Luke 4:1-2 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
Much has been said of this part of the Biblical record, but it occurs to me to wonder how it came to be recorded. After all, Jesus and the devil were presumably the only witnesses. My guess is that Jesus Himself shared the story with His disciples to encourage them in their own temptations, letting them know that being tempted isn’t itself a sin. It is striking to me that the Holy Spirit explicitly led Jesus into this time of temptation. Jesus tells us to pray that we not be led into temptation, (Matthew 6:13) but if we are never tested we don’t know our own strength, or lack of it, and we don’t grow. We have the three specific temptations recorded, but it specifies that they came at the end of the 40 days, and yet here it states that He was tempted for the whole 40 days. We really don’t know what all those temptations might have been, but we can have confidence that Jesus got through them all without yielding. It seems significant to me that all of this occurred right after Jesus was baptized by John, with the Holy Spirit coming upon Him and receiving a direct word of affirmation from the Father. You couldn’t get much higher than that as a spiritual experience on this earth! The thing is, the devil delights to attack us right after such times, both because he is jealous and because he knows that euphoria can make us let our guard down. The point for us is to recognize this phenomenon and stand against it, knowing that if Jesus wasn’t immune, we certainly aren’t. Temptation is part of life; yielding to it doesn’t have to be.
I certainly have plenty of experience in this area, and not with Jesus’ spotless track record. I have learned times when I am more vulnerable than usual, and seek not to let my guard down. As a pastor, I seek to help people understand that the fact of temptation doesn’t mean they are bad, it means the devil wants to keep them from being good. When we stand against temptations we are strengthened, but we’ve got to remember that we can have the strength we need for that only when we are first submitted to God. (James 4:7) Far too often we try to “work up” resistance to the devil, and he laughs in delight, because we can’t succeed on our own. The way to resist the devil is active submission to God. Jesus certainly had that, so He came through victorious. I’ve found that the more I’m focused on resisting the devil, the stronger the temptations seem to me. When I am focused on God, submitting to and delighting in Him, then the temptations fade into insignificance. As Peter said, I’m to be self-controlled and alert, (1 Peter 5:8) but I’m not to be obsessed with the devil; that gives him the attention he craves. Rather, I am to focus more and more fully on my Lord Jesus, resting, relaxing, and rejoicing in Him.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You that Jesus was indeed “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Help me focus on Him and follow His example in every way, so that His victory may be manifested in and through me, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!