Jesus on Trial, pt.1

I have never been accused of something so that I had to go to court and appear before a judge. I’ve never served on a jury in court. In fact, the closest thing I’ve come is when I was summoned for jury duty near Christmas one year and was not waiting more than 20 minutes when they announced we could go home, have a merry Christmas. As we turn our attention to Luke 23, Jesus, who has been convicted by the Sanhedrin for blasphemy, is brought to trial before Pilate (v.1-5). Who is Pilate? He is Pontius Pilate, a Roman kinght and procurator of Judea (one who collects revenue) who held this office from 28-36 AD. In 36 AD he was removed from office in disgrace, the Emperor entirely unhappy with Pilate’s rule.

Jesus was convicted of blasphemy, however, blasphemy is not a charge serious enough to warrant death under Roman law. Hence, the Jews bring Jesus to Pilate with three different charges. They call Jesus “this man,” further pointing to the contempt with which they view Jesus. They claim:

1. Jesus is misleading (or perverting) our (the Jews) nation. In other words, they charge Jesus with leading the whole nation of Israel from the kind of behavior the Romans demand under pax romano. The idea is that Jesus has been inciting the people to riot and rise up against the Roman government.

2. Jesus is forbidding the Jews to give tribute to Caesar. Tribute is taxes. So Pilate, being the revenue collector of Judea, would have heard this charge. However, as Adam Clarke puts it, “These were the falsest slanders that could be invented.” Indeed, just days before in the life of Jesus He had confounded perhaps the same chief priests and scribes when He, looking upon a denarius, had proclaimed “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Luke 20.25).  Since the money had Caesar’s face on it, it must His. Further, in the life of Jesus, as recorded by Matthew a former tax-collector, we see Jesus paying the temple tax (Matt 17.24-27). Albeit, taxes to Caesar may be another thing, the fact stands that Jesus paid His taxes and taught others to do the same both in word and deed.

3. Jesus is calling Himself Christ the king. Couched in this, though tangled a bit, is the blasphemy charge the Sanhedrin has convicted Jesus of in 22.66-71. But they have cunningly worded it so as to make sound as though Jesus is an insurrectionist. While the charge may be true, it is false in the way they meant it. Jesus Himself says elsewhere that He is king of a kingdom “not of this world” (John 18.36). The Sanhedrin, though, wants to and does set Jesus up as a rival of Caesar’s earthly throne. Pilate would understand that is their meaning when they call Christ “king.”

Pilate privately questions Jesus about His kingship. For more on this, you can read John’s account of the lengthy discussion between Jesus and Pilate (John 18.33-38). Luke only records one question Pilate asks Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answers, “You have said so.” Again, as seen in 22.70, this is not Jesus giving what some term “reluctant assent.” Jesus is not saying, “Well, that’s what you say or think” or “Those are your words not mine.” This was a rabbinic way of affirming what someone has spoken. This is not a “reluctant assent” but a “real affirmative.” It is in essence a “Yes” answer. And in John’s extended account, we see exactly what Jesus means in it.

Pilate comes out of this private meeting with Jesus and announces for everyone to hear (“crowds,” v.4), “I find no guilt in this man.” Pilate is not dummy; he can see through the malice and hatred of the Jews that there is no capital charge that would warrant Jesus’ presence before him. Indeed, the word used for “guilt” or “cause” is a word which means the author or one responsible for a particular thing. Pilate knows Jesus is not the cause of this ruckus but the Sanhedrin have orchestrated this whole ordeal.

But the Sanhedrin is relentless and presses the issue, adding strength and vehemence to it. They keep after Pilate about Jesus stirring up the people all over Judea, “from Galilee even.” Galilee seems to strike a note with Pilate and sees a possible way of escape. He asks if Jesus is from Galilee which He is. Therefore, he is under Herod Antipas’s jurisdiction and must be heard by him. Perhaps to get these Jews out of his hair or to pay some kind of tribute to Herod, Pilate dismisses the group to go see Herod, who is in Jerusalem at this time.

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

When I read this section of Luke (22.1-6), I think of the song “Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)” because that really is what Judas is doing. Actually, I suppoose we could call them “devilish deeds” based on what Luke says in v.3 (“Satan entered Judas”) and, relatively speaking, he did these deeds “dirt cheap.” At the same time, we now descend into the darkness, the darkest part of the life of Christ. Events will put certain things in motion which will lead to the arrest, trial, and execution of Jesus in under 24 hours. The first of these events is Judas’ betrayal.

