The Savior’s Journey: Temptation | Luke 4:1-15
Brian Hedges | March 31, 2019
Well, thank you, worship team. It’s great to be back with you today. Last week I was in Kalamazoo at Reformed Baptist Church, preaching there, and really enjoyed the time with that congregation, but I always miss our church when I’m away, so it’s good to be back with you.
I was really thrilled at Andy Lindgren’s message last week. I think he did an excellent job in expounding Philippians 2 and talking about the person and work of Christ, Christ’s humiliation and exaltation. One thing I did love about Andy’s sermon was the title, “There and Back Again.” I thought that was pretty brilliant; fits right in with the way I think. When I saw it, and I was thinking about the series I wanted to begin today, I emailed Andy and I said, “Do you care if I just use this title for the whole series that’s to follow, because I’m going to be in Luke and we’re going to be talking about these various aspects of Jesus’ life?” He said, “Yes, that’s fine.”
So, Andy’s sermon - he didn’t realize it, but it was an introduction to my series. He gave us a wonderful overview of Christ’s humiliation, his humbling of himself, and his exaltation, and now we’re going to dig into these themes in detail over about the next five weeks or so, and we’re going to do that in the gospel of Luke. So I want you to turn this morning to Luke 4:1-15. Andy already, last week, talked about the incarnation and Christ’s journey to the womb, which of course is expounded for us and given to us in narrative form in Luke 2; so I want to go to Luke 4 and look at the temptation of Jesus Christ. This is right at the beginning, the prelude to his earthly ministry.
It is the fiercest battle that had ever been fought in human history up until this point, and I would say the fiercest battle, except for the cross and the whole Passion narrative that’s given to us later in the gospel of Luke. So we’re going to be looking at verses 1 through 15. Let’s read through it together.
“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”’ And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, ‘To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written,‘“You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”’ And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘“He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,” and ‘“On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”’ And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.”
This is God’s word.
So I want us to see four things in the passage: I. The Setting, II. The Combatants, III. The Conflict, and IV. The Conquest.
It is the fiercest battle that had been fought in human history up until this point, and this passage and this message, I think, serves as something of a bridge between what we’ve spent ten weeks looking at together, spiritual warfare and the armor of God and the battle that you and I have against our adversary the devil, in Ephesians 6; and then all that Jesus accomplished for us. So this passage in Luke, beginning this new series, is kind of a bridge between what we’ve already looked at and where we’re going to go over the next few weeks.
I. The Setting
So let’s break into it, and first of all, notice the setting. I want you to see both the chronological setting, where this falls in the gospel narrative, and then also the geographical setting. I think both of those details are important.
(1) First of all, the chronological setting. You see it in verse 1, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” He returned from the Jordan. Now, that’s a reference back to chapter 3, where Jesus had been baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. That’s recorded in chapter 3:21-22. So the temptation follows Jesus’ baptism.
You remember what happened in the baptism? Jesus went there to be baptized by John the Baptist, and as Jesus was baptized the Spirit of God descended in the bodily shape of a dove upon Jesus, and a voice spoke from heaven and said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Right?
This, incidentally, is one of the great passages of Scripture showing us the doctrine of the Trinity in living color, because here’s Jesus, the Son of God, who is being baptized; the Spirit is descending upon Jesus (so the Spirit and Jesus are not the same person), and there’s a voice speaking from heaven, the Father’s voice, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” So you have all three Persons of the Trinity active right there.
This scene, the baptism of Jesus, is something like a coronation scene, where Jesus, as the King, is anointed by the Father for the ministry, for the vocation, to which he is called. It’s right there at the beginning of his three-year earthly ministry. As soon as that’s over, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness.
When the passage comes to an end in verses 14 and 15, as we read just a few minutes ago, Jesus is returning into Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and this is the beginning of his ministry. So Luke 4 then goes on to record something about Jesus’ ministry in Galilee. So, the important thing here is that this is a transitional and a preparatory event, as Jesus has been baptized, is going into his ministry, and in this intervening time, 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus is being tested, he is being tempted, and that word “tempted” means both testing and temptation. So Jesus is being tested before his earthly ministry begins.
