Why would an absolutely beautiful––loving, kind, gentle, merciful––God set Jesus up to be tempted by the devil? And why would the Holy Spirit lead Jesus into the wilderness, and leave Him there for 40 days without food, and in the company of the devil?
Today the Holy Spirit makes sense of these questions for us, and reveals the beauty and goodness of God that is in this story. You will never see this time in Jesus’ life the same again. And this revelation will change your relationship with Jesus forever. This is Part 2 of the story we began last week.
You can find the transcript of this at https://gailruth.com/spoken-word/temptation-of-jesus-part-2
I encourage you to study these things for yourself this week. These are the Scriptures dealing with parts of the story I told:
Matthew 3:13 through 4:11
And these are the Scriptures I quoted from in the video:
The Greek definitions were from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance and HELPS Word-Studies.
God, the Creator––Father, Son, and Holy Spirit––is absolutely beautiful and absolutely good. Filled with peace, gentleness, and mercy beyond measure.
Hi, I’m Gail Ruth, and today the Holy Spirit once again wants to reveal the beauty and goodness of God to us through a story. And this story could profoundly change your relationship with Jesus. Today I’m telling Part 2 of our story, this time from the Scripture of Luke 4, “And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Being forty days tempted of the devil.”
I’ll start by recapping the end of last week’s story. Jesus had been baptized by John the Baptist, and there the Holy Spirit had come down upon Him from heaven and filled Him with His presence. And this is where FatherGod had spoken into the earth for all the spirit realm to hear that this was His beloved Son. And that’s when the devil learned that its ancient enemy, the Son of God, had escaped the slaughter in Bethlehem and was still alive on the earth. And so it set out with its well-prepared Plan B––to try in a different way to take down the Son of God, and with Him, God’s redemptive plan for humanity.
Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit, who had also prepared for this day, quickly led Jesus into the wilderness, and into that special place there that had been prepared and made ready for Him with everything Jesus would need for this time. And here, this long-foreseen, cosmic battle would begin.
And now Part 2 of this story.
The devil found Him there in that place in the wilderness. Its plan this time was to use temptation, and turn Jesus toward darkness. Just one little choice––one little step by Jesus toward the dark side, and God’s redemptive plan for humanity would crumble. This was deadly serious. Everything was at stake here. This enemy knew it had to take out the Son of God. And the Son of God knew He had to prevail over the enemy.
The battle began. The devil was the aggressor. And for 40 long days, it tempted Jesus with one well-crafted temptation at a time––one after the other after another.
Praises to God that the Holy Spirit was there to help Jesus. And with His mighty working power, the Spirit strengthened Him, comforted Him, spoke into His mind and into His heart, gave Him supernatural hope. For this was not an easy thing––even for the Son of God.
Because temptations, by their very nature, are compelling, and have a dark spiritual power feeding them. And so for Jesus to have been truly tempted by these things, He had to have experienced a powerful inner draw to each of them. Or they would not have been actual temptations.
The Scriptures explain the dynamics of temptation. We learn there that the spiritual power of it lies within the dark desires within each of us. For James the Elder teaches us that. “…every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14).
But this raises questions, because Jesus didn’t have any of this darkness in Him. For although He was fully human, He was also fully God. During His sojourn here, He may have left His glory behind in heaven, but because He was also fully God, He had none of these dark desires in Him. And thus the question: if He didn’t have any of these in Him to rise up and entice Him, how could He be tempted?
But the devil had devised a way. This Prince of demons itself would personally inflict these desires into Jesus. And he did. These were foreign, strange desires to Jesus. But He found Himself thinking them in His mind, and feeling them in His emotions––even in His body, as if they were His own. And they drew Him and pulled on Him. He’d seen people struggle with temptation before, but for the first time, He was feeling them Himself.
The Scriptures say that Jesus “was in all points tempted like as we are” (from Hebrews 4″15). Which means that one at a time, the devil inflicted into Jesus every single kind of temptation that any human being had ever suffered.