The Avidity to Kill Jesus

In verses 1-2 we see the great desire of Jesus opponents to kill Jesus. Luke puts his historical touch on this by noting that the Feast of Unleavened Bread was drawing near. This puts this in an historical context, in real space-time. Indeed, Jesus was a real man who really died in human history. He was not a myth nor a legend. Luke further note this is called the Passover also. Intended for Greeks who perhaps were unfamiliar with all the Jewish customs, Luke adds this note. Strictly speaking, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover were distinct from each other, nevertheless they were regarded as one celebration. We note the Passover, the commemoration of what God did for Israel in bringing them out Egypt (Exodus 12) when he slew the firstborn child of all in Egypt but passed over the people of Israel who had the blood on the doorpost. Indeed, Christ is our Passover lamb (1 Cor 5.7) and those covered in the blood are passed over, free from the full wrath of God.

It was at this time, roughly corresponding to March in our calendar year, that the chief priest and scirbes were seeking and desiring to put Jesus to death, whether by legal or quasi-legal procedures. As the narrative unfolds, we will see they pursue the latter. While the Pharisees and Sadducees were some of Jesus stiffest opposition, it is the chief priests who hold the political power to actually pursue execution of Jesus. Hence, they, with the scribes, take the lead. But there was one hiccup in the road: the people. These powerful men were truly powerless because of the people. What could they do?

The Agreement to Kill Jesus

Enter Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve who followed Jesus. He was the son of Simon of Iscariot (see John 6.71; 13.26). The term Iscariot is often used to distinguish between this Judas and another Judas in the company of apostles (see Luke 6.16; John 14.22) and points to his hometown of Keriot in southern Judah. An interesting note is that Judas was the only apostle who was not from Galilee. By some accounts, Judas was an important disciple: he had control over the money and seemed to be near Jesus at the last supper since Jesus was able to give him the morsel (John 13.26). It is this man who betrays the Lord. The enormity of the betrayal is seen in the language of Luke when saying he was “one of the twelve.”

Judas comes to the enemies of Jesus and discusses with them what is to be done and how Judas might betray Jesus to them. Luke only tells us that there were “officers” present. These were the commanders of the temple guard, no doubt acting as body guards for these high priestly men. Imagine their joy (v.5) when we finally reach an agreement. How exactly it went down and what exactly the discussion consisted of is not known. But there was some talk, some negotiation about price and deliverance of Jesus to them. But finally an agreement is reached and Judas casts his lot in with these men and their wicked work. And now all they have to do is wait. Wait for the right moment when Jesus is alone, by Himself, away from the people.

I know what your asking yourself.  Its the same I rack my brain over. Why? Why did he do it? Again, by accounts he was a disciple of position and promise, good with money, perhaps a leader. The ideas abound. Some say Judas was disappointed with what Jesus was doing. After all it was Judas who raised his voice over the anointing of Jesus (John 12.4). Disappointment that the grand vision of the kingdom perhaps drove him to it. Of course, if we stay in that account in John 12, we see Judas was a thief. Maybe he was just a bad guy who was tired of the lack of cash flow coming in. Still others try to paint a different light on Judas and say he was merely trying to get to exert His power and hasten the coming of the kingdom. Maybe if he pressed Him, Jesus would finally start acting like the Messiah the Jews had hoped for. Still others have suggested that perhaps Judas, for whatever reason, began to doubt that Jesus was truly the Messiah. Perhaps Judas thought Jesus was a false Messiah and the true Messiah was yet to come. Still others say Judas was tired of Jesus indifference to the law and His association with “sinners” and His violation of the Sabbath. There are even those who say Judas was the hero of this whole ordeal and merely doing what Jesus had talked him into. Again, I say, speculation abounds.

