Have you ever fallen to temptation? Of course, you have.
Falling to temptation is part of our fallenness that’s all part of our present state of humanity. Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? But, not really.
In Adam, our first parent, we fell (Genesis 3; Romans 5.12). That’s where humanity is stuck at the moment. But then … (leaving a lot out here) … Jesus came! Jesus, the Son of God, serves as the new Adam, the head of a new, redeemed humanity. And, when we place our faith in Him, He becomes our new representative.
That’s the backstory to Luke 4. At His baptism the young man Jesus has been declared to be God’s choice to represent this new humanity: You are my Beloved Son; with you I am well pleased (3.22). Then, we get Jesus’ genealogy, taking us all the way back to the first Adam. Now, in 4.1-13, Jesus will stand in for temptation where Adam failed.
But, it’s hardly an academic exercise. What’s really at stake is Jesus’ mission, and our destiny. Reading the account as though we don’t know the end of the story (which we do), it would seem that God’s plan of redemption and our eternal destiny both stand on the edge of a knife.
As the Spirit of God leads Jesus into the wilderness for temptation, Jesus is tested for 40 days. We don’t know details here, but we are told that at the end of that period, Jesus undergoes three summary tests, offered by God’s adversary, the Devil. These involve a stone to be turned to bread; the kingdoms of the world that Satan says he has the power to offer to Jesus, in exchange for worship; and, a flying leap off the porch of the temple into the valley 450 feet below—the natural consequences of which will be avoided by angelic intervention, Satan says. These three temptations amount to a test of trust (Will YOU meet my needs?); a test of worship? (Are YOU enough for me?); and, a contrived test of God’s goodness (Do I trust YOU to protect me, in YOUR time and in YOUR way?).
Where Adam failed, amidst the lush, green provisions of Eden, Jesus succeeds, by clinging to God’s Word and being obedient to God’s mission.
My representative in temptation (by faith)—proving faithful where Adam failed—is JESUS, the Son of God.
Application for us isn’t hard. We don’t want to turn stones to bread, but we live in the tension of wondering whether God is worthy of our trust—for wisdom in our jobs and families, for material provision, for companionship and emotional wholeness. Will YOU meet my needs, God?
And, most of us wouldn’t think of falling down to worship the Devil, but we face a dizzying constellation of potential idols that might take God’s place in our lives. Even good things—our children, our ministries, youth sports, technology and entertainment, in its many forms. Are YOU enough, God?
Finally, we wouldn’t throw ourselves off a high building, I hope, but we have a human propensity for manufacturing tests for God: IF You are God, please heal this disease … bring back my wayward child … get me a husband, or a wife!
In the midst of all these temptations, we can stand the tests, because Jesus did … because Jesus has been to the cross … because we’re filled with one and the same Spirit that now points to Jesus.
We’re part of God’s new humanity (Romans 5.12-21; 1 Corinthians 15.20-28, 45-49). Jesus is our mighty hero. Jesus is God’s obedient Son and our representative.
Spend some time in Luke 4.1-13 and have a look at these questions:
- The story of Jesus’ temptation by the Devil is a multi-layered, true account of Jesus’ victory over Satan where others failed. Look at Jesus’ response and note where the Old Testament citations come from. Consider also that the temptation took place in the wilderness. In addition to Adam, who else failed to obey God? What do you think Luke is suggesting about Jesus’ place in the Nation of Israel?
- Of the three temptations we read about, which of them (tests of trust, worship and God’s goodness) do you find yourself most susceptible to? Do you have any stories where God has brought these struggles to your attention and led you through confession and victory?
- Is Jesus necessarily your representative? We’re all born “in Adam,” but something must take place for Jesus to represent us. What is it?
- How does this account help you trust Jesus with your life? Why is He worthy? (Think of what He could have gotten out of by giving into Satan’s temptations. In that case (perish the thought), who would have been left behind?
- What does this account suggest about the importance of clinging to God through His Word? What did Jesus do? How did He counter Satan’s distractions?