And the word “suffering” fits the experience of being tempted, at least when we are resisting it. In fact, the Scriptures use that word for this. They tell us that Jesus “suffered being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). That word is translated from a Greek word that means, “to experience a sensation or impression (usually painful)”. Another scholarly source says that this word is “‘to experience feeling’ … strong emotion, passion, or suffering”.
This evil being would have carefully set up each temptation, providing scene and context and mood––plus everything Jesus would have needed to fulfill each of these desires on the spot. Just like it did in the final two temptations recorded in the Scriptures, when it took Jesus to a high mountain, and then to the pinnacle of the temple––so that Jesus would have the opportunity to immediately act on the desires afflicting Him.
Jesus could feel these temptations trying to veer Him off God’s beautiful, blessed path––the only path He had ever walked. These desires were offering Him gratifications He would only find outside of God’s Kingdom. Sometimes the temptation would make this seem more desirable than anything within God’s beautiful Kingdom. Other times the temptation would justify itself as a reasonable course of action, or validate it as something any sensible person would do. And these dark hungers were pulling on His emotions, pulling on His mind, pulling on His body, tormenting Him. And calling Him to give in––not just to get the promised satisfaction, but even just for the relief of not fighting these desires any longer. And you know the devil would have milked each one for all the intensity it could get out of it.
And each time, when the devil would deliver a dark desire into Jesus, it would stand back, gloating as Jesus struggled, confident in knowing that with this one, Jesus would certainly fall. And it, in all its evil, would the one left standing. And it would win in its battle against God, and keep its place as Master of the earth.
If Jesus had simply chased the enemy off, which He might have been able to do, nothing good would have come of it. The devil’s defeat in this could only come through exhausting its arsenal of temptations, and utterly failing in its attempts to corrupt Jesus. And so Jesus endured.
How did He win through these temptations? We’ll look at a bigger picture of this next week. But quite simply, Jesus used the Scriptures, the Word of God. And as each temptation came, Jesus would speak from His beloved Scriptures. And this Word of God would cut like a supernatural sword through the mirage of desire––through all the justifying and rationalizing, and reveal the ugliness and death that lay in wait on that path. And doing this day after day after day, one temptation at a time, week after week, He worked His way through each and every kind of temptation that had ever plagued humanity. And Jesus exposed every dark desire for what it was––using a fitting, beloved Word of God. And so He endured, without stepping toward darkness even once.
I can only imagine. He must have cried out time and time again over the weeks, “Oh dear Father God, is this what people have to suffer? Is this what our creation has to bear up under? Is this what they have to go through?” And it broke His heart for us. And from that time forth, His compassion for us in our struggles would never ever fail.
The Scriptures say, “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour [which means to help, or relieve] them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).
And all this went on and on. And on the 40th day––it must have seemed like an eternity–– the devil, in its desperation, unleashed a crescendo of temptations customized particularly for the Son of God Himself. And Jesus still stood, still strong in faith, still skillfully wielding with His mouth the Word of God that was in His heart, slashing into pieces even these temptations.
Until at last the devil played its final card, and was spent. It withdrew, defeated, and went off to brood––and to set up its next strategy for a later season, when it would try in a different way to take down the Son of God and abort His mission.
Immediately, Father God lovingly sent angels to minister to His beloved Son and recover Him from the battle that He had just won against evil––a battle the likes of which had never before been seen on the earth.
Now listen closely. This is for you. Even today, Jesus remembers each and every temptation that He suffered. He remembers what it felt like. Exactly like you’ve been suffering.
And He remembers how He made it through each of the temptations. This means that you don’t have to fight it alone. Jesus knows how to help you. He blazed the path of victory for you.
He is there, ready to help you as you struggle, or even if you fall in your fight to resist. And He won’t get tired of you, no matter how long your struggles last or how many times you fall. His compassion for you will never ever fail.