What’s the reality? The reality is Scripture is relatively silent on the exact motive of why Judas did it. Luke says Satan entered him. The prince of the powers of darkness was able to sway Judas to his camp and use him to “guide” (Acts 1.16) these enemies of Jesus to Him. The Pulpit Commentary says, “For one to whom such splendid chances were offered to fall so low, is an awful mystery.” Perhaps the greater question is did Jesus know? Jesus was the one who look into the hearts of men. Did He know that Judas was or would be a thief, take a bribe, turn out to be a betrayer? Did He know and still call Judas to “follow me”? Set before Judas (and indeed us) are the paths of life and death, sin and fellowship with the Creator. And he chose the wrong path. It is vivid and terrible example of the fundamental choice men and women have before them.

The Blind Man from Jericho

I know sign language and have a couple of deaf friends. I have sometimes wondered what it would be like if I were deaf. I could probably manage but it would be a radical change, especially since I have been able to hear all my life. But blindness…blindness scares me. Even when I have to wear a blindfold for a game or something, I don’t like it. The ability to see is such a precious gift that we too often take for granted. Imagine you have spent your whole life is darkness. By the time you are grown, it is business as usual; you are blind and that is your life. In Luke 18.35, we find a man in just such a circumstance. He has probably been blind since birth. His world is darkness. There aren’t many jobs a blind man can do so he is forced to beg. And he lives in Jericho…one of the towns Jesus of Nazareth is passing through on his way to Jerusalem.

The sightless one

Matthew’s gospel tells us there were two men (Matthew 20.29-30). Mark gives us a name: Bartimaeus (Mark 10.46). There are any number of explanations for hamonizing this and you, O constant reader, can judge which is best. But here is a blind man, on the side of the road, begging. Get that: he was begging. He was asking for something, anything to sustain him for the day. And now here is a chance to hit the jackpot – a crowd. He can practically hear the Roman currency bouncing in their coin purses. But its strange…there is a lot of commotion from crowd; so much in fact this man has to inquire (and the Greek implies he kept on asking) as to what was going on. He is told, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

It is interesting to note that the God we serve is a God who “passes by.” In Genesis 18.3-5 when God makes covenant with Abraham, Abraham asks God “do not pass by me.” In Job 9.10, Job in his affliction says the one who made the Pleiades and Orion is the one who “passes by me.” In Exodus 33.17-22, God, revealing his glory to Moses in the mountain, passes by the cleft of the rock. And here in Luke 18.37 Jesus is taking up that mantle as the God who passes by. Not wanting Jesus to get away without making his request, the blind man cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Notice, this is not just Jesus of Nazareth, but this blind identifies him as the one who was to sit on David’s throne and reign. He is the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. And certainly, as Messiah, Jesus can show him mercy.

Note the criticism of the people. Luke says specifically that they were the people “in front.” The vanguard of the crowd had made to where this blind beggar was and they chided him for his audacity. It may have been for his appeal to Jesus Messiahship they chided him. Probably, though, they were much like the disciples with the little children; the master is too busy for a blind beggar. But this man, it would seem, knows that if anyone can help him even regain his sight, it is Jesus the Christ. So he begins to cry out even louder, perhaps even shrieking at the top of his lungs, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Nothing will hinder him from seeing Jesus (pun intended).

The Sovereign One

If ever there was a man of mercy, it was Jesus. He is our model of mercy. And the God who passes by, when he hears the frantic cry of one of his children, stopped (v.40) and commanded that the man be brought forward. The blind man (probably led by the hand) came near. I think of James 4.8a which says “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (ESV). What a picture here is painted of us, blinded by our sin and begging for mercy, draw near even as this blind beggar did and finding mercy incarnate. Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” (v.41). Ever a servant, Jesus stood ready to do what they man, full of faith, desires of him. “Lord,” says the blind man, still appealing to his authority and sovereignty even over blindness, “let me recover my sight.”

You see the faith required for healing in the blind beggar. If he had faith but had not caused a ruckus, would he have been healed? If he had faith, but would not cry out to the one who could save him, there could have been no healing. No, the faith necessary for healing was a faith that acted. As James says, “Faith without action is dead.” He cried out and came near and thus Jesus speaks to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” There was absolutely nothing the blind beggar could to fix his condition, but when he cried out with faith to the Sovereign One with power to heal, he “immediately” could see the face of the Lord. He then became a disciple, a follower and glorified God, unable to remain quite about the great miracle that had been worked by Jesus. But this led to others who saw what had happened also praising God.