(2) Then the geographical setting is the wilderness. He is led by the Spirit to be tempted in the wilderness.
I think it’s just important for us to remember that the wilderness, in the ancient Near East, is not what we would think of as wilderness in North America. When we think of the wilderness, we think of, you know, a quiet cabin by a beautiful mountain stream, or you’re in the woods, you’re in nature… That sounds good! That’s vacation time!
That’s not what this was. Jesus was in the desert. He is in the howling wasteland of the wilderness. He’s in this land haunted by jackals and wild beasts and snakes and serpents and scorpions. He’s in enemy-occupied territory. He is in a place that biblically was always a place of testing and of preparation.
You remember how Moses spent 40 years on the back side of the mountain, being prepared to lead God’s people in the exodus. Then you remember how the children of Israel went into the wilderness and wandered there for 40 years. They were tested and they were tempted and they failed in all kinds of ways. Forty years in the wilderness.
That’s the background to this setting as Jesus goes into the wilderness to be tempted and be tested by the evil one. So that’s the setting.
II. The Combatants
Now, secondly, who are the combatants? There are two figures here, of course, and those figures are, first of all, Jesus, and then the devil.
Jesus here is given first of all by his name, described by his name, Jesus, which of course means Savior, and he is called by the devil “the Son of God.” His sonship is questioned. This is referring back, I think, to the baptism, where Jesus has been declared by the Father to be the beloved Son in whom the Father is well pleased, and now Satan is questioning that. “If you are the Son of God, then turn these stones into bread.” “If you are the Son of God, then do these various things.” He’s tempting him by calling into question his sonship.
But there are a couple of other aspects of who Jesus is that I think are important for understanding this passage. You know that in Scripture you have in the Old Testament all kinds of typology, right? So, typology in Scripture functions in this way: the types are patterns that take place in persons and events which then get reused over and over again in Scripture. The patterns are established in the Old Testament narrative, and then those patterns get repeated, and ultimately those patterns get fulfilled in Jesus.
You might say that the Old Testament gives us shadows of the substance of the New Testament. The solid reality is in the New Testament, but it casts a shadow back into the Old, and those shadows are seen in these types, in these figures that are pictures of Jesus. There are two of those that I think are really important for understanding this passage, and both of them have to do with temptation.
First of all, in Genesis 3, you have the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, and Adam in Genesis 3 is the father of the human race who is tempted as the representative of the entire human race. Adam, when he is tempted, is in perfect settings. He is in a paradise; he’s in the garden of Eden. There he is, without any sin of his own, there’s no sin nature there. Adam is created perfect in the image of God, and he is tested, tempted, in a garden, in ideal circumstances; and he fails.
Here’s Jesus, now, as the second Adam, as the last Adam. Here’s Jesus, who comes as the next and the final representative for the human race. So Jesus, when he’s being tempted, is being tested as one of us - he’s fully human - but he’s also being tested as our champion, as our hero, as our representative, as the one who stands in our place. He’s being tested as our substitute, and Jesus is tested and doesn’t fail, but he wins. He triumphs in the battle. So that’s one part of the typology.
Then the second part is Israel, the nation of Israel itself. If you remember in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel as a whole nation was called “the son of God.” Israel was called God’s son. Here’s Jesus, who is the remnant of Israel, a remnant of just one man, who is the new Israel, and he’s living out the same pattern that Israel had lived.
You remember how Israel passed through the waters of the Red Sea, and then they go into the wilderness, and they’re tempted, they’re tested. Now Jesus has passed through the waters of baptism and is going for 40 days into the wilderness to be tested and to be tempted as Israel, as the new and the better Israel. So that’s the setting. That’s what’s going on here.
