************ Sermon on Luke 4:9-13 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 14, 2016
"The Third Temptation"
Our Lord's first temptation concerned food and hunger. Satan tempted Jesus to satisfy His hunger by telling a stone to become bread. The second temptation concerned authority and splendor. Satan tempted Jesus to gain power and glory by bowing before him in worship. The third temptation involves jumping from the highest point of the temple.
I can identify with the first two temptations. I can identify with the desire for food and the desire for power. The third temptation has no attraction for me at all. I have never felt the temptation to jump from a tall building. I hope everyone here is the same way as me. In fact, I know some here are tempted the opposite way -- to avoid high spots altogether or to be filled with fear and trembling if they are up high. So why would Satan think that jumping from the highest point of the temple is a temptation?
It occurred to me this past week that the form of the third temptation in front of us had Jesus -- and only Jesus -- in mind. It was designed to appeal only to He Who is the Son of God. If I was Superman, it would be exciting and wonderful to leap from tall buildings and soar into the air. If I was a bird it would be natural. But as an ordinary man, it can only end in disaster. Only God could safely contemplate a jump from the heights of the temple. So Satan was tempting Jesus as the eternal Son of God, as the second person of the triune Godhead.
I The Temple
A We cannot understand this third temptation until we take note of the setting and its significance.
Each of the three temptations takes place in a different setting. The first temptation occurred in the desert (Lk 4:1), the second temptation took place at the top of a high mountain (Mt 4:8), and the third temptation took place at the temple in Jerusalem (Lk 4:9).
Our Bible reading is not the first time Jesus has been in Jerusalem. Luke tells us about a twelve year old Jesus in Jerusalem (Lk 2:41-52). Because Luke informs us that every year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, I suspect Jesus made other trips there too (Lk 2:41).
B So, what was special about Jerusalem and its temple? Even at an early age, Jesus recognized that the temple was His "Father's house" (Lk 2:49). It is not hard to imagine that there He would feel safe and secure. It is not hard to imagine that there strong emotions would have stirred our Lord.
Jerusalem and its temple was also the place where the Messiah was someday expected to appear:
(Mal 3:1) "See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty.Because of this expectation, Jerusalem was known as the city of the Great King (Mt 5:35). And because of this expectation, people -- like Simeon and Anna who were waiting for the consolation of Israel (Lk 2:25) and looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Lk 2:38) -- gathered together in Jerusalem. They were waiting for the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of His kingdom.
Do you see what Satan was doing? He was using Jerusalem and its temple to tempt Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah:
(Lk 4:9) The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here."
II Psalm 91
A Satan is no dummy. He has learned from his first two attempts at tempting Jesus. Scripture tells us Jesus rebuffed Satan the first two times by quoting Scripture. So this time Satan also quotes Scripture. He quotes Psalm 91:
(Lk 4:10-11) For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; (11) they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"
I did family visiting this past week. The elder I was with read Psalm 91. After it was read I told a story of the first church I served. I was asked to be the chaplain of the local Canadian Legion. This meant I was a speaker at the annual Remembrance Day service -- a free speaker. I still remember that my first year I chose to speak on Psalm 91. I mentioned that many of our soldiers went to fight Germany and Japan during World War II with the words of this psalm on their lips:
(Ps 91:1-2) He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. (2) I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."
(Ps 91:7) A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
(Ps 91:9-12) If you make the Most High your dwelling-- even the LORD, who is my refuge-- (10) then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. (11) For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; (12) they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
B What does Psalm 91 mean? What is Psalm 91 saying? In the third temptation, Satan claims that Psalm 91 speaks about the Messiah. According to Satan, it is the Messiah Who is promised safety and security in God. It should be mentioned that the Jews of Jesus' day also understood this psalm this way. That is, they believed the psalm to teach that the Messiah would show Himself to Israel by leaping from the highest point of the temple and God would protect Him and care for Him.
Remember what we have been learning about Satan as we have looked at the temptations? We have learned Satan is a liar. So it should not surprise us to learn Satan is misusing and twisting Scripture. And, it isn't a stretch to say Satan is a very poor student of Scripture. While Satan may be crafty and cunning and have great intelligence, we know the Bible cannot be understood apart from the illumination of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:6-16). If "natural man" cannot comprehend the things of God, why would we think Satan is able to understand the Word of God?
C Our elder, I am happy to say, understands Scripture better than Satan does. And, better than did the Jews of Jesus' day. He rightly understands that Psalm 91 speaks of the safety and security of every saint who takes refuge in God and in Christ. The psalm speaks of safety in Christ from God's wrath and judgment. The psalm speaks of eternal security in Christ. The psalm is NOT a promise of protection for Israel's Messiah. In fact, it is the opposite; in the light of the New Testament and passages like Isaiah 53 we know and believe that the believer has protection from God's wrath only because the Messiah suffers and dies, only because the Messiah bore the wrath of God on the cross, only because the Messiah humbled Himself and became obedient to death.
III Satan's Goal
A Everyone agrees on one thing: Satan wanted Jesus to jump from the highest point of the temple. Why? What was his purpose? What was the point? Scripture doesn't tell us but we can figure out the answer by asking: What is the result if Jesus does jump?