“I once was lost but now am found – Was blind, but now I see.Amazing Grace, John Newton, 1779

Mistaken Identity

Since moving to Peoria, Kim and I have been working hard to connect faces and names. For the most part we are doing pretty good – we know most of the people and have either had them in our house or have been in theirs. People loves and we them. However, there are some names and faces that we just cannot make stick. For example, there is a young couple (whom I will leave nameless not because I can’t remember their name but for privacy) which it took several weeks for us to finally get their names to stick. It is just one of those things…

The worst is when you think you have someones name but it is the wrong name and you call them by that name you think you know. Color me embarassed. There is the briefest of awkward moments before I say, “Yeah, so about that thing,” and try my hardest to move on.

This is sort of the thing that was happening in Jesus day with him: people, for one reason or another, we confusing him with all sorts of people – the disciples tell us that people thought Jesus was John the baptist, Elijah, even one of the prophets of old. Some people just could not get it right. So Jesus, in Luke 9.18-27, is going to set the record straight.

Question 1: What about the crowds?

Luke tells us Jesus is in a private place praying. Lots of emphasis on prayer in Luke. Sometime go through and study this great theme and see what it says about Jesus, his life, and prayer. He is praying, his disciples are with him, and he asks them a question: “Who do the crods say I am?” A simple question – I mean everyone knows Jesus; he is the great miracle worker, the healer, the awesome teacher, everyone loves him. But the answer given is not as easy as it should be. Everyone is confused about the character of Jesus. No one is identifying him for who he is, the Messiah, the Anointed one of God, the Son of God. In fact, he is every other great prophet except the prophet he really is.

Question 2: What about the disciples?

Ok. So everyone else has it mixed up, but certainly those men who are around him 24/7, in ministry with him, have seen the miracles…surely they know. Peter speaks up and hits the nail on the head: “The Christ of God.” And for the moment they have it. They know who they are dealing with, the one who was promised and will bring Israel back into prominience. Such great news cannot be kept to oneself , right? Well, Jesus tells them not to tell. The text says he “strictly warned them not to tell this.” And we scratch our heads and say “Why not?” I think the answer is very simple: to avoid further misunderstanding. The crowds have got it wrong thus far, why add this to the mix to further confuse them. At the present time, the crowds could not handle it and (as will be seen later) neither could the disciples. However, there is coming a time when the people will be ready and the apostolic band will give them all they want concerning the Messiah.

Question 3: What about the Son of Man?

So now that the disciples have this truth in hand, what about Jesus? Does he understand all this stuff about the Christ? He does, he knows his mission and seeks to do the will of God. But to the ears of the disciples,it sounds as if Jesus do not know what he is talking about. The Messiah did not come to die, but to lead Israel back to preeminence. Right? Not exactly. In fact, the disciples had it so wrong with their ideas of the Messiah that Peter, in the parallel accounts, takes Jesus aside and rebukes him. “Don’t talk that kind of talk, Jesus.” This results in Peter being equated to Satan (cf. Matt 16.22-23). So to the Jewish, what Jesus speaks in Luke 8.22 is down-right silly. This is not the Messiah they sought. This, though, is the mission of Jesus, the Son of God. He is to die a gruesome death at the hands of Israel’s leaders according to the plan of God.

Question 4: What about us?

In Luke 8.23-27, Jesus lays it out there as far as the identity of a disciple. This is what is called by some “the rugged plain of reality.” Christianity is not for the faint-hearted nor the lightweights. Jesus commands a kind of faithfulness many refused to live (cf. John 6.66). The reason it is so difficult is because of what it entails. Jesus calls for a daily death of self. Daily we put the cross upon back. Daily we walk where divine feet trod. Daily we follow Jesus to Golgotha. Daily we crucify the old self. We deny ourself, just as the Master has taught us to through his example. It is only through the denial and death of self that we can truly find unity with Christ. That’s not Nick talking; that’s not man-made doctrine. That is just what Jesus said. That is what the whole business of saving and losing your life is about. Only Jesus can save your life. If you try to do it yourself, it will slip through your fingers like a handful of sand.

Tell us, O lifesaver. Explain to the Lord, once you have gained the whole world at the cost of your soul, what will you give to get it back. Half the world. All of it! No, you cannot buy back your life once it is lost. When a disciple gives up all for Christ, he enters life that is life more abundant. It is this life that we share with others. For it is not enough to hord unto ourselves this abundant life; we must share it with others and that boldy, lest we be found “ashamed” of Jesus and his words. What a said thing it would be to stand outside the gates of heaven and learn that your were nothing but a coward for Christ.

