why it's called by the theologians a transition time. And all through the Gospels, you'll have Jesus helping people to get right with the old covenant, like Zacchaeus. He'd been kicked out of the synagogue because of his crimes and because of the hatred that they had for the Romans that he was a tax collector for. And Jesus came and rescued him and gets him to restore some of the money taken from people unfairly by Zacchaeus, but then restores him so he can go back to the synagogue and restores him to the salvation that is to the Jews through the Jews, through the old covenant system. Why is that old covenant system still going when Jesus represents the new? Because Jesus had to die under the recriminations of the old covenant, under the penalties of the old covenant, the Old Testament. Jesus went to the cross and bore the penalty that the old covenant required. He gave his blood to get us out from being under the old covenant. So the Bible tells us that Jesus was born under the law. He was born in a way that he had to satisfy the law. Last week, while I was talking about the fact that he had to pass the test, but now what we're going to realise today is that Jesus not only had to pass the test, a test analogous to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but Jesus has to pass the test of keeping the Jewish law, the old covenant, in order to buy us out from it. He had to pass it. And that's also what our book of Hebrews is telling us. There's another verse in Hebrews, which is chapter 6, verses 3 to 10. But the book of Hebrews is actually written to a whole bunch of Hebrew priests who'd converted and become Christians. And one day, becoming Christians, they found themselves persecuted as Christians. And in order to escape the persecution, wanted to go back and become priests under the old covenant again. The book of Hebrews is written to show that the old covenant is finished, that it has been completely replaced by the new covenant, and there's no changing the period of time of movement from one to the other that Jesus went through. And they were not to go back to the old. That's what the book of Hebrews is about.

Now we're looking here, I presume, to Hebrews chapter 6, verses 3 to 10. And this we will, if God permits, he's going to explain something. "For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come" – that's in the new covenant – "and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt." What that's saying is not that if you backslide and get caught out and you know, you're full of sins that you never can come back and be a Christian again. It's not saying that at all. What it is saying is that the journey out of the old covenant, where there were certain things alone that would get you forgiven, it was a visit to the temple and the blood of bulls and goats and whatever, and there's no way that you can make the journey from that regime into the new covenant because it would be to expose Jesus to as if he had to be crucified again, and it would be making a mockery of what he has done in the transfer of things from the old covenant to the new. We are never to go back to the old covenant. We're never to imagine that we have to repeat what we did when we got converted, just as Jesus doesn't have to go and get crucified again, which is what he had to do to get us converted.

But if you're a person who's become a Christian and you've come to Christ, I'm going to tell you, you still are in Christ. I'm going to tell you that Jesus will never let you go because there's no going back to the era where you have to journey your way through again. This is very important. I used to have my chief Christian thing I did in Youth for Christ was a counsellor. I used to run the prayer and the counselling for the crusades they put on. And when someone would come, and sometimes you get people who respond to the invitation to come to Christ, and when you sit them down and talk, they actually have been a Christian, but they've backslidden off, and they want me to lead them in a prayer to ask Jesus into their heart again or to ask Jesus to forgive their sins as in make them a Christian. And what I have to explain to them is you can't become a Christian again because you still are one. And it's a very important thing to understand when someone comes and asks you, and they're a person who's actually a backslider, that it's a different set of things you tell them than if they're someone who never got converted in the first place. First discernment you've got to make is whether they've ever really understood the gospel and trusted Christ for what he has done because the gospel is all about how Jesus is the entire Saviour, not just half a Saviour to give you a kick along the way, and then you have to work hard to make it complete. No, what Jesus did when he came and passed the test, he's passed the test for you forever. That's what happened when Jesus got tempted by the devil, when Jesus lived his entire life being tested by the devil and arrives at the garden of Gethsemane and still being tested because of the fearfulness of what he has to do in going through the cross. And he pleads with the Father, "Is there no other way that I have to go through this?" Then he prays, "But not my will, but thine be done." And Jesus almost died in the garden of Gethsemane as he sweat great drops of blood, which is medical people tell me is a sign of such tension being about to kill you. And then the Bible says angels came and ministered to him. And immediately, my mind, having read the scriptures and these passages in Matthew and Luke and Mark, is what happened at the end of Jesus' temptation. Remember I told you that he walked out into the desert and was 40 days fasting, and he had the second hunger, which is the hunger under death. He had no power to walk out of that desert, but the angels ministered to him. And by his being prepared to trust God and face that possibility, but not step out of the will of God and try and take things into his own hands, Jesus passed the test in the most magnificent way a person ever could.