One of the clues that this is going on is in Luke 3. You have the baptism of Jesus in verses 21 and 22, but temptation is not immediately after the baptism; instead, you have in between the genealogy of Jesus. Isn’t that kind of strange? Why would you have the genealogy of Jesus between the baptism and the temptation? Matthew doesn’t do that. Matthew, in his gospel, puts the genealogy first, right? He begins with the genealogy of Jesus.
Luke is doing this for a theological reason, and when you read through the genealogy you see that it differs from Matthews in this very important respect: Matthew traces the lineage of Jesus all the way back to Abraham to show that Jesus is the true King of Israel, right? He is the true Son of Abraham, he is the seed of Abraham, he’s the one who’s going to fulfill all these promises. But Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam. You see this in verse 38, “...the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”
Luke is showing us that Jesus is the new Adam, that Jesus, as God’s Son, is now going to be tested and tempted as this new Adam.
I’m sure many of you have heard of but have probably not read John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost. Anybody ever try to read it? I’ve tried to read it, couldn’t get through it. It’s beautiful poetry, you just can’t understand it, right? You have to probably have lived in the 17th century to really get John Milton. But, you know, we get pictures from Paradise Lost and it’s a key part of English literature and we read snippets and bits and pieces of it here and there. I’m sure it’s really good.
Did you know that John Milton not only wrote Paradise Lost, he also wrote another epic poem called Paradise Regained. Here’s the interesting thing: when I heard about Paradise Regained, I would have assumed that it was about the new heavens and the new earth. It’s not; it’s about the temptation of Jesus, because Milton was onto something theological that is true, that Jesus, when he entered into the wilderness, was not going there merely as our example. He was going there as our representative, he was going there as the second Adam to win the battle for us.
Listen to how Sinclair Ferguson describes this in his wonderful book Ichthus. He says, “Jesus has come to gain victory where there has been defeat, to obey where there has been disobedience, to effect justification where there has been condemnation, to bring freedom where there has been bondage, to bring healing where there has been sickness, wholeness where there has been disintegration, reconciliation where there has been alienation, to bring blessing where there has been curse and life where there has been death.”
You remember the great hymn of Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”? You remember the line that goes like this:
“Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right man on our side [in an older translation, Were not the proper man on our side],
The man of God’s own choosing.”
Who is that man? It’s Christ! Here’s the important thing: Jesus Christ goes to battle as a man, as the new man, as the second man, as the last Adam. He goes to the battle on our behalf, and he does it to win the victory. So Jesus is the first combatant.
Then, who is he battling with? He’s battling with “the prince of darkness grim”; he’s battling the devil. He is called the devil four times in this passage (verse 2, verse 3, verse 5, verse 13). Matthew calls him the tempter, Mark calls him the adversary (Mark 1:13). As we have seen in recent weeks in Ephesians 6, this is a real figure. He is not a metaphor for evil, it’s not just a personification of evil in kind of an abstract way. He is a real, angelic, spiritual being, a fallen angel; he is a real adversary.
I think it’s important that we emphasize that, and I think that this passage, especially, shows us that this is the case, because here’s Jesus, the sinless Son of God, and when he goes into the wilderness Jesus is not wrestling with some inner impulse of evil! He is the sinless Son of God. He is wrestling with an external adversary, an external foe.
There was a movie made a few years ago; I haven’t seen it, but it was a movie that was called “Last Days in the Desert.” It was Ewan McGregor, and he’s playing both Jesus and Satan. Now, I haven’t seen the movie, so it may not be fair to judge it this way, but I think, probably, if they’re doing it that way, probably what they’re trying to suggest is that Jesus is in the desert with this battle with himself.
Now, that’s not the case at all. Jesus is not battling himself! Jesus knows who he is, he knows his identity, he knows his vocation. He is battling with the evil one. He’s going to battle against the devil. Ewan McGregor maybe should stick with playing Obi-Wan Kenobi, leave Jesus alone.