The disciple who lives a life to God and not unto himself is a member of the King’s house. You are brought of the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son, Jesus. It was this kingdom that was ushered in by Jesus when he poured forth the Spirit which the Father had given onto the disciples. They proclaimed this kingdom and preached this very same unity with Christ with a death to self (cf. Rom 6). The reason the death to self is so important is because of what it means. The old self is a slave to sin and unrighteousness. But “anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” No longer does death, sin, Satan have mastery or dominion over you. Instead you are a slave to righteousness, seeking the godly and good and denying self all for the blessing of God to rest upon you.

Greater than John

I can remember as a boy wanting a Robocop outfit. Complete with the Robocop gun and mask, it was every young boy needed in order to combat the bad guys. So that was what I asked Santa Clause for Christmas: a Robocop kit, with mask and gun. Christmas day finally rolled around and excitedly I ripped through the gifts until I got to one that was rather square and was just the right size that a Robocop kit would be. I tore it open and there it was. With great joy I remarked, “Wow, Santa Clause really did get it for me!”

Looking back, I can remember that it wasn’t really a genuine Robocop outfit; it was the generic kind but kids don’t really notice that. What mattered to me was that I got what I had for so long asked for (at least to a kid Christmas takes forever to finally arrive). That is kind of what we find in Luke 7.18-35. For so long, Israel has been asking for their Messiah. Indeed, John the Baptist, who is locked away in prison (see 3.20), has preached the good news that the time for the Messiah is upon the people.

However, when Christmas day arrives and when they open their package from heaven, they sort of stare at it with confusion. And perhaps the disciples of John if not John himself are asking whether or not they have received a ‘generic’ Messiah instead of the real deal. Therefore, it seems necessary for John to send some messangers to Jesus , the so called Messiah, to see if indeed he is the real deal.

The Request of John

We can only assume that John was an honest doubter. It is he who calls his two messangers together and gives them the message. But certainly his opinion could have been swayed by the reports he had been hearing and perhaps some commentary from those who brought the message. “He’s not doing what we think the Messiah should be doing, John.” “Are you sure this is the right guy, John?” Thus, he sends messanger to ask in what one commentator calls “a vague messianic expression” whether Jesus is the one who was to be sent. If not, are we to expect the “name brand” Messiah at some later time?

The Reply of Jesus

Jesus does not become angry, at least there is no appearance of anger in his reply or the text. What we are seeing, then, is a Lord who is gentle with those who doubt and ask questions. He doesn’t say, “Well, if he wasn’t sure, why did he even preach about me being the Messiah. He shouldn’t have done that if he wasn’t sure.” Instead, we find Jesus very gently giving John the proof he needed in order to come to his conclusion. And certainly, John being familiar with Old Testament prophecies, would readily recognize that Jesus is in essence quoting from the Old Testment in order to say one thing: I am the Christ. All the miraculous signs Jesus is performing are evidence that Jesus is who John said he is.

The praise for John. Once the messangers leave, Jesus breaks forth in praise for John. John was not a reed shaken in the wind; instead he was a pillar who stood for truth and a preacher committed to righteousness. He was not a man dressed in ‘soft clothes;’ he was a man who was rugged and did not indulge the sinful nature. John was a prophet in the truest sense of the word. He spoke the word of God by the power of God for the glory of God. He was the fulfillment of prophetic mandate. But even in this exalted position, “the greatest among men,” there is a position which is far greater and that is “least in the kingdom.” Certainly following John was good and important, but of even greater importance is living in the kingdom. Jesus is putting the kingdom in perspective: it is the most important thing man can ever attain to. Certainly John the Baptist did the same thing when he uttered the words, “He must increase, I must decrease.” Therefore, pursue entrance into the kingdom. John fulfilled his role and function in prepare the way for the King. But now that the king is here, he inaugrates something greater for man.

