Temptation and Testing - Luke 4:1-15


At the baptism of Jesus, the Father proclaimed that Jesus was his “beloved son” with whom he was “well pleased.” The favor of God was further confirmed by the manifestation of the Holy Spirit resting on Jesus. After this event, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan. 

This passage of scripture is relevant to us today. We understand the feeling of temptation, and it is encouraging to know that Jesus understands how we feel when tempted.

Why would the Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness where he would be tempted? Was this some sort of setup? Could Jesus even be tempted? Our insight from this passage rests on two primary truths.

1.       Jesus is truly God AND truly man.
2.       God does not tempt.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” James 1:13 ESV

The time in the wilderness was an extended time of fasting and prayer. It was an intimate time where Jesus put aside the demands of his human nature to elevate his spiritual nature and grow in fellowship with, dependence upon, and obedience to God. It was at the end of this time that Satan chose to take advantage of physical weakness and hunger in an attempt to lure Jesus into sin.

Jesus as “The God Man”

Luke often refers to Jesus as the Son of God and the Son of Man. These interchangeable titles speak to the two complete natures that Jesus possessed. While Jesus possessed a fully divine nature, he chose to operate in this world from his fully human nature so that he could represent us. In his humanity, it’s theoretically possible that Jesus could have given in to temptation and moved outside the will of the Father. If that was not the case, it would not have been a true temptation. In his Spirit-powered humanity, however, Jesus did not sin.

Tempting vs. Testing

Interestingly the Greek word for tempt (peirazó) is the same as test. The difference lies in the context and the motivation. That which Satan employs as temptation meant for evil destruction, God may permit as a test for our good to purify and strengthen us (Gen. 50:20). Why the difference? God’s purpose is not to harm, but to prove. God already knows our weaknesses, but testing reveals the areas where we need to improve in our reliance upon Him. When we do rely upon God, his power is also revealed to others through us.

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” James 1:13 ESV

Satan is an Opportunist

This face-to-face assault by Satan was a unique event in history. It’s doubtful that God would ever permit Satan to attack us directly like this, but from Christ’s example, we can learn how to guard ourselves against temptation and how to respond in faith.

Ever since the encounter with Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden, the serpent continues to use a specific formula to tempt and deceive. He used a similar approach on Jesus, and he still uses the same combination against us today.

“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” 1 John 2:16 ESV

Our inclination to fall into temptation is not something God created in us, but it’s a consequence of disobedient and sinful hearts. If you live in the world, you are a sinner and you are vulnerable to three major areas: “desires of the flesh, desires of the eyes, and pride of life.”

First, Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones to bread to satisfy his fleshly hunger. Second, Satan showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world and offered them to him. Finally, He challenged Jesus’ identity and relationship with God tempting Jesus to prove himself.

Satan’s objective was to use one of these areas to break Jesus—the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:22, 45) – just like he did the first Adam (Gen 3:1-6). He offered an alternative to God’s will that would effectively disrupt this obedience and reliance on God and ultimately destroy whole redemption program.

Victory Over Temptation

Jesus gives us a perfect example of how to respond by faith to the lies and temptation of the evil one. Jesus used Scripture to refute the temptations of Satan, but his victory was not about his ability to recall Scripture and debate. His victory was established in demonstrating his obedience to the principles of the Scripture. Jesus trusted in God, submitted to God, and waited upon God…by faith. His faith was strong because of his relationship with the Father. Though the path ahead would be painful, Jesus trusted the Father’s plan and timing. It’s certainly tempting to take a short cut to try and speed up our journey or to avoid pain and suffering, but avoidance was not the main objective of Jesus. He was totally obedient to the will of the Father no matter the cost to himself, and he accomplished that obedience for our sake.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

Jesus didn’t have to endure temptation. In his divinity, he could have bypassed or even destroyed the tempter. But that was not God’s plan. It is a comfort to know that our savior has experienced temptation just as we have and was victorious in his humanity using all the same tools that he makes available to us.

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