So, here’s the battle, and here’s one more thing to note about this battle (I also owe this insight to Ferguson). Ferguson says Jesus is not here the victim of Satan. Jesus is the aggressor. Jesus is led by the Spirit, he’s driven by the Spirit, into the wilderness. Jesus is not merely the victim that Satan is attacking. Now, Satan is attacking, but Jesus is actually going into enemy-occupied territory; Jesus is going to plunder the enemy.
In fact, a few chapters later in Luke, Luke 11, Jesus describes how he is casting out demons by the finger of God and the kingdom of God has come among these people, and he describes himself as the strong man, or the stronger person who comes in and invades the house of the strong man and plunders his house, robbing of his goods. So Satan here is the strong man; Jesus is the stronger one who comes and plunders him. That’s what’s happening in this passage. The kingdom of God is come in the person of Jesus Christ, and Jesus, as the aggressor, goes into the field of battle to fight our adversary the devil.
III. The Conflict
That leads us, then, to the conflict itself. The conflict is given to us in these three temptations from verses 3 down to verse 13, and it’s really a conversation, isn’t it? It’s a conversation, or a series of conversations, between Jesus and the devil.
It’s interesting that, when you read this, the devil actually has a lot more words than Jesus. I counted it in English; it’s 93 words for the devil and 40 for Jesus, in the English translation, English Standard Version. I think as you read this you see a couple of things. You see, first of all, that the temptation is comprehensive, and it covers the full gamut of human temptation, the full spectrum of the kinds of things that we are tempted with ourselves. Then the temptation is also concentrated and really focused on Jesus.
Now, there are lots of ways to divide this and break it down, and here are some of the things that have been suggested by other expositors. There are temptations here to provision, to power, and to protection. Jesus is tempted in regards to provision, with the temptation to turn the stones into bread. He’s tempted with power in Satan saying, “If you’ll fall down and worship me I’ll give you all the kingdoms of the world.” He’s tempted in regards to God’s protection, when Satan tempts him to leap from the pinnacle of the temple, right, and “if God really really is your Father, if you really are God’s Son, then his angels will protect you.” That’s one way to look at the temptation.
You could say it this way, that it’s a temptation regarding the appetite (the desire to enjoy things, bread), it’s a temptation regarding avarice (the desire to possess things, the kingdom or the kingdoms of the world), and it’s temptation in regard to ambition (the desire to achieve something, to show his power and to show God’s faithfulness in leaping from the temple).
All of those, I think, are legitimate applications of Jesus’ temptations. Expositors have also connected this to the threefold temptations of the world in 1 John, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Probably all of those ways are legitimate ways to apply the temptations of Jesus and to just show that Jesus endures every aspect of human temptation, and indeed, the book of Hebrews tells us that, doesn’t it? Christ is our High Priest, he is sympathetic to us in our weaknesses, and he was tempted in every point as we are, yet without sin. So that assures us and it comforts us in knowing that Jesus knows whatever temptations we’re going through. He’s faced it one way or another. The full spectrum of human temptation.
But I think there’s more going on here than just that. These temptations are not merely comprehensive, they are concentrated. They are focused. Satan comes against Jesus here with a laser focus on the specific identity and vocation of Jesus. Satan is out to derail Jesus in his mission which he as received from God, and I think he does it in this way. When he comes and tempts Jesus to turn the stones into bread, what’s he doing? He wants Jesus here to use his power for his own benefit, rather than the benefit of others, and he wants Jesus, rather than trusting in the Father’s provision, he wants Jesus to act on his own rather than keeping in step with the Father.
When Satan tempts Jesus to fall down and worship him in order to obtain the kingdoms of the world, Jesus, of course, had been promised the kingdoms of the world (Psalm 2), right? God promised his Messiah, his anointed King that he’d set on his holy hill, he had promised to give him the nations of the world as his inheritance. What Satan is doing here is tempting Jesus to bypass the cross and, instead of gaining this inheritance at the loss of his life, he’s tempting him to take shortcuts. “Just fall down and worship me, just this one time, and I’ll give it to you.” Again, it’s a temptation to bypass the Father’s plan and to jeopardize the whole plan of salvation.