The People and John. John came preaching the kingdom. It was the best news Jews who have been waiting for the kingdom of God could ever hear. It is the still the greatest news ever to fall on sinful ears. Therefore, the purpose of God was fulfilled in some people. The “acknowledged God’s way was right” and were baptized with John’s baptism. However, there were a group of people who refused God’s purpose for their lives. Note that, God’s purpose for a person can be rejected. This utterly smashes to peices the idea of predestination. Certain men are not born simply to stoke the fires of hell. God has a purpose for them and that is salvation. “He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance and knowledge of the truth.” The Pharisees characterize people who refuse to be obedient to God and therefore reject God’s purpose for them and stand condemned, not because God made that way, but based on their freewill decision to not accept the free gift of life.

The Prejudice against John. Not only did they refuse God but they cast off His prophet, John. And not only did they refuse to join in the dance, but when weeping broke out they refused that as well (v.32b). Be it John coming in utter poverty and deprivation or Jesus coming and eating with tax collectors and ‘sinners,’ these self-righteous men will not join either. However, the wise man can the see the wisdom of God in both the actions of John and Jesus. God’s way is always right and those who are truly wise will pronounce it to men who will accept it.

We always want to avoid becoming like the Pharisees. I don’t think there are many more sadder statements than v.30. God’s had a purpose for his people, but because of their “stiff-necks” and their “sinful, unbelieving hearts,” they refused it. But also we should walk away knowing that we serve the true Messiah. Jesus was the one to come “once for all” and by acknowledging this truth, we are not only children of the King, but we are children of wisdom, proving right the judgments of God. Finally, we should also acknowledge our lofty position and “take heed, lest we fall.” There is always the danger of rejecting the purpose of God. We can fall away into apostacy and must always be cautious of our walk with God. We hold the greatst position men could ever hold for we stand in the kingdom of God. We are sitting at the banquet of the King, enjoying the riches of his blessings in the heavenly realms.

Note: The above outline was adapted from The Outline Bible.

The Temptation of Christ

As we broach Luke 4, we should not forget what has just happened in the life of Jesus. He has just visited the Jordan river (hence, 4.1 – “he reutrned from the Jordan”) where the Baptist baptizes him. He has had the endorsement of heaven as the Spirit descends upon him and the Father pronounces that “this (Jesus) is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” And now, filled with the Spirit (more of the Spirit theme in Luke), he is led into the wilderness (see Matt 4.1, cf. Mark 1.12). Riding on what would seem to be a spiritual high, the roller coaster now crests the peak and we head downward into the realm of Satan, the devil, who is going to try, test, and tempt Jesus, the perfect man, to get him to crumble and buckle and forfeit his Sonship and ultimately mankind’s only hope of salvation. Can He do it and withstand the onslaught?

Forty Days of…

Luke tells us that Jesus is out in the wilderness fasting for forty days. I assume that is when the temptation concerning turning stones into bread came – that is, when he was hungry. I like what one commentator wrote on this subject: “Another contrast is the one implied between Jesus as ‘hungry,’ i.e. physically empty, and yet as ‘full of the Spirit.’ Our own experience is usually the reverse.” I think that is a fair assessment – while we are almost always physically full up, we too often are empty spiritually and that is when the temptor loves to pounce. Take note, though, that there is a marked difference between being a “spiritual pauper” and being spiritually empty; one is a state of dependence upon the Father and the other is a state of dependence on something (anything) other than the Father.

But don’t leave verse 2 too quickly; there is something very interesting in the first part. Notice that Jesus was in the wilderness “where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” Literally, the duration of not only the fast but also the tempting was forty days. This is supported by the Greek text which says he was “being tempted” for the forty days. Jesus appears to have gone through forty days of tempting. Why? Jesus is in the wilderness for a specific purpose and that is to become our example. Do not think that this is divine intervention or that Jesus had some kind of uncanny powers that made him resistant to temptation. If this were true, Jesus could not our example and our helper in times of temptation (Heb 2.18; 4.15; 1 Peter 4.1). We all have the opportunity to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passion just as the Savior does in his temptations. We need merely acknowledge the power source we can plug into, namely the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus had the Holy Spirit to empower him to overcome temptation, we have the same promise of the strengthing in the inner man (Eph 3.14-17). God has not left us to our devices to overcome sin and temptation but has left us his Spirit to teach us how to live and think and to give us hope and help us in weakness (see Rom 8). Indeed, Jesus teaches us the necessity of depending not on human means but on the divine power source God has given to each Christian.