Satan wanted to kill Messiah Jesus. He wanted to kill the seed of the woman promised in Genesis 3:15. This is something Satan has been trying to do ever since the Garden of Eden. Consider different events in the history of salvation:
-Cain murdered Abel
-Abraham, out of fear, gave up Sarah to the Pharaoh of Egypt
-Pharaoh ordered that the Hebrews boys be drowned in the Nile
-Haman received permission to kill all the Jews in the Persian Empire
-King Herod killed the baby boys of Bethlehem
In all of these events -- and more -- we need to see Satan at work behind the scenes. He has only one goal: to kill the seed of the woman, the promised Messiah.
What Satan does in the third temptation is very similar to more than one news item I have seen.
A couple of years ago, a man in Johannesburg, South Africa, climbed out of a fifth floor window and started reciting bible verses.Satan is like the crowd of people. He encourages Jesus to jump. He encourages Jesus to jump to His death. He wants to kill the seed of the woman.
A crowd gathered below and started chanting, "jump, jump, jump."
Encouraged by the crowd, the man jumped to his death.
B Let's say Jesus jumped but did not die. That would have been just as bad. Let me explain this. In His reply to Satan's temptation, Jesus says that to jump is to "test" the Lord. To test God is not a good thing. In fact, it is a sin. We know from Scripture that this would have disqualified Jesus as Mediator. Our Mediator needs to be truly human, true God, and truly righteous. A Jesus Who is not truly righteous, a Jesus Who sins, a Jesus Who tests God, would not be able to save us. The result? We have no Savior. We are still in our sins. We have no hope. Satan wants Jesus to jump so God's eternal plan for our salvation comes to a screeching halt.
IV Jesus' Response
A Jesus did not correct Satan's misuse of Psalm 91. He did not correct Satan's theology. He said nothing about Satan's goal. Rather, He quoted Scripture back to Satan:
(Lk 4:12) Jesus answered, "It says: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"Jesus says the third temptation is a matter of testing God. Here we see how the third temptation applies to us and our lives. Satan may not tempt us to jump from high places, but Satan does tempt us to test God.
Notice, Jesus' response ended the matter. Not only did this end the third temptation, but it ended the forty days Jesus was tempted by the devil.
By the way, more than one person here has noticed that, according to Luke, Jesus was tempted by the devil for forty days (Lk 4:2). Some commentators believe that during those forty days, Jesus faced more than the three temptations of our Scripture reading. So, what Luke did was record the three most difficult temptations. Other commentators suggest that Satan kept coming after Jesus with the same three temptations over and over again. However you understand this, Jesus was tempted by the devil for forty days.
B The Scripture Jesus quoted to Satan is found in Deuteronomy 16. A principle of Bible interpretation is that when the New Testament quotes an Old Testament verse, it is the entire passage and not just the quoted verse from the Old Testament that is in mind. So what does the broader passage tell us? The text quoted by Jesus has a descriptive statement, a qualifier: "as you did at Massah." So the full quote reads, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you did at Massah."
The account of the testing at Massah is found in Exodus 17:
(Ex 17:1-7) The whole Israelite community set out from the Desert of Sin, traveling from place to place as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. (2) So they quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses replied, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?" (3) But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, "Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?" (4) Then Moses cried out to the LORD, "What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me." (5) The LORD answered Moses, "Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. (6) I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink." So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. (7) And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, "Is the LORD among us or not?"This passage helps us to understand what it means to "put the Lord your God to the test." It helps us to understand how we, too, can put the Lord our God to the test. So, what does it mean test God?
C First, Israel thought God's purpose and leading in their life should always mean ease and comfort, and not adversity and trouble. So, can you believe it, they actually wanted to go back to Egypt. I hope you all recognize here the false promises and lies of the prosperity gospel, the heath and wealth gospel, the name it and claim it gospel. I think of the words of the song, "Am I a soldier of the cross?"
Am I a soldier of the cross?
a follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause?
or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies
on flowery beds of ease,
while others fought to win the prize,
and sailed through bloody seas?
God never promises us a life of ease and comfort. God never promises us health and wealth. God never promises us success in business and peace in relationships. If that is your expectation, you -- like Israel -- are putting the Lord your God to the test.
Second, Israel put God to the test by doubting God's good will and good purposes for their lives. They actually claimed God led them into the wilderness to kill them and their children and their cattle (Ex 17:3). As God's people we always need to keep in mind the words of Romans 8:
(Rom 8:28) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.God loves us in Christ. God's intentions towards us are never malicious; rather, they are always gracious.
Third, Israel put God to the test by resisting His leading. The people grumbled against Moses and argued with him, but ultimately they were resisting God. Whenever we resist God's leading in our lives we are testing God.
Fourth, in putting God to the test Israel was saying God needed to be tested. God needed to be proved. God need to be vetted and verified. But God doesn't have to prove Himself to anyone. It is God's people who need to be tested. It is God's people who need to be proved. It is our faith and our faithfulness that faces doubt and temptation, not God's!
Fifth, in putting God to the test Israel was doubting God's presence among them. According to Exodus, the Israelites said to each other, "Is the LORD among us or not?" (Ex 17:7). Our LORD has promised, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Heb 13:5). He promised to be with us always, to the very end of the age (Mt 28:20). In putting God to the test the children of Israel were saying God is absent if things go against them. But that is not the experience of the psalmist. He found God's presence to be precious and real in times of trouble:
(Ps 46:1-3) God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (2) Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, (3) though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
This third temptation does not end our Lord's temptation. I don't know if you noticed the final verse of our Bible reading:
(Lk 4:13) When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.In other words, Satan wasn't done yet. Satan would tempt and keep on tempting our Lord. But Jesus is a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Not once did He fall, not once did He fail, so that He might make atonement for the sins of the people (Heb 2:17).
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