It is written
In His battle with Satan, Christ is like Adam, like Israel and like David.
Like Adam, the devil confronts Him with audible temptations to doubt God’s word and eat. And like Adam the fate of humanity rests on His shoulders.
Like Israel, He is called ‘Son of God’, and goes through the waters straight into a wilderness trial. Where they caved in to temptation over 40 years, Christ would be the true Israel, resisting temptation over 40 days.
Like David, He’s just been anointed and now faces a giant, man-to-man, whose 40 days of taunts reproach the God of Heaven. And like David, Christ’s victory would mean victory for His people.
Adam failed. Israel failed. But Christ, the anointed King goes to battle for His people. He steps up as Adam – the True Man; as the Son of God – the True Israel; as David – our Spirit-filled Champion. And through apparent weakness He slays the giant who has dismayed and defeated us at every turn. His triumph is our triumph.
Let’s see the battle unfold…
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. (Matt 4:3-4)
The devil assumes that Jesus is able to produce miraculous bread in the wilderness. That’s what the Son of God has always done (e.g. the Bread of Heaven, Exodus 16). And it’s what He would do again (Matthew 14 and 15). But in those cases the Son of God provides bread for others and in so doing proves Himself to be the true Bread, torn apart to feed the world (John 6:48-51).
But Jesus will not feed Himself. He has come to die – and a death far worse than starvation – to feed others. And so He says: I entrust Myself utterly to My Father, knowing I can abandon everything to My Father and live.
Round 2 is fought along similar lines:
5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
The devil, like so many of his servants, is a preacher. And he knows enough of the bible to know that the Psalms proclaim the Son of God. So he says to Jesus – “Psalm 91, as everyone knows, concerns the Son of God. Well then if you are the One of Psalm 91, you’ll be able to do this celestial bunjee jump and the angels will catch you.”
But Jesus rejects such a PR stunt. He has come to hurl Himself down, and not simply to be dashed on the stones of the temple courts. He had come to hurl Himself into the great Abyss for us. And explicitly at His arrest He refuses the help of angels to prevent it (Matthew 26:53-54). As Son of God He must die on that cross and though 12 legions of angels are on 24 hour stand-by, the Scriptures must be fulfilled. The Son of Man must go as it is written of Him – He must be the One who dies. Jesus will not test His Father but obey Him, even to the point of death.
8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
Satan is the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) – not by right but by popular choice. The world does indeed follow the devil and his lying, self-serving, death-dealing ways. So Satan offers Jesus the chance to form a coalition government. Satan says, “Let’s not be enemies here. You know what it will cost you to dethrone me (Genesis 3:15) – it will cost your life. Let me offer you another way. Let’s rule the world together. Forget the painful business of eradicating evil, compromise with it and you can avoid the whole way of the cross.”
But Jesus will receive the Kingdom from His Father, not the devil. He will not bow to Satan, He will crush Him. Though it cost Him His life, Jesus will not compromise with evil. His heart is wholly for God His Father and so His heart is wholly for the cross.
Christ proves Himself to be exactly who the Father had declared. He is the beloved Son of God because through every temptation to the contrary He resolves not to serve Himself but others. He will not save Himself but save others. The true Son of God proves Himself divine through His utter self-giving.
This is the only power to defeat the ultimate Egotist. Everyone else in the history of the world has failed Satan’s tests. No-one has ever walked the way of the cross like this. But the True Son of God did. And Satan must depart.
These temptations are fascinating to watch. The master tempter and the Lord our righteousness go head to head. We do not read this account as a potential participant, but as mere spectators. We watch like David’s brothers watched when their champion went out to fell Goliath.
Christ’s temptations aren’t really a three point primer in spiritual warfare. They narrate for us the actual victory of our Anointed Champion. This is not Jesus your Example. Not primarily. This is Jesus who has taken your humanity to Himself, who has become Himself the true people of God and who has won victory on our behalf.
In every temptation that we face, let us not look within for the power to fight. Let us point ourselves and the accuser himself to Christ and His victory.
Yes I am tempted Devil. And yes I have fallen, times without number. But it is written – “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8) I claim His victory.
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