Again, the temptation to leap from the temple is a temptation to test God rather than trust God, to see if the Father will really protect him. It’s concentrated. It’s focused on the identity of Jesus and on Jesus’ calling and vocation.
IV. The Conquest
But then, as Jesus fights this battle, what happens? He wins, right? He triumphs, and I want you to see, fourthly, his conquest. For this, I just want to look at it in two different ways. I want us to look at it, first of all, in terms of how he conquers, because I think there are practical lessons for us in that; and then I want us to look at it in terms of why he conquers, because there’s real gospel hope for us in understanding that.
(1) So first of all, how he conquers. In each one of these temptations, how is it that Jesus overcomes the evil one? I want you to see three things.
First of all, he conquers by the word. Notice that, when Satan comes against him, Jesus replies, “It is written,” verse 4; “It is written,” verse 8; and, “It is said,” in verse 12. Each time he’s quoting from the book of Deuteronomy, so it’s the exact context and setting in which Israel is in the wilderness, right? Jesus is quoting from the book of Deuteronomy; again, I think it’s just showing that Jesus is the new and the better Israel. He responds with the word of God. He doesn’t respond speaking his own words, even though he could have. I mean, Jesus is the word of God incarnate, and Jesus is the one whose every word is perfect and sure; but Jesus responds by quoting the Old Testament.
Surely that has something to teach us about our need for the word of God. To use the language of Ephesians 6, Jesus is responding with the sword of the Spirit. He’s wielding that sword to vanquish the evil one. I quoted it many times, especially in recent weeks, but Psalm 119:11, I think, is such an important verse for us. “Your word have a hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
You see that Jesus has that word hidden in his heart. Jesus had probably memorized the entire book of Deuteronomy; he is quoting it right in the moment, as he needs it, responding to the evil one.
Back, I think it was, in the sixth century, there was a guy named Evagrius who was kind of the father of monasticism. Now, there are all kinds of problems with monasticism, but Evagrius had something right. He wrote a book that’s called Talking Back, and the whole idea of the book is that the evil one, the devil, comes to us with certain temptations, and we’re called to “talk back.” When you read that book, it’s essentially a list of temptations with Scripture verses just written out that you can use in order to talk back to the devil.
That’s exactly what Jesus is doing here, and that’s what you and I have to learn to do when we are tempted and when we are tested; we have to learn to talk back by using the word of God.
Secondly, Jesus responds by faith. Throughout these temptations, he shows his unwavering trust in the Father. You see it especially in verse 12, where Satan has tempted Jesus to throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple. In fact, Satan has actually quoted Scripture at Jesus using Psalm 91, and he’s tempting Jesus here to test God. Notice what Jesus says in verse 12. “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” So rather than testing God, he trusts God, he believers, and he follows the word.
Every time you and I sin, we sin because of a lack of faith. We sin because we’re not trusting. When Israel sinned, when they failed in the wilderness, why did they fail? Hebrews tells us: because the word of God was not mixed with faith, because they didn’t believe! They didn’t believe the promise of God. When Adam failed in the garden, why did he fail? He failed because he did not listen to and believe and trust the word of God.
Brothers and sisters, every time you and I sin, we sin because in that moment we’re not trusting our Father, we’re not trusting God. That’s true whether you sin on either side of the whole spectrum; whether you sin in terms of unrighteousness and license, you’re sinning by committing sins, right, these overt, obvious sin; or whether you sin in terms of self-righteousness and self-reliance and legalism and not trusting in God in that sense.
