************ Sermon on Luke 4:3-4 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 24, 2016
"Turning Stones into Bread"
Jesus ate nothing for forty days. He was hungry. Starving, in fact.
As far as I know, none of us have experienced this kind of hunger. We might have missed a meal or two because of illness or surgery. But none of us have purposely gone without food for forty days.
Those who go on hunger strikes tell us it takes great resolve and will-power to resist the body's demand for food. Your thoughts become obsessed with food. Your dreams are filled with images of mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetables, and meat. The smell of cooking food just about drives you crazy.
Jesus was at this point. If He didn't eat soon, He would collapse. If this continued much longer He would even die.
I The First Temptation
A Into this situation comes Satan, the great tempter: "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread" (Lk 4:3).
What was Satan's goal? What was he trying to do?
To answer this question we need to remember the setting. In the first verse of our Bible reading Luke says, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert ..." (Lk 4:1).
Jesus was at the Jordan. Let me remind you of what Jesus did at the Jordan. Jesus sought out John the Baptist in order to be baptized by him. He was washed like He was unclean. He was washed like He was a sinner -- like those who were baptized this morning. Jesus took the sinner's place! Jesus took the sinner's place so we could be washed and cleansed of our sin.
Satan's goal was to make Jesus sin. Because if Jesus sins He is unfit to be our Savior. Because if Jesus sins He is not the perfect Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world. Because if Jesus sins He is not able to save us from our sins. Because if Jesus sins the gospel comes to a screeching halt. The path of life requires obedience to God. Our Lord's obedience to the Father was on the line. Satan has one intent: he wants Jesus to sin against God. He wants Jesus to sin against God so we and our children cannot be saved.
So, there is far more going on here than just hunger. There is far more at stake here than simply filling one's belly. There is far more going on here than satisfying one's needs.
B "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread" (Lk 4:3).
Satan must have been there at the Jordan River when Jesus was baptized. Or, one of his evil spirits was there and reported back to Satan what all happened. I say that because Satan uses the same title for Jesus as does God the Father. At the baptism, a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased" (Lk 3:22). And now in the desert Satan refers to Jesus as the "Son of God."
C "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread" (Lk 4:3). What exactly is the temptation?
Satan seeks to make Jesus question God's Word to Him at His baptism. Did God really say You are His Son? Did God really say He loves You? Did God really say He is well pleased with You? Why, then, are You so hungry? Why, then, doesn't God feed You? According to Satan, the issue is the trustworthiness of God and His Word. Satan says you can't trust what God says. Satan says you can't believe what God says. Satan says, in effect, that the Father in heaven doesn't even measure up to the fathers and mothers who stood before us this morning to baptize their children:
(Lk 11:11-13) "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? (12) Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? (13) If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children ..."Like a child, Jesus should be able to trust the Father's provision of food and drink. But Satan says He cannot.
Doesn't Satan tempt us to also doubt the trustworthiness of God? Something bad happens: an accident, a financial crisis, a terrorist attack, a disabled child, a family fight, a divorce, a loss of job or business, a debilitating disease, addiction, cancer, heart attack. What do many people conclude when they experience these kinds of human suffering? They conclude that God must not be a loving Father. That God does not really care for us. Or, they question God's presence and power in their life.
D Satan begins with sowing the seeds of doubt: "If you are the Son of God ..." He continues with a call to sinful action: "tell this stone to become bread."
At first sight, there doesn't seem to be anything sinful here. Satan was not advocating self-indulgence. Because if that was the case he would have suggested "steak and wine," not just bread. Bread was a basic essential of life, not a luxury food item. There is nothing wrong with meeting a basic need of human life. Was it wrong for our Lord to feed the 5,000 who were in the wilderness and without food (Lk 9:10f)? Not at all! Was it wrong for our Lord to defend His disciples for harvesting grain on the Sabbath so they had something to eat (Lk 6:1-5)? Again, not at all!
So, what is the evil that Satan wanted Jesus to do? What was it that caused Jesus to continue in His hunger, even though death might be the result? Satan was telling Jesus to take His power as the Son of God, the power bestowed on Him through the descent of the Holy Spirit at His baptism, the power to be used for our salvation, and use that power to feed Himself before He collapses and dies from hunger. You need to look after number one. You need to take matters into Your own hand. It wasn't self-indulgence that Satan was suggesting but self-assertion, self-centeredness, self-interest, self-love.
"If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread" (Lk 4:3). I mentioned last week that this form of the temptation could only be dangled before someone divine. No one but Jesus could be tempted to turn stones into bread. Yet, don't we face the same temptation, but in a different way? None of us are tempted to turn stones into bread. But all of us are tempted, at times, to have a me-first attitude, to have a look after number one attitude, to take matters into my own hand. The first line of the song, "In doubt and temptation I rest, Lord, in Thee," becomes "In doubt and temptation I rest, Lord, in ME." ME. I gotta look after ME.
