When we last met (or when I last wrote) we were in the desert with Jesus as he prepared for an encounter with the devil by fasting forty days and forty nights. We learnt he did this because he knew the winning strategy – that winning wasn’t about getting stronger in our own strength and ability, but getting weaker so God can get stronger through us…
So here we are, the fasting period is over, and Jesus is starving. I’m talking EXTREME hunger. I can’t even begin to imagine his level of hunger after 40 days, because I just woke up an hour ago and I’m already starving. 40 days in and I’d probably be ingesting sand, so I think it’s safe to assume that Jesus was ready to have a meal.
Cue the devil, who always shows up at our most vulnerable to try to take advantage of us:
“Since you’re the Son of God,” he says, “Speak the word and turn these stones into bread.”
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much wrong with this request, except maybe the fact that it’s coming from the devil. Jesus IS the Son of God. He CAN turn stones into Popeye’s with a single word. To be honest if I were Jesus I might have just done it to spite the devil. One of those just-in-case-you-hadn’t-heard-exactly-who-I-Am moments, you know? Just to remind him of exactly who it was he was messing with.
But that would have been such a fleshy thing to do, wouldn’t it? And it was precisely to avoid such self-assured and pride-filled moments that Jesus took to forty days of fasting to die to flesh. What the devil was trying to do with this test was exactly that: to get Jesus to fall into the traps of self-assurance and self-indulgence outside of right timing.
Not surprising, since this is the very same technique he used with Eve in Eden – the allure of instant self-gratification and self-assurance. Eve could have had any fruit from a gazillion other trees, but the serpent tempted her with the lust of the flesh and her need to satisfy her desire (to be more like God) in her own power.
Two things strike me about both stories:
First is that in both cases the devil played on man’s desire to be more like God.
“If you are truly the Son of God…” he taunts Jesus.
“God doesn’t want you to eat that fruit because He doesn’t want you to be like Him…” he tells Eve.
Crazy isn’t it, since Jesus WAS indeed God, and man WAS indeed created in His very image? We are more like God than anything in all creation, and yet so unaware of our affinity and likeness to Him! And the devil uses the fact that we are unaware of this truth against us. He tries to get us to make the same mistake he did by trying to become like God in our own power and ability. He wants us to suffer the same fall from pride. Jesus was not moved by satan’s taunts because he did not need to prove who he was in God or what power he had as the Son of God – he already knew. And when you truly know something or believe something, you never have to fight or defend it in your own ability – truth defends itself.
The second thing that struck me about the way the devil approached Jesus in this temptation was this instant gratification bit. Jesus was done fasting. He could have easily walked out of the desert and gotten himself a meal, as I’m certain he intended to. What the devil was really trying to tempt Jesus with, and what he tempts us all with today, is this idea of instant gratification outside of God’s timing. The devil didn’t say “If you’re the Son of God, go eat.” Instead he wanted him to fall into the trap of instantaneously satisfying his flesh and its desires before the time was right for that.
We face this temptation every single day. Whether it’s sex outside of marriage or conniving your way into a higher position before God’s time, there is always this desire to do things on our own schedule and in our own ability instead of trusting in God and in His provision at the right time, and it often results in catastrophic consequences.
Jesus’ response to satan’s temptation was this:
Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”
Some things to meditate on for the next couple of days:
Do I believe in my affinity to Christ? Do I trust in God’s provision and timing? In what areas of my life might I be doing things in my own power and timing instead of trusting God’s? What does God’s word say about those areas, and how can I apply His word to my life?