“Lead Us Not into Temptation”
(Luke 4:1-13 – Lent 1 – March 10, 2019)
Luke 4:1-13 – Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'” Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'” Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'” Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.
Dear Redeemed in Christ Jesus:
“Lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13). We have prayed this 6th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer many times. In Luther’s Small Catechism we learn what the words mean:
“God certainly tempts no one to sin, but we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world and our own flesh may not deceive us nor lead us into misbelief, despair and other shameful sin and vice; and though we be thus tempted, that we may still in the end overcome and retain the victory.”
Being tempted in itself is not a sin. As long as we live this side of heaven, we are subject to the temptations of Satan, the evil world, and our sinful nature. Concerning temptation Luther said: “I cannot prevent the birds of the air from flying over my head, but I can stop them from building a nest in my hair.” As those baptized into Christ, living in repentance and faith in His salvation, we do not just want to give ourselves over to temptation and let sin reign in our lives; but God empowers us to overcome temptation with His Word and His Holy Spirit in us.
Here in our text, we see how bold Satan is, that he even dared approach the Son of God with his temptations and lies. Therefore, should we think we will be free from the same? But since Jesus taught us to pray “Lead Us Not into Temptation,” we can be sure He is here to deliver us: “though we be thus tempted, that we may still in the end overcome and retain the victory.”
1) The temptation to be filled with cares about the needs of life
Here we see that the first temptation to which Jesus was subjected – and which will be just as real in our lives – is the temptation to be filled with cares about the needs of life.
It says: “Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry. And the devil said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.'”
Jesus was coming from His baptism at the Jordan, where He had been anointed by the Spirit and power to carry out His work in saving the world from sin. Yet as the Son of Man, He came in humiliation and weakness. Note that Jesus answered temptation this way after fasting 40 days and 40 nights. The devil’s aim was to play on Jesus’ weakness, to get Him to doubt His heavenly Father’s provision of every need of body and life.
We too are God’s children, having been baptized into Christ and cleansed of all sin; and having been anointed by God’s Spirit as heirs of eternal life. As we pass through the wilderness of this world, we experience similar temptations. Though God has redeemed us by the blood of His Son and lavished eternal riches on us, and though He promises to provide all that we need in this world; yet how easily we are still tempted to be filled with cares about the needs of life.
It is not even that we come to a point of starving, or lacking clothing or shelter, like many in the world experience. Even in our times of plenty, Satan tempts us to discontentment and worry. We don’t have the latest luxury items that our neighbor has. We don’t have the biggest, the best, or the latest styles. So we feel we are missing out on life. “If you want to be happy, you’ve got to have it,” Satan says. Of course, he is trying to incite us to the sins of greed, pride, and love of riches. After all, by these he has led many a person to say: “Why do I need the Lord?”
Or maybe it is that we are struggling with health issues, shortage of funds, or some other need. In our time of weakness, we are tempted to question God’s goodness and wisdom in letting this happen. We are tempted to think that God is too distant to help, and that He is failing to provide our needs as He promises. Just as Jesus was tempted here, the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh lead us to believe that we cannot simply trust our gracious heavenly Father to provide, but that we must trust human resources – whether it be doctors and modern medicine, the government, or our own strength and merit. Again, Satan is trying to incite us to the sin of idolatry, leading us to put our ultimate trust in someone or something other than God.
Concerning daily needs of life, Jesus said: “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33).
How thankful we can be that Jesus, even in the hardest times, resisted all temptation for us. He could have followed Satan’s suggestion to forget His heavenly Father’s loving care and provide for Himself. But Jesus did not satisfy His needs in a greedy, proud, dishonest, idolatrous way, or any other sinful way. With perfect trust in His heavenly Father’s care, He answered: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ “
Though He was hungry and severely weakened in His human nature, our divine Savior answered temptation perfectly in our behalf – so that His sinless life is counted to us for righteousness. This is our Savior, who was on the way to the cross to offer His perfect life for all our sins – for our lack of trust in God, for our greed, for our idolatry of people and things. He would sacrifice His life and then rise again to give us His full forgiveness and eternal life.
For this reason, we have God’s promise and reassurance when it comes to the needs of life: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Let us cast all our cares of life on Him who loved us and gave His life, to give us eternal life as God’s children. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16).
As we focus on Christ and cling to His words of eternal life, He strengthens us to say: “Get behind Me, Satan!” For in Christ, we are loved and well cared for by our Father in heaven. Therefore “though we be thus tempted,” in Jesus’ name “we overcome and retain the victory.”
2) The temptation to seek glory apart from the way of the cross
But Jesus’ temptation did not stop there. Satan came with two more temptations that may be combined into one thought – the temptation to seek glory apart from the way of the cross.
It says: “Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.'”… Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'”
Jesus had replied to the first temptation with Scripture, so Satan decided to become pious, quoting God’s own Word. Satan knows Scripture. He can quote it better than we can. But the father of lies will not use Scripture rightly. Here he misapplies Psalm 91:11: “He shall give His angels charge over you”; but he leaves out significant words: “to keep you in all your ways.”
There are ways in this world God simply cannot bless, ways that go against His Word. He has promised to send His angels to protect us, but only in His way. The person who prays, “Lead us not into temptation,” but then goes where there will be temptation, and spends time with bad company that corrupts good character, deceives himself. Nowhere does God say we can test His protecting care by exposing ourselves recklessly to danger – whether it is physical danger, like throwing ourselves off a building, or driving while intoxicated; or whether it is spiritual danger, like throwing ourselves into a path of sin that God’s Word forbids.
Here, Satan insinuated that if Jesus just went His own way a little bit, apart from the path His Father sent Him to take, then He could be safe and relieve Himself of the difficult way of the cross. If Jesus would just make a little concession over God’s Word of truth in Scripture, and for a moment bow to the father of lies, then all the earth’s glory could be His. If Jesus would just throw Himself down from the temple, without any hurt to Himself, then He would be hailed by the people as the Messiah – the King of the world. Then He could avoid the courts of Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate. He could avoid the shame and the suffering of the cross.
We are tempted in a similar way. How often we have listened to the voice of Satan, the world, and our flesh, instead of God’s Word alone. At times, we have been willing to make concessions with God’s Word and the way He has marked out for us, in order to win worldly glory and praise of men. We have not always been ready to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus. When God has laid upon us some trial, cross, and cup of suffering to test and strengthen our faith, we have not always shown perfect trust that prays: “Thy will be done.”
This is why we can be thankful that, in every way we have failed in time of temptation, Jesus made up for it by His perfect obedience for our righteousness, and His perfect suffering for our forgiveness. Jesus would not tempt God by a wreckless and sinful path. Jesus would worship no other. He would do His Father’s will alone. He would bring glory to His Father by praying: “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). According to the will of His Father, Jesus took the way of the cross for us.
Because Christ suffered for our salvation, we can be confident in our times of temptation and the cross. He who gave His precious life to save us cannot possibly forsake us in our need. Even when we bear a cross, we can cling to His Word of promise and know that He is working out His loving purpose in our lives. As we fix our eyes on Jesus, strengthened by His Word and the Holy Spirit, He empowers us to say: “Get behind Me, Satan!” In Jesus’ name Satan must flee. So our gracious God and Savior provides our way out of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13); and He gives us times of refreshing, so that we may sing:
Why should cross and trial grieve me?
Christ is near With His cheer;
Never will He leave me.
Who can rob me of the heaven
That God’s Son
For my own
To my faith hath given?
Let us pray as Jesus taught, “Lead us not into temptation,” knowing He is with us and for us. In His strength and salvation, we shall overcome and retain the victory in eternal glory! Amen.