Now, this passage and what I'm telling you this morning is one of the great choices, one of the great, how I say, securities because every one of us has times when we fail, times when we don't live up to what we ought to be. But it doesn't make you not a Christian. It doesn't mean that you haven't done what's necessary to be a Christian because the test has been totally won, passed gloriously by Jesus. And the salvation we have is not only just that on the cross he bore our sins, it is that he presented a person through his life who'd faced all temptations and not fallen. And in the perfection, that is perfection produced by testing and winning.

In it, Jesus presented himself as a sacrifice. He won the right to die for your sins by how he beat the temptations, and your salvation rests on the performance of Jesus on your behalf, not on you. And when you fail, and when you don't come up to the test, and there are different ways that can happen, some people in very big obvious ways, others in ways that they know, but little things of crankiness and walking after the flesh behind the scenes that God knows, that's not the test that counts for you. Jesus' Savior includes him passing the test, can you hear me? It is a great joy to know that we have a salvation that Jesus won from the beginning to the end.

The next part of our salvation, having come for the forgiveness of sins, is when you begin to let the Spirit who lives within you sanctify you, and you have lots of ups and downs in that. And one of the biggest lessons a person has to learn, having become a Christian, is that not only could you not forgive yourself, you can't even live as a Christian either. And when you first came to Christ, you thought, "What a good Christian I'll be, I'll offer my smart personality to Jesus, and I'll do wonderful things for him." And then you have a big flop one more, another. Every one of us, having gotten converted, has a flop. And so we find out that not only do you need Jesus to die for you, you need Jesus to live for you. He's the only one who can overcome the Spirit and help you to walk after the Spirit rather than walking after the flesh. And when you walk after the Spirit, you don't do the wrong things because the Spirit is in control. And it's a lesson you gradually learn how to walk more after the Spirit and less after the flesh. And the actual bridge between walking after the flesh and getting back in the Spirit is to recognize the very thing that I'm here preaching about, that your salvation is so totally of him that every time you trust yourself, it's a bit of a flop. But when you realize that he will live for you and you call on him to do this, his sanctification in you and to help you to live the Christian life, you find some power comes, some power comes that helps you to do the thing that makes you progress in your sanctification. And that progress is often, especially at the beginning, but sometimes with some of us, with a big flop in the middle as well. But that sanctification is very much an up and down, and they're coming back to Jesus and saying to him, "Jesus, you need to live your life." And we've been singing the song that's been up there on the screen, not us but Christ who lives in us. I forget the exact wording, but what that's about is the secret to the Christian life is that Jesus is the only one who ever succeeds. And the degree to which you rest in him is your success.

And when at last we get to glory, as I've been saying a few times, the Bible actually teaches that he's going to have us there before all of creation, all of history, all of the heavenly hosts as trophies of his salvation in us. And you're going to be there with me and us, knowing the Saviour for whom he came and passed the tests and for what he did, that he might also encourage you in the next stage, which is your sanctification. The final one is when you're in glory. But the three steps of salvation, "I have been saved, I am being saved, I will be saved," and in this middle one, it's only going to happen for you when you learn to rest back in him for what he will do through you.

Well, I haven't given my sermon yet on the temptations themselves, but I'll keep them for the next time. It's a fantastic thing, but I just will pick it up again next time about the fact that not only did Jesus pass a test instead of there being a tree of the knowledge of good and evil for us, but also Jesus went through all the strictures of the Jewish religion, and he passed the test that they, the Jews, failed. And the reason why there is an old covenant is that God knew they'd fail, and he arranged for a new covenant. The old covenant depends on the sacrifices provided and for the people's obedience. The new covenant depends upon Jesus, and Jesus only. Hence, God always knew that there would be progress from the old to the new. But we'll go more about that next week if you're here.

Let's have a word of prayer. Heavenly Father, I thank you because we have this beautiful account of Jesus and how he suffered, even in fasting. And how he suffered even in fasting. He suffered because that's what set up for him to never really face trying to do in his own strength or never being tempted to do with strengths he had. We don't have any extra strength, but he does, he's the Son of God. But you set him up, he would depend on you for the strength. We'll get into that next week. But Lord, we praise you that he passed that test on our behalf. We thank you in Jesus' name, amen.


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