The Temptations of Christ – Part 2.
In Part 1 of the Temptations of Christ, we discussed how Jesus went to fast to prepare for His temptations. We saw that He entered into those temptations strong even though His tempter perceived Him as weak. The first temptation was an attack on Jesus’s authority and an attack on His flesh.
The second temptation was once again an attack on His authority and his flesh! Again we see the ignorance of the tempter to know how Jesus had prepared. In Matthew 8:5-7 we can read the exchange:
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and 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 will command his angels concerning you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Notice something interesting in the second temptation. The tempter uses Scripture to try and convince Jesus. Playing this whole scenario in my mind, I often think that each of the temptations are increasingly bold and desperate. Does that makes sense? I mean, I think the tempter was SURE that his first temptation was his knockout punch. When Jesus shows unwavering strength, the tempter becomes more daring. He attacks the authority and flesh of Jesus on such a grander scale… I mean, how does one go from “Hey Jesus, just make yourself some bread” to “throw yourself off this building and your angels will save you”… such a dramatic turn!
Notice Jesus’s response. He immediately establishes where the authority belongs by quoting Deuteronomy 16:6.
6 You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.
Jesus using THIS scripture. Once again, it says SO much. So what happened at Massah? Let's read Exodus 17: 1 - 6
1 All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin by stages, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” 5 And the Lord said to Moses, “Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7And he called the name of the place Massaha and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
God has just rained mana from heaven in the previous chapter… seriously… food from the SKY!!! Now the people start worrying about water. At this point, we can’t assume that the people are thirsty, the text just says that where they arrived to camp and saw there were no streams or lakes and began fighting with Moses. They just saw this amazing miracle and now they are testing God!!!
Jesus is confronting the temper with this truth. He says to the tempter that He must not tempt the Lord your God. Jesus establishes a few things with the tempter… that the Lord of the Israelites is also the Lord to the tempter AND by inference to the specific passage He quotes that God had not brought Jesus to this place unprepared! Jesus was prepared and God had planned it!
I have always looked at these passages as a progression of difficulty, but after studying it a bit, I have realized that the progression becomes easier not more difficult for Jesus. After 40 days of not eating, I would have to believe the hardest thing to overcome would be the temptation to eat. Once Jesus had overcome this temptation, we can see how the tempter becomes more desperate using more grandeur! Each time, we see Jesus’ authority and resolve become MORE resolute!
As we are tempted, let us remember this. The initial temptations that come may seem the hardest to over come, but as we have learned from part 1, when we are prepared our perceived weakness will be strength. After that first hurdle, the grandeur of the next will seem ridiculous!
Hopefully going forward, each of these temptations Jesus experienced will show us that His resolve was not set in something that we are unable to access. It was set in Him listening to the Holy Spirit that led him into a time to prepare for His tempter…. so let’s prepare!