1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry… 13 When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time (Luke 4).
Like any journey, there are highs and lows, twists and turns, bright and dark moments. This week is one of those dark moments in the life of our hero, Jesus. The wilderness temptation is an amazing scene in the life of Christ where we see him plunged into forty days of fasting, isolation, and seemingly unrelenting temptations from Satan himself. It is a picture of endurance, resolve, and dependence upon God in the midst of impossible circumstances.
In the life of any hero, there is always the climatic event of his final victory. There is a sense of assurance that it is going to happen – otherwise, he wouldn’t be much of a hero. But the thing that keeps us on our toes and at the edge of our seat is the nearly impossible tasks and obstacles that the hero overcomes on his journey in order to achieve final victory. Which means that it is not just the final event that makes a hero, but also the journey it took in order to get there. The wilderness temptation is just one of those massive moments in the life of Christ that makes him the unique hero of humanity.
Lets consider a couple issues in order to help us appreciate this story. First, this is not a story primarily teaching you and me how to resist temptation. Instead, this is a story of how Christ uniquely resisted the enemy’s temptations in order to defeat Him. Usually when we are tempted it is from our own sinful flesh, but Jesus was tempted from Satan himself. Also, when we are tempted, we are not looking for it; it comes to us. But Christ went into the heart of the wilderness in order to face the enemy on is own turf. Like the first battle in an on going war, Christ went into enemy territory in order to negotiate the terms of the enemy’s defeat and the release of his people.
So what do we see in this story? In Luke’s gospel account, in between Jesus’ baptism and wilderness temptation, is a detailed genealogy connecting Jesus all the way back to Adam – the first man. Now, why is this significant? It is significant because in this story Luke is making a critical connection between Christ and Adam. You see Luke is going to show how Christ resisted all the temptations in the wilderness where Adam failed in the Garden of Eden when he ate the forbidden fruit. Not only did he succeed where Adam failed, but he did it while hungry and alone. This exchange is critical because it makes Christ our new representative. In Adam there is only sin and condemnation, but in Christ there is freedom and victory. Paul said it this way in Romans 5:19 “For as through the one man’s disobedience [Adam] the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One [Jesus] the many will be made righteous.”
Not every temptation is the same to every person. Each one is unique to someone’s personal preference of circumstance – and this story is no exception of that. For instance, the first temptation to turn stones into bread is not a test to be immoral; instead, it is a trick to try and get Jesus to give in to food like Adam did in the Garden. Where Adam became disobedient by taking and eating, Jesus means to be obedient by not taking and not eating.
His second temptation of seeing all the kingdoms of the world is interesting. The enemy knows why Jesus has come; he is going to win back what Adam lost – dominion over creation. The Devil, the god of this world, offers back to Jesus what is rightfully his – if he would simply worship him. This is a temptation to take the easy way out; to walk the journey of least resistance and to avoid the cross. But Jesus didn’t give in.
The third temptation to throw himself from the temple is also peculiar. But just like in the Garden of Eden, Satan is distorting the word of God in order to get Jesus to give in. But Jesus calls his bluff and corrects his misquoting of scripture. Where Adam (Israel and every other human after him) had failed and fallen, Jesus obeyed God’s word perfectly and effectively resisted temptation. It is because of Jesus’ unique resistance to these powerful temptations that makes him our unique hero and our only Savior.