“Jesus Overcame the Tempter for Us”
(Matthew 4:1-11 – Lent 1 – March 6, 2022)
Matthew 4:1-11 – 1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” 5Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 7Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’ ” 8Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” 10Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” 11Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
Dear Redeemed in Christ, who has won the victory for us over Satan:
In Genesis 3, we hear the account of the tragic fall of Adam and Eve into sin. God had made a perfect Garden for them to live in. He had provided every blessing of life they could ever wish for. God had given them just command: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). By obeying that Word of God, Adam and Eve would show their love for Him above all as their Creator and life Giver, and they would show their thankfulness for all that He had given. In this way, they would continue to live with God in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
But then there came the Tempter. The devil, an angel who had rebelled against God and been cast out of heaven, came tempting Adam and Eve. He could not bear to see them enjoying the blissful eternal life with God he had lost. Desiring that the perfect crown of God’s creation, human beings, should lose that perfect life and bliss and share in his eternal condemnation, Satan tempted them to eat the fruit of that forbidden tree, that they might know evil.
When Adam and Eve did, they lost everything; and not only them, but all their descendants who inherited the sinful nature of Adam. Romans 5:12 says: “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Now, just as it was impossible for Adam and Eve to go back and undo the temptation into which they had fallen and the sin they had committed, so it is impossible for us in our fallen nature to resist all temptation, to live in perfect obedience before God, and undo the wages of sin which is death.
But what we could not do to save ourselves, God Himself did. Immediately after the fall, He promised a Savior to Adam and Eve and all their descendants. One day, there would come the Seed of the woman, born in our human flesh, with almighty power to crush the head of Satan and redeem us from sin, death, and hell (Genesis 3:15).
In our text, we meet Him who came to conquer Satan for us – Jesus Christ, the Son of God in our flesh. During Lent, we especially focus on Jesus going to the cross to pay the wages of our sin. By His suffering and death, He won our forgiveness and saved us from death and hell. But the other part of His work was in fulfilling all righteousness for us. He kept every command God had given us, so His perfect life of obedience is counted to us. Today, as part of His perfect obedience to His Father as our Savior, we see how “Jesus Overcame the Tempter for Us.”
When Satan approached Jesus with his first temptation, Jesus was very hungry. He had gone without food forty days. It was a time of great weakness, and Satan intended to take advantage of this. He said: “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread” (vs. 3). Thus the Tempter cast doubt on Jesus’ status. If You are the Son and the Father really loves you, would He forbid you to eat what is good? If You are the Son, why not partake of that pleasure which is in Your power to obtain? Thus Jesus was tempted to doubt His Father’s love, to doubt that His Father would provide all He needed in the right way and at the right time. Jesus was tempted to take matters into His own hands apart from the will of His Father, and to sin.
In the Garden Eden, Satan’s first temptation had been similar, as he sowed seeds of doubt about God’s Word and His love to provide what was best. He confronted Eve with the question: “Has God indeed said…?” (Genesis 3:1). “Eve, if God really loved you, would He withhold that which looks so good? Why would He not want you to have this pleasure? Is there something He is hiding? Why not reach out and take what is in your power to have? Eat, and be satisfied!”
As children of Adam, how often have we fallen to such temptation? In His Word, God gives us His Commandments. He loves us and does not want us to partake of what He has forbidden, because it would not be good for us. Rather, He wants us to trust Him to provide every good thing in His own right way. But we still hear that whisper from the serpent: “Has God indeed said…?” The Tempter leads us to doubt God’s motives: “If you are a child of God and loved by Him, would He really withhold what you so badly want and need? Would He really be so cruel as to make you wait and go without? Why not reach out and take what is in your power to have? In many ways, we face that question and temptation: Why wait for your parents to change their silly rules? Follow your own path and find freedom! Why wait for God’s happiness in marriage? Do whatever makes you feel good! Why do things the hard way at work or school? You can get by with laziness and cheating. How many times have we avoided the hard way that requires obedience and trust in our heavenly Father’s provision? We have given in to the weakness of the flesh and followed Satan’s will. We have eaten the forbidden fruit, again and again.
But Jesus never did. He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He replied: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'” (vs. 4; Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus’ food was to do the will of His Father who sent Him (John 4:34). As part of winning our salvation, He overcame the Tempter by perfect obedience and trust in His Father to provide in the right way and time.