E "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread" (Lk 4:3). Satan was also tempting Jesus to buy into a certain view of life. Satan was tempting Jesus to be a materialist. Satan was tempting Jesus to put physical needs ahead of spiritual needs.
According to Satan, real living involves the fulfillment of wants and desires. Real living means bread in the stomach, clothing on the back, and a roof over the head.
What is real living for you? Some say real living is a trip to Pismo Beach when we are boxed in by fog and cold in the Winter or by unrelenting heat in the Summer. Others say real living is a Caribbean vacation, or a ski trip to Tahoe, or winter in Palm Springs. Some say real life is sitting in front of a crackling fire with a loved one and a glass of wine by your side. Others say real living is having lots of toys: boats, ATVs, campers, cars, bikes, computers, iPhone, Xbox One. And still others say real living is having a boyfriend or girlfriend, being a volleyball or football star, and pulling straight "A"s in school.
Don't get me wrong. I am not saying there is anything wrong with any of this stuff. But if that is all there is to real living, then you have fallen into Satan's trap.
Satan tempts us, just like he tempted Jesus. He tempts us to think we need all of this stuff to experience real living. He tempts us to think we don't really live until we have our vacations and recreation and toys. He temps us to think real life is bread.
Think about your prayers. What petitions do you usually make? What thanksgivings do you usually say? Chances are it is mostly about material things. But God is enough. He is sufficient. As David put it in Psalm 23: "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want." To be found in Him is all we should want or need for ourselves and for our children. Even physical life should be set aside for the blessing of knowing and obeying God.
II Jesus' Answer to the First Temptation
A "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone'" (Lk 4:3-4).
Jesus was hungry. Starving. Famished. He needed to eat. He was at the point of collapse. Yet, He refused to satisfy His need for food. He made a decision to trust in God's provision of food and drink. He was saying, "It is better to starve to death than to live and thrive by sin."
Do you know what happened when Satan finished this tempting? Matthew's gospel tells us "angels came and attended him" (Mt 4:11). God's angels. At the command of God. With food and drink. Just like God appointed ravens to feed Elijah bread and meat at the brook Kerith, so God appointed His mighty angels to feed Jesus. After forty days of not eating we know Jesus would not be able to sit down to a meal of steak and potatoes. Dieticians and medical care professionals have learned that you start with soft foods like jell-O and pudding, graduate to soup and crackers, and slowly introduce hard foods like potatoes and meat and vegetables. In the same way, the angels had to nurse Jesus along.
The point is, God provided. God provided exactly as Jesus trusted God to provide. Jesus didn't have to doubt God's care over Him. Jesus didn't have to take matters into His own hands. Nor did Jesus become a materialist who put physical needs ahead of spiritual needs.
B Luke wrote his gospel to Theophilus -- a Roman official who converted to the Christian faith. Being a Gentile, Theophilus could readily identify with the first temptation. The mindset of the Gentiles was that one did not hesitate to look after physical needs. Many of the Gentiles were even inclined to over-indulgence, both in food and sexual matters. We can assume that Theophilus was no longer this way, that he left this way of life and this attitude towards physical needs when he became a Christian. So, in his gospel, Luke is reminding Theophilus that the body and its needs are not the most important thing in life. As we read in Paul's first letter to Corinth:
(1 Cor 6:13) "Food for the stomach and the stomach for food"--but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body."This body, this life, this earth are but temporary.
Luke holds up Jesus before Theophilus. Look at what He did when He was hungry. He didn't abandon His trust in the Father. He refused to look after number one. He refused to be a materialist.
C In dealing with this first temptation Jesus shows us what comes first, what takes precedence, what is most important. It isn't the body. It isn't material goods. It isn't fun and games. It isn't vacations and weekends away. It isn't sports and recreation. That's what Satan would have us believe. That's what beer commercials would have us believe. What is most important is God! What is most important is obedience to God. What is most important is trust in God. To know God and to have fellowship with God, to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever, that is what is most important, even if it leads to physical death. Life, real life, lies in God. That's what Jesus tells us. That's what we need to know. That's what we need to tell our children.
Satan wants us to fall for his lies. He wants us to think we have other needs that are more pressing and more important. Look at Adam and Eve. They had everything one could ask for. They were kept from only one thing -- the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan convinced Eve that this one forbidden fruit was her greatest need, a need so great that she disobeyed God to attain it.
Real life and real living is not found in things. Real life and real living is found in a relationship with God. That's what Jesus is saying in response to the first temptation. Christ is to be our life, our sufficiency, our all, our highest priority -- not the materialism of our society. Don't fall for Satan and his lies. Jesus is all you need.
Jesus was tempted as Adam was. Jesus was tempted as we are. But Jesus emerges sinless from all of this. He had the same desires. Yet, unlike you and me He never once gave in. How hard do you think that was -- never once giving in to the sinful desires of the flesh.
Jesus was tempted as we are. Yet He emerges sinless. This is so important, so vitally important. Because then He is more than able to be our Savior, our Mediator, our Deliverer, our Redeemer.
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