Temptation in the Desert

Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days to fast and be tempted by the devil.  After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.  And the tempter came and said, “If you are really the son of God, command these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written, man cannot live on bread alone, but by the word of God.”

The devil then took him to Jerusalem and set him down on the roof of the temple.  “If you’re really the son of God, jump.  Isn’t it written that the angels will not let you be hurt?”

Jesus replied, “Again it is written, you should not test God.”

Then the devil took him to a very high mountain.  He showed him the kingdoms of the earth and the glory of them, and he said, “Bow down and worship me, and all of this is yours.”

“Get away from me, Satan,” Jesus told him.  “It is also written that we worship God and God alone.”

At this, Satan left him, and the angels ministered to Jesus.

(Modern retelling of Matthew 4).

To me, this is a really powerful story, which is why I chose to write it out in its entirety first before analyzing the words.  So for this, I will break it down by each temptation.

Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days to fast and be tempted                                              by the devil.  After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.                                    And the tempter came and said, “If you are really the son of God, command                              these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written, man cannot live on bread alone, but by the                                  word of God.”

Okay, so my first question was–could he have survived in the desert without eating anything for forty days, or was the time frame exaggerated, or did he eat, but eat less in the way that we fast on Fridays during lent?   According to Lieberman (2004), this may be possible as long as he was still drinking water.  Individuals can survive up to 73 days without food depending on their metabolism, although individuals studied died anywhere after between 46 and 73 days without food.  In these cases, the individuals did drink water, and the variations depended on the body’s ability to regulate its own metabolism.  (Lieberman, 2004).

Okay, so we’ve established that Jesus may not have eaten at all, although he was drinking water, and here comes the devil when Jesus is in a weak moment, (but afterall, this is why he is there–he’s testing himself), and the devil taunts him, calling doubt to who Jesus is–“If you’re really the son of God….”  and then he commands him to change the stones into bread.  How often does this happen to us?  All the time.  The devil likes to kick people when they are down.  You’ve just found out that you’ve been asked off of a case you worked really hard on, and you feel that whisper in your mind, “Why not just give up?  Why not bend the rules a little, so this doesn’t happen again?”

How do we respond?  Do we quote the word and tell Satan to leave us alone?  Do we cry out to Jesus for help?  Do we dwell on it and let the wound fester?  or do we give in to temptation?

For me, I love it when Satan gets it into his head to try to tempt me, because for me, it a big neon sign to get out of my own head and to cry out to Jesus.  I’m not quick with the bible verses–it’s just not my go to, but reaching for my Savior?  You bet.   Satan’s attempts to gain are all within God’s purview, because he knows that they lead to his victory over Satan, not the other way around.  It’s funny how that works.

The devil then took him to Jerusalem and set him down on the roof                                              of the temple.  “If you’re really the son of God, jump.  Isn’t it written                                          that the angels will not let you be hurt?”

Jesus replied, “Again it is written, you should not test God.”

First, I’d like to point out the language I used for Satan here–it isn’t worded this way in the bible, but this is a good representation I think of what was going on there.  The bible uses all kinds of fancy language, but really, what Satan is telling Jesus to do is to jump.   Since Jesus quoted the bible against Satan, Satan is quoting it right back at Jesus as a way to mock him.   He’s also saying, ‘see, I know the bible, too.’  I suppose this is why I generally don’t bother with quoting the bible.  As you notice, it WAS NOT EFFECTIVE.  Jesus quoted the bible, but Satan kept coming.  Me, I’d rather just shut him up before he gets on a roll, but maybe that’s just me.

But anyway, Jesus’ response was that we shouldn’t test God.  To me, this lesson is so ingrained that it doesn’t even occur to me to test God, however, this was not the case when I was a child.  I was somewhere around the age of 10 or so, and I heard the gospel about how Jesus had walked on water, and then how Peter had walked on water as well, briefly.  So I got it into my head that I was going to run a test and see if I could walk on the water in my swimming pool.  Of course I took one step and sank, but then setting up an experiment is not exactly a show of faith.  There was absolutely no reason for me to need to walk on water in the middle of my backyard.  When Peter walked on water, he was facing a fear–his fear of the storm.  What did I have to be afraid of or overcome?  Would any good have come out of it?

Hmm, that’s debatable.  It would likely have drawn a spectacle that I was in no way ready for at ten, and although it could have brought people to God, I didn’t have the faith to make it happen.  See, I was testing God, not myself–it’s the same thing with the devil’s temptation.  If Jesus had given in and had jumped, he wouldn’t have  been jumping out of faith–it would have been a test, an experiment if you will, and what purpose would it have been for?  None.  Jesus would have shown himself unworthy to be our savior, which we all know he wasn’t.

Then the devil took him to a very high mountain.  He showed him                                                 the kingdoms of the earth and the glory of them, and he said, “Bow                                             down and worship me, and all of this is yours.”

“Get away from me, Satan,” Jesus told him.  “It is also written that                                                  we worship God and God alone.”

At this, Satan left him, and the angels ministered to Jesus.

Okay, so the first thing I notice about this passage is that Satan isn’t playing games anymore.  He’s tried manipulating Jesus by pushing his buttons–twice–and has been unsuccessful.  He’s out of patience.  He’s just going to lay it all out there.  He wants Jesus to follow him.   That’s what this has been all about from the beginning, and now, this is sort of his ‘Hail Mary’ pass so to speak.  ‘Worship me, and you will be rewarded’.  Now whether he is telling the truth or not here (he may not be) is irrelevant.  He wants Jesus to back down, so he’ll say whatever he needs to.  And now that Satan is being direct, Jesus is, too–“Get away from me, Satan.”  He quotes the word again, but he backs it up with his own command, his own authority, and Satan has no choice to obey.

Whenever we are tempted, we have that same authority.  We can say, “Get out of my head”, and whatever voice was telling us to do something or was messing with us has to leave.  We can cry out to Jesus, change our mindset from the problem, to our savior.

I’m going to close with a song from Casting Crowns that I think exemplifies this very well.  Pay attention especially to the second verse.

 

 

 

References.

Lieberson, A.D. (2004).  How long can a person survive without food?  Scientific American.  Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-long-can-a-person-sur/

Matthew 4.  (1901).  The American Standard Bible.  Retrieved from https://play.google.com/books/reader?printsec=frontcover&output=reader&id=ye11AQAAQBAJ&pg=GBS.PA72-IA440.w.1.0.204

 

 

 

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