1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
‘ He shall give His angels charge over you,’
‘ In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’”
8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”
11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
Have you ever noticed that after coming up from the waters of baptism, Jesus is immediately led into the wilderness? That after hearing God the Father proclaim “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17), we hear the devil tauntingly tell Him “If you are the Son of God…“?
And that after the Holy Spirit descends upon Him, He is “led up” by the Holy Spirit into a place of testing?
The text is riddled with opposites. Why?
We also read that:
- The Lord is taken up to the Temple’s pinnacle, then the devil tells Him to throw Himself down so that the angels would bear Him up.
- The Lord is taken to the top of an exceedingly high mountain and told to fall down and worship the devil, in order to be raised to political prominence by the devil.
Is this simply a literary device? Or is there something we can glean from these opposites?
What do we make of them?
When stripped of the crowds of people gathering at His baptism, dwelling in solitude in the wilderness – no crowds, no prophet, and the absence of God the Father’s mighty voice thundering from heaven – what did the Lord face?
Satan presented Christ with opportunities to lift Himself up to (1.)spiritual and (2.)political Messianic power. Satan brought Christ quick fix alternatives to His present situation. Jesus could wait for the Father or take matters into His own hands…
But what did He do?
He waited, in the Spirit and in the Word and in faith, for the Father.
I thought a bit about this passage today.
…about how the enemy’s desire is for us to fall one way or another (either by presumptuously sinning in order to gain the attention of God or by elevating worldly riches and glory above God and, thereby, worshiping His enemy)
…about how sometimes it seems to me that God is absent from the wilderness, when in fact He has “led me up” by His Holy Spirit into the wilderness
…about how God wants me to wait for Him and not accept sinful alternatives
…about how the enemy can tempt us to perform religious deeds while in the wilderness in order for us to gain the attention of God, or prove our sonship to ourselves (or others)
…about how the enemy sought to replace God’s approval with the approval of men
And I thought about what our Lord’s outcome was…
1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.
After these literal “ups and downs,” the Lord is ministered to, and raises Himself and lowers Himself for others, teaching:
3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Those who are blessed aren’t those who take up into their own hands what is only God’s to handle and give, but those who know they have nothing in themselves – those who must wait upon God, who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and not temporal satisfaction.
To summarize all this, I learned something profoundly simple:
Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD! (Ps. 27:14)
God will bring me/you/us out of the wilderness in His own time.