One thing we should note when it comes to the temptations is that when Satan tempts Jesus and says “If you are the Son of God…” he is not making a doubtful conjecture. Satan knows this is God’s Son. A better English translation would be “Since you are the Son of God…” which is literally what Satan is saying in the Greek. This is positive affirmation from the spiritual realm, even the kingdom of darkness, concerning the identity of Jesus.

The First Temptation

The scene with the stones to bread temptation is always first in the records we have. Why this one first? Why record this one? I’m not sure but I can venture a guess. As was demonstrated by the Greek, Jesus has been tempted by Satan for forty days, so how many temptations there were, we don’t know. But we do know, based on the temptations we have recorded, they were temptations fit for the Son of God, the Messiah. It would seem that these temptations are recorded because the gospel writers saw fit to record them and the other temptations (if there were other temptations and I would say there were) did not need to be recorded.

This temptation attacks his divine ability. Jesus, as the Son of God, has the ability to turn these stones into bread simply pulling away his humanity and revealing his divinity. But to exercise this ability to would be to negate his humanity and also demonstrate that his dependence is not in the Father but in himself. God’s will is not for him use his powers for himself in a selfish way but to learn dependence upon the Father, thereby teaching mankind the same thing. “When God wants me to eat, he will feed me.” As one commentator wrote, “The issue, therefore, is not one of allurement to perverted self-gratification but a challenge to act apart from faithful dependence on God.”

Jesus does not mince words words nor are many words necessary. He quotes Scripture. Jesus is in the wilderness to fasting, demonstrating dependence on God and drawing closer to God in the process. He is focused on God. But Satan is trying to divert his focus, get him off track. Satan will do the same thing to us today. We should be striving to draw closer to God, focusing on God, but the devil is going to use whatever he can (food, drink, TV, etc.) to get our focus off of God and on something else. We would do well to learn from the Lord how to stay focused on God.

The Second Temptation

Having attacked the body, now Satan is going to attack the ego and esteem of Jesus. But he still appealing to human side of Jesus. Satan is saying, “I can make you king.” The cross can be bypassed if Jesus will but heed Satan and worship him. But inn the process, human salvation and redemption will be lost at the same time. Also, there is coming a time when “all authority in heaven and on earth will be given to Jesus.” The Messiah must suffer and die before he can “enter his glory” (see Luke 24.26).

Jesus has his priorities straight: God first. God is the only one man should worhsip and all other worship to anyone or anything else is wrong. Jesus is going to make God’s will first in his life in all he does. Our example has taught us yet again concerning our priorities and what should take precedence. Is it our will first or God’s will?

The Third Temptation

The last recorded temptation of Jesus in this episode is the temptation to “test” the Lord. There is a difference between tempt and test. When Jesus is tempted, it is Satan appealing to his humanity to disobey the word of God. He will use any means he can, even misusing Scripture, to make someone fall. God does not do this. But people can test God by provoking him through unreasonable demands contrary to faith. When the Scribes or Pharisees or Sadduccees test Jesus, this is what they are doing – it is in reality a sign of “unbelief, masquerading as extraordinary faith” (Liefeld, Luke, 865). Thayer says it this way, “to tempt God by exhibitions of distrust, as though they wished to try whether he is not justly distrusted…to challenge him, as it were, to give proof of his perfections” (Thayer 498). This is what Satan wants from Jesus and Jesus hits the root of the weeds of Satan. God has already addressed this in the past with Israel.

If Jesus were do this, being at the highest point of the temple, there would no doubt have been people to see him exercise this great feat. But this would have produced a glory that Jesus does not want. He wants the glory to come from the Father because of his obedience and trust in Him. We too have the same warning of not tempting or testing the Lord, specifically Christ (see 1 Cor 10.9). God has already exhibited his goodness and perfection and we have no need to distrust Him nor his faithfulness. The question is really will we be faithful?

All this temptation from Satan took place and then he left for a time. Satan was not inactive during this time; perhaps he was behind the Pharisees and Sadduccees and Scribes as they tested Jesus. He did ask to sift Simon as wheat (Luke 22.31) and entered Judas. So Satan was at work and will always be at work against the church in some form or fashion. Learn from the Lord, draw close to God and store up His word in your heart so that when the fiery darts of Satan come you will be equipped to extinguish them.