Tested in the Wilderness
Tested in the Wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11)
In the wilderness, Jesus took the conflict into the enemy camp. Jesus' friends considered the wilderness the very turf of evil itself. Whereas Adam fell to temptation in a perfect place, Jesus overcame temptation in a horrible place. In His victory there are two levels of truth: unique and universal. Because Jesus was Son of God and Savior, the temptations are unique. Because He is Perfect Man, they are universal. In Christ, we win over every level of temptation.
In Christ, We Win Over Temptation of the Shortcut
A shortcut, a sidetrack, from the way of the Suffering Servant belongs to the uniqueness of the first temptation. If Jesus could turn stones to bread, He could feed the mob and be hailed as Messiah.
The temptation to take the convenient shortcut is universal. Satan always suggests that a legitimate craving be satisfied in an illegitimate way. He always whispers that the privilege of a Son is that of selfish gratification rather than responsible living.
In Christ, We Win Over the Temptation of the Spectacular
The uniqueness of the second temptation rests in the appeal to dazzle, to sweep off the feet with the unusual. If Jesus could miraculously float into the temple court, He could be hailed as the Messiah at the beginning of His ministry. He could avoid rejection, betrayal, and Calvary.
The universality of this temptation is the desire to take fast track of the spectacular rather than the long march of daily trust.
In Christ, We Win Over the Temptation of Power
The uniqueness of the third temptation rested in its bald-faced appeal for Christ to join the powers of the age. Rome owned all power: money, politics, culture, connections. Why try to conquer the world with a gaggle of Galilean peasants? It was the temptation to go along in order to get along.
The universality of this temptation belongs to our obsession with power. Religious people are not immune. The way of the clenched fist always seems simpler and quicker than the long march of the faithful servant.