Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Temptations of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11)

Here's what I learned from the account of the temptations of Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11:

The first temptation that Jesus faced was physical. He had fasted for forty days and forty nights and was undoubtedly hungry. The devil first appealed to his physical needs and desires by tempting Him to change stones into bread. Anyone who has fasted for even one day knows how appealing food is at the end of that day. Often we feel like getting something to eat is the most important thing we need to do at that point. But in this instance Jesus teaches us that our spirit takes precedence over our body at all times. Even in times of great physical hunger and need, it's more important to avoid spiritual starvation. Jesus could have easily produced bread from the stones but He chose to focus on the words of God and the strength that comes from them- a strength that lasts far longer than the short boost of energy that food would have given Him.

The second temptation He faced was pride and arrogance. Jesus was taken to the pinnacle of the temple, where the devil tempted Him to throw Himself down, to prove that God would save Him. The devil appealed to the very mortal feeling of knowing that you are so important that you can take chances and be risky and everything will still turn out all right. Jesus knew that Heavenly Father would save Him if He did cast Himself off the pinnacle of the temple, and for a human it might have been tempting to do it just to show the devil that he really was important enough for God to miraculously save, but Jesus taught that we shouldn't take chances by tempting God to save us from our own risky behavior. We need to show our faith through our positive actions, not by reckless shows of arrogance.

The third temptation was when the devil appealed to the mortal desire for power and control. He offered to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and the glory that came with them. To a mortal this offer would be hard to resist. Imagine having all that power and wealth! Some might even be tempted thinking of all the good they could do with it. But Jesus showed us that when that particular temptation comes the only correct response is to immediately shun it and turn our worship to God. We are to serve God and not our own egos or vain desires for power and wealth. We have to worry less about gaining the kingdoms of this world and focus more on building the kingdom of God.

If we follow Jesus' example during His temptations we will also be blessed as He was to have the devil leave us and to have angels minister to us. That doesn't mean that Satan will never come around again, but he will be powerless to continue tempting us at that point. And we may not recognize the angels sent to minister to us, unless we're looking for them, but God will send others to comfort us, teach us, and help us to continue standing strong against the temptations of the devil in our lives.

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