Friday 20 January 2023

 Matthew 4 v 1/11

Turn with me to Matthew’s gospel in Chapter 4 verses 1-11, the story of the temptations faced by Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus begins to show his Messianic powers as he challenges the devil.

.  In verse 1 we read that Jesus was led by the Spirt into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  In the Old Testament the Israelites were led into the desert to be tested and humbled, to prove to God that they were able to keep God’s commands.

 Here at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry He is subjected to a similar testing, and will show He will obey every word that comes from God and be faithful.

 It was important for Jesus to be tested, for if He had succumbed to temptation, He could not be our Saviour. 

When we talk of the devil, people conjure up an image of some wild eyed creature with horns and a flaming mouth.  The devil was once an angel, who was cast out of heaven because of his rebellion against God, and what is meant by the term devil (or Satan) just to mention two of his names, we mean that evil spirit which comes upon us and tries to influence our thoughts and actions for evil.  We face a situation where we have to decide a course of action. 

In our minds we know one way is right, but the other is more appealing, and whilst we know we really shouldn’t take it, we are tempted to do so.  Is that not how the devil tempts us? 

This is why sometimes people drink instead of facing up to their emotional problems.  It is so much easier to put a bottle of vodka and numb yourself, rather than to delve into your problems.  It is so much easier to fill the emptiness in the mind, than to fill the emotions in the heart and soul..  This leads to all sorts of physical and mental trouble. 

People go from cheap physical relationship to another, because they are not willing to make a commitment, and take the step of devoting themselves to one person who will really love them.  When you listen or read news reports, you can readily appreciate the powerful influence of evil, for the stories are frightening. 

When we read ‘the devil said to Jesus’. or the devil took Jesus, we are to understand that in a vision Jesus had these temptations put into His mind.  It is through our innermost thoughts and desires, that the tempter come to us, and his attack is launched in our minds.  To some people the devil can appear very real. 

..Martin Luther, the great Protestant Reformer, was once so convinced of a presence of the devil, that he threw an inkwell at his wall

In verse 2, we read that Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights, so would be extremely hungry.  The number is likened to the time that Moses and Elijah spent when they were fulfilling God’s purpose for them in the wilderness.

  In verse 3 we come to the first temptation. Jesus is asked if he was the Son of God, and of course he was, but was not ging to be tricked into using his divine powers  make things easier for himself, when Jesus is tempted to turn the stones into bread.

Th desert in which Jesus was, lay between  Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, and called the place of devastation.  It was an area 35 miles by 15, an area of yellow sand and crumbling limestone.  There could be no lonelier a place.  The desert would be littered with little round pieces of lime stone, each of which was exactly like a loaf of bread,  so for someone in a starving state,  Jesus could have turned the stones into bread.                                                                   

There is always the temptation to use powers. God has given us for special reason.  God has given us all gifts, and we have to ask, not what I can make for myself out of them, but what can I do for others. 

A person may have a talent for making or doing something, but will only do so for personal reward.  It is perfectly acceptable to make profit for an ability, but wrong to do so exclusively. 

In verse 4, it is written, then He quoted Scripture.  In this case He said that we live not only by bread, material food, but also by spiritual food, God’s Word.  This is why we are called to know the Scriptures, that we may be able to answer questions and temptations we may face.

In verse 5 Jesus is at the pinnacle of the Temple Jesus is asked to throw himself down, with angles waiting to prevent Jesus from being hurt. Jesus answers him by telling him not to put the Lord God to the test.

A final test is in verse 8. Jesus was on a high mountain when tested to worship the devil, and in return would be given power over all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus exchanged the love of his Father to worship the devil.

The devil left Jesus, who was ministered to by angels.

One sure way to get a following, is to offer people something for free, but Jesus did not come to bribe people, and nor should His Church ever think of doing so. 

Jesus called people to give and not just to get to feed the hunger in the heart.

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