Wednesday, September 8, 2010

960 Hours

The Temptation of Jesus

The temptation of Jesus reflected the Bible's concept of temptation - which is always basic, not complex. The word used, in both Testaments, relates more to testing a person's moral character than his bodily desires. Our culture reads into the word an excess of lust, greed, and ambition that are derivatives, not the essence, of character. That's why Jesus could have "been tempted in every way, just as we are" (Hebrews 4:15). All the temptations we face can be summarized in the three Jesus confronted and overcame: to put our earthly before our spiritual needs; to misinterpret Scripture for personal purposes; and to compromise scriptural truth for an apparent gain.

The temptations of Jesus also prove that Satan had no choice but to attempt Christ's subversion. The Devil knew Jesus was the original, and he the created being. Neither combatant mistook the creature for the original AUTHORITY in the universe. The fact that Satan tempted Jesus, not vice versa, proves who was in charge and who wanted to be. Jesus held in trust from God all the spiritual truth the Devil wanted and intended to take by deceit or force, but no question existed but that Jesus, not Satan, possessed it.

Each came as the representative of his cause: Satan the enemy and Jesus the champion of humanity. Satan intended to keep humanity chained to its ego by binding Jesus to his. Jesus intended to destroy the Devil's power over human ego by submitting His to God's will, however much it cost or however long it took.

The personal, face-to-face confrontation was essential since Jesus determined to put Satan on the way to ultimate destruction. Allowing him to go personally unbeaten, while working to ameliorate the disasters he caused, would let Satan create greater evil than an exhausted virtue could ever solve. To ultimately destroy the Devil's work, Jesus first defeated him-which means Jesus offered Satan no sympathy whatever, and made no effort whatever to convert him.

The temptation of Jesus proved that God gave Satan every possible advantage in the conflict. First, the environment of lonely desolation, where Jesus had to personally resolve a single question: would He fulfill His role as God's Son according to God's will? God had fulsomely acknowledged Christ as His Son when He emerged from His baptism, then ordered the testing of His Son's commitment.

Second, God allowed Satan the offensive during those 960 hours. To earn the right later to crush the Devil with God's truth, Jesus exposed Himself to every possible Satanic attack - relentlessly, by day and by night forty straight days and nights. Third, God reduced Jesus to physical and mental exhaustion, and most open to Satan's blandishments. The exhaustion gave the Devil his most propitious opportunity. If Satan didn't convert it, he never would another, for this conflict determined whether Jesus or Satan won the WAR between them.

The temptation of Jesus focused on Satan's determined effort to keep Jesus from the cross. He didn't want Him to die, whatever interpreters think. He desperately sought to keep Him from the cross, for he knew Christ's death destroyed evil, death, and Satan himself. The proof of his desperation was his willingness to compromise with Jesus by letting Him rule in morality and virtue so long as He didn't rule in blood-bought righteousness.

The temptations of Jesus were all answered by the Master's resort to Scripture. The reason is obvious: Satan has no answer to God's Word. He would have loved to debate philosophy with Jesus or why God could say He loved Jesus, but still let Him suffer, or why God could claim to be sovereign and let good people suffer-all the arguments skeptics employ to justify their refusal to obey God. But Jesus declined. The Master gives us the perfect response to any temptation: shield life with God's Word and shoot it like a cannon at the tempter!

The temptation of Jesus ceased, but only "until an opportune time" (Luke 4:13). Obviously, Satan returned throughout Christ's ministry: through demon-possessed people (Mark 1:21-24); the leadership (Mark 2:6-7); His own family (Mark 3:31-35, John 7:5); His own disciples (Mark 8:31-32); and finally in the colossal struggle in Gethsemane (John 14:30-31). No matter how badly mauled Satan is, or however strongly he's opposed, he won't admit defeat and insists he can yet find a way to defeat us. Constant vigilance is also the price of our spiritual freedom.

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