But the Tempter would not give up. He brought Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem and said: “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone'” (vs. 6). Satan knows the Scriptures. If Jesus was going to cite Scripture, so would he. He quotes Psalm 91, but twists its meaning. There, God encourages humble trust in His protection as we go about our godly duties, even as we are surrounded by evil and danger. But Satan tempts Jesus to reckless pride, to go outside of the duty His Father had given, and throw Himself into evil and danger by sin. If You are the Son, and the Father really loves you, would He really let you die if you threw yourself down? If you are the Son, go ahead and jump; You will prove Yourself, and You will gain the respect of those who are watching.
In the Garden of Eden, Satan’s temptation was similar. After casting doubt on God’s Word, he followed by contradicting God’s Word, to give a false feeling of safety in sinning: “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:2, 4). Eve, if God really loved you, would He put you to death, when you are just reaching out to take what will make you feel good, and what will make you wise? Go ahead and jump, be daring; sin boldly, and throw yourself on God to lift you up.”
Again, as children of Adam, how often have we fallen to such temptation? The father of lies still misuses Scripture, tempting us to false security by his lies and half-truths. We still hear that whisper from the serpent: “You will not surely die.” He tempts us to a path of evil and danger, as if to say: “As a child of God, I am safe. He will never let me fall. So what difference does it make if I hang out with bad company? My good character cannot be corrupted! What difference does it make if I abuse alcohol, drugs, gambling, or some other secret vice? No one will know, and with my willpower I cannot become addicted and enslaved! What difference does it make if I practice a lifestyle which God’s Word condemns? Doesn’t it also say He loves and forgives? As long as I call myself a Christian and say I am repentant, I cannot be in danger.” But God does not promise protection when we willfully go against His Word and test His grace. That is the proud and rebellious spirit of Satan, who was cast out of heaven. Too often, we have tested the limits and crossed the boundaries, and transgressed God’s Word.
But Jesus never did. For our salvation, He continued in perfect obedience to His Father and replied: “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God'” (vs. 7; Exodus 17:7). He would not take the gracious promise of God and use it to tempt or challenge Him by doing what His Word forbids. For every way we have tested the grace of God by a proud and reckless attitude, the Son of Man continued in humble obedience. When His Father’s time came, He would indeed give Himself over to danger and even death for our sake. But it would be in keeping with His calling as our Savior; it would be in selfless sacrifice to save us from our sin.
The Tempter was relentless. Now he made his grandest offer. He took Jesus up on an exceedingly high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Jesus: “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me” (vs. 9). The world was not the devil’s to give; it belonged to the very Son of God whom he was tempting, through whom all things had been made! What Satan offered was an empty promise: “Jesus, do You want the kingdom, the power, and the glory? You can have it all without going the way of the cross. Just a little act of idolatry, just a little service to me, and it is all yours!”
In the Garden of Eden, Satan’s temptation was similar. He promised our first parents a whole new undiscovered kingdom and glory, if they would but partake of that fruit: “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). Just a simple act, just a little service to me, a little bowing to my word, and you can have it all – wisdom, pleasure, becoming godlike, ruling your own destiny!
Again as children of Adam, how often have we fallen to such temptation? The serpent still whispers: “you will be like God.” The Tempter holds before us the idols of the world with empty of glory. “Why set your heart on an unseen Kingdom of God; enjoy your own kingdom now! Satisfy your soul in all the riches and pleasures you can experience now. Why follow Jesus in the narrow and difficult way of the cross? Join the broad and easy path of the world, and you will have its friendship and praise! Open your eyes to its new light of wisdom.” Too often, we have listened to the Tempter’s empty promises, only to find ourselves enslaved in sin.
But Jesus never did. In the face of the grandest offers of the Tempter, Jesus continued in perfect obedience to His Father. He replied: “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve'” (vs. 10; Deuteronomy 6:13}. In overcoming the Tempter for us, Jesus would never leave His Father’s will. He would walk in the path of obedience for us.
It concludes by saying: “Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (vs. 11). Jesus overcame the Tempter every time; and He did it all for us. He has undone the work of the devil to save us from sharing his condemnation. Jesus would go all the way to the cross for us, where the serpent would bruise His heel in His suffering; but Jesus would crush his head in His triumph. For not only did Jesus take away all our sins on the cross, He rose again as our living Redeemer.
Let us look to Jesus who was tempted in every way as we are, yet was without sin. Our great High Priest, who sacrificed Himself for us, has passed through the heavens where He pleads for us at the right hand of His Father. And as God looks at us through His Son, He declares us perfectly cleansed of all sin by His blood, and perfectly covered in His life of righteousness. And it is by that Word of God, the Word of Christ for us, that we overcome the Tempter.
Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.