One of the things that this great theologian I keep quoting, Sinclair Ferguson, has taught me is that legalism and antinomianism - antinomianism means “against the law”; it’s the idea that we don’t have to obey, we don’t really need God’s law, we don’t need God’s word, we don’t need commands, we don’t have to obey. It’s the opposite, in many ways, of legalism, where we’re trusting in our works. And Ferguson says that legalism and antinomianism are non-identical twins that are born from the same womb, and the womb they’re born from is unbelief. It’s not trusting in the Father. It’s not trusting in God, a failure to trust in God’s goodness.
Well, Jesus is neither a legalist nor an antinomian. He is obedient, but he is obedient in perfect trust in the Father. Because he has faith, because he trusts God, he obeys.
Here’s the third way that Jesus conquers: he conquers by the Spirit. Notice verse 1 tells us that Jesus was full of the Spirit, and he is led by the Spirit to be tempted in the wilderness. Then notice in verse 14, when the temptation scene is over, that Jesus returned to Galilee “in the power of the Spirit.” So the whole passage here is bracketed by the Spirit. He goes into the wilderness full of the Spirit; he returns from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit.
I think this is showing us that Jesus is the supremely Spirit-filled human being, that everything Jesus does he does in the power of the Spirit. It’s not so much here that Jesus, as he is tempted, is relying upon his divine nature. He has a divine nature and a human nature, these two natures mysteriously united in one person, as Andy showed us last week. But Jesus, in his humanity, is not relying upon his divine nature. It’s not like Jesus is a Superman figure with superpowers that he calls to help him when he’s in need. It’s not that! It’s, rather, that Jesus is relying upon the Holy Spirit. He is full of the Spirit. He’s in the power of the Spirit, and it’s in the power of the Spirit that Jesus conquers temptation, and that’s important for us to understand as well, because that’s the same way you and I conquer temptation. We conquer temptation as we trust in the Spirit of God, as we ourselves are filled with the Spirit.
Galatians tells us that God has “sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” Romans 8:9 says that if we have not the Spirit of Christ, we do not belong to him. But here’s the great reality for every Christian: if you are a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus lives inside of you, and it is by the Spirit that you fight the battle. It’s by the Spirit that you are able to overcome temptation, even as Jesus did. So that’s how he conquered.
(2) Now finally, why did he conquer? The answer is that he conquers for us and he conquers as one of us. This is the gospel hope in this passage. Jesus is not merely our example, although everything Jesus does here is exemplary, but he’s not merely our example. Jesus is our brother, our captain, and our conquering King. Jesus here is the mighty warrior who fights the battle on our behalf and who rescues us.
Jesus comes like David fighting Goliath. When you read the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17), here’s the way many believers have traditionally read it. You read a story and you’re putting yourself in David’s shoes, “And how can I overcome the Goliaths in my life?” Right? That’s the way that passage tends to get preached.
I don’t think that’s the right way to look at that passage at all. You’re not in David’s shoes; you’re like the children of Israel. You’re faced with a foe that you cannot beat, and what you need is an anointed King to come and to be your representative and to fight Goliath for you. Jesus is the David; we’re the children of Israel who need a representative. We’re the ones who need a champion who fights on our behalf, and that’s exactly what Jesus is doing here. Jesus comes as our champion, he comes as the hero, he comes as the warrior on behalf of God’s people. He comes to fight our battles for us and to conquer the evil one.
Listen to what Spurgeon said in a wonderful sermon on David’s victory over Goliath. He applies it, I think, in exactly the right way. He says, “Lo, this day I see in our conquering hero’s hand the grisly head of the monster sin. Look at it, ye that once were under its tyranny! Look at the terrible lineaments of the hideous and gigantic tyrant. Your Lord has slain your foe, your sins are dead; he has destroyed them. His own arm, single-handed and alone, has destroyed your gigantic enemy. ‘The sting of death and the strength of sin is the law, but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’”
We can say, praise God! We have a mighty warrior, we have a champion who has fought the battle on our behalf. He is the conquering King, and not only that, he is the sympathetic Priest.
