3/17: Lent 2019
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. 2 After He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights, He was hungry. 3 Then the tempter approached Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 But He answered, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
You will all probably recall this event that marks the beginning of Jesus’ 3 year ministry because we have discussed it a few times before. We went through this during our exposition on Matthew’s Gospel and even last year we focused on this passage during Lent. It is really an incredible event as we see Jesus being tempted by Satan right after God the Father has confirmed him as His son in his baptism. It is very interesting because before we start any great thing, what do we usually do? We throw a big party or have some sort of grand opening celebration. We are very much seeking after what is attractional, what techniques or marketing schemes that we can employ in order to gain the largest audience possible.
Because if we are honest with ourselves, every one of us is self seeking. For some, we can see it more blatantly in their social media use. They are really looking to promote self and get the glory and some sort of gratification from having people adore and praise and worship them. And Lent reminds us that it is not about us. It is not about fulfilling our desires, but realigning our self to the desires of God. We answer the call from God to be disciples of Him, and not to be advisors to Him on what is the best strategy to grow His kingdom.
Jesus does not perform an amazing miracle to start his ministry, he does make his face appear in everyone’s bread with a special invitation for everyone to meet him on the mountain and such and such date/time. He does not do any of that. The Spirit leads him into the wilderness. And not for just a day trip, but for 40 days!
The temptation of Jesus, His 40 days in the desert, represents the Son of God identifying with Israel and her wandering in the wilderness. And you will remember, especially those who are reading the Bible in a year with the church because you are reading it now, that they do not in any way, walk faithfully. There is no way that anyone could argue, oh yeah, these Israelites really trusted God throughout their journey from Egypt. In Numbers we know that it took them 2 years and about 2 months to get to the Promised land from Egypt and this is with a 2 year pit stop!
The only reason for the 40 years of wandering right after was because they were in fact unfaithful. They did not trust God! The only consistency that Israel had was in being consistently unfaithful to God. And we often are in times of temptation and doubt like the Israelites, but Christ was faithful. In His wilderness wandering, completely opposite of the Israelites and us. This was part of Christ’s mission to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:15).
Though we mourn over sin during Lent, the reality that Christ was faithful provides the divine gleam of joy within our wandering. And that is what produces in us a gratefulness and a change in our whole being!
Lent leads us to repentance and repentance produces sanctified and grateful living.
V1 At the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry, you would expect that it would be full of fanfare, recognition and honor. But instead we read that the Spirit removes him from the people into the wilderness.
It could be that we are seeing a comparison between Jesus and the children of Israel who were also called the sons of God. But they were disobedient and punished and condemned to die in the desert. Jesus did not have any sin or fault, so why was he being driven there? Well, the second purpose for the wilderness wandering sheds some light. It was to test the fidelity of the people.
2 Remember that the Lord your God led you on the entire journey these 40 years in the wilderness, so that He might humble you and test you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. 3 He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Jesus is the perfectly obedient son of God. And this period of testing is also being made.
We see that tension even in the first temptation.
Israel’s hunger and want in the desert functioned as a testing of their faith and as a lesson. Yahweh gave the Israelites manna to reinforce the knowledge that He would provide (see v. 16). The prohibition against hoarding had the same purpose. Violators of this prohibition lacked faith in God (see Exod 16:20, 27).
The Israelites are to understand that their prosperity will come from Yahweh’s hand and not through their own effort or natural forces. Jesus is tempted by Satan to provide bread for himself before the appointed time. He is challenging Jesus to break his fast, which the text seems to imply is an act of disobedience to God.
Very quickly, I want us to look at two challenges Jesus faced in the desert.
1) The sonship of Jesus
2) His fidelity
The Devil, who is also called the tempter here, challenges God. Are you the Son of God? Prove it. Also, break your fast and prove it. Make these stones into bread. Although Jesus is just beginning his ministry, you need to remember he went pretty much 30 years unnoticed. Sinless. Perfect. Have you wondered what would have happened if he died the horrific death of starvation? Or being mauled by wild beasts? Sinless and perfect for 30 years and at the beginning, challenged in his identity and challenged in his work.
And so Satan does what he does. Tempt. He did so with Adam and Eve with food. And they fell. He did so with the Israelites in the desert and they failed and so he tries the same tactic as before. Now notice, that Satan does not tempt Jesus to make the stone into bread and then eat it. It’s not a sin to eat. So in no way is the temptation for Jesus, who is hungry, and has every reason to be, tempted to eat. That wouldn’t be sinful. Whenever we get hungry, we go into the kitchen and get something to eat. And it’s fine.
No, the problem here is that Jesus evidently has committed himself to refrain from it. To have done so, would’ve been to distrust God. He has committed himself to fast until the appointed time. And the tempter is challenging that trust. Will God really take care of you? We see this by the response that Jesus gives. “Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
If God said he will provide, then I am not going to make any bread even though I could. And He quotes Deuteronomy 8:3. That text in Deuteronomy 8 in its immediate context is Moses’ words to the people of Israel as they have returned back to the Promised Land. They have finally returned back to it having been there before in a previous generation, their parents. And Moses tells them trust God. He tenderly cared for you as His own child in the wilderness and he will take care of you still. Your parents they did not trust in God’s Word. Don’t make the same mistake that they did.
Trust God and His word. Your very being does not depend on bread alone. Yeah, physically it may. But there is no such thing as a ceasing to exist. You simply move locations. You cease to exist on earth at death and get a new address in Heaven or Hell. You find life in the Words of God, obey them and trust in them.
And so the challenge is sent, and it is overcome by the Son.
And that is the most beautiful part of the whole thing.
We don’t enter the desert without knowing that Christ entered before us. He is more than a model; He is the mode and means by which our redemption is secured. Our practice of Lent must never be divorced from this core gospel truth. As we actively participate in the work of the Spirit, forsaking something lesser to seek the greater, let us not forget that the final work has been accomplished. Our practice of Lent does not help us earn anything from God, but it affirms, reminds and shapes us into a more gospel-dependent people.
And that is the point I want to drive us home with. In our lives, it is so easy to grow deeper in dependence on our selves. We think we can really do everything and we start to commit ourselves to a lot of different things and we neglect the most important things. We lack in reading God’s Word, it is not a book. It is God’s Word. We are so vain in our prayers. We neglect the saints to promote ourselves and Lent has to make you pause. It should. It exposes the idols we worship.
And as we see very clearly our sin and wickedness, it ought to bring us to repentance. And that godly repentance will bring us to live sanctified lives. We live lives marked with holiness, and not slothfulness and neglect. We no longer leave aside prayer, fasting, Bible reading, and worship for the idols in our lives. We put them away and set aside time to devote ourselves in worship.
You know one of the reasons we look to Christ is because he overcame.
18 For since He Himself was tested and has suffered, He is able to help those who are tested.
Are you tempted with sin? Guard your heart with the Word of God. Dive deep into its riches. And focus your eyes on the Son. He can and will help you.
13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.
As we enter into Lent, let us be reminded that we need to set our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ. And so, while we do not impose anything on anyone. Where we have overcrowded our schedules with idols, let’s do some spring cleaning.
During Lent, we go beyond seeing Christ as our model, but as our Savior. And we live as people changed by this Gospel truth! Because we know that we too have wandered the desert and are incapable of being faithful apart from the grace of God we are but dead men and women.
Through fasting and denying self, we identify with Christ and recognize that He alone has secured our redemption. We acknowledge that we still live in a fallen world, awaiting our final redemption from all sin and suffering.
So why fast? To grow in a deeper dependence on God with a refocusing on Jesus through the power of the Spirit. Fasts can be difficult and you are going to need to depend on God and use those moments to strengthen your faith and depend on Him.
And that is not a shameful thing. We all need help, some of us, and you know who you are, you need a lot of help. It is not a an admission of weakness, but humility to reach out for help. We are all going to need it. And who better to go to, than the one who faced every temptation that we have faced but remained faithful. Go to Christ, and to steal from John , “little children, keep yourself from idols.”
SUGGESTED FAST: SOCIAL NETWORKING AND INTERNET
As we continue in the season of Lent, think about exchanging the time you would normally scroll through social media or browse the internet for a time of intentional prayer, Bible reading or worship. Consider staying off certain platforms at certain points of each day or for the entire week, deleting the apps off your device or blocking those websites as you fast.