I’ve already mentioned it, but let me quote it again, this time in full, Hebrews 4:15-16. If you are facing temptation right now, here is hope and comfort for you. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then,” because that’s true, because we have this High Priest who has been tempted as we are yet has not sinned; because that is true, “let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Our King is also our Priest, he has fought our foe, he has defeated our enemy, he has defeated temptation, and because he’s done it, he understands, he is sympathetic, and he will help us in our time of need.
As one person put it,
“Our fellow sufferer yet retains
A fellow feeling of our pains
And still remembers in the skies
His tears, his agonies, and cries.
“In every pang that rends the heart,
The Man of Sorrows has a part.
He sympathizes with our grief
And to the sufferer sends relief.”
Now, I wonder where you are this morning, as we draw this to a close. Are you facing some real battles right now? It may be that you just find yourself beset with temptation, and it’s the same temptation over and over and over again, and half the time you fail, half the time maybe you get through by the skin of your teeth, but you’re just weary with the battle. If that’s where you are, look to your High Priest, look to your conquering King, look for grace and mercy to help in the time of need! Jesus is the one who has already defeated temptation in your place, and as you are filled with his Spirit, he can enable you, he can strengthen you for the fight and for the battle.
Maybe this morning you look at a situation like this, you look at the scenario with Jesus facing the evil one, you think about your own temptations and your own sins, and what you see is not victory half the time; you see failure one hundred per cent of the time. The reality is, you’re beginning to understand that you are a slave. You’re in absolute bondage to sin and to evil. You have no control over your impulses, no control over your desires, and it’s bringing destruction in your life.
If that’s your case this morning, again the answer is, look to Christ. He is the one who breaks the power of canceled sin and sets the prisoner free! How’d he do it? He’s the stronger man who has come into the strong man’s house, and he’s plundered him! Jesus is the King who has come to overthrow every other kingdom, and he sets up instead his gracious reign of peace and love and freedom. If the Son of Man sets you free, you will be free indeed. Look to Christ this morning.
If you’ve never been saved, if you’ve never put your trust in Jesus Christ, you can do that today by confessing your sins and by acknowledging that you don’t have the strength to beat your sin, you don’t have the strength to beat the evil one. You don’t have the strength to overcome your worst impulses and instincts. Throw up your hands and just say, “Jesus, I can’t do it! Will you do it for me? Would you save me, would you rescue me? Would you forgive me? Would you bring new freedom into my life?”
You pray that prayer, you ask God sincerely, from your heart, to save you and deliver you, and he will. He is the great deliverer, he is the Savior, he is the champion of our salvation.
And for all of us, brothers and sisters, who are soldiers in the battle, as we have thought about it in recent weeks in terms of the armor of God, so this morning as we think about it in terms of Jesus, who has gone to the battle for us, let us trust in Christ, let us lean on Christ, let us look to the one who has won our salvation once and for all and who now leads us in the train of his triumph, leading us in his victory. Let’s pray together.
Our gracious and merciful God, we thank you this morning for the triumph of Jesus. Thank you for the Savior, who has overcome sin and Satan and the evil one; that through his wounds we have victory. I pray this morning that we would respond to this truth with faith, that we would respond with trusting and believing hearts to this good news. I pray, Lord, for anyone who finds themselves struggling this morning, that you would give courage and hope and strength; for those who are in bondage, I pray that you would give new freedom.
Lord, as we come to the table, we come looking to the one who has fought the battle on our behalf, we come remembering Christ and his suffering for our sakes. I pray that as we take these elements, the bread and the juice, we would do so with our eyes fixed on Jesus, looking not the elements themselves but to Jesus, who has suffered on our behalf.
I pray that by your Spirit you would draw near to us, that you would give strength, that you would give grace, that you would give mercy and help in our time of need. Our time of need is now. We need it right now. We need strength for this week, for this day, for our specific temptations, our specific battles. So strengthen us, Lord, as we come to the table and draw near to us. We pray it in Jesus’ name, Amen.