Temptation From Within

By Teena Myers

Before Jesus began his full-time ministry, the devil appealed to Jesus desires in a quest to win his worship. Below is the event containing all the information given to us by Matthew and Luke. Mark makes a brief reference that Satan tempted Jesus and the angels ministered to him, but does not record their interaction. John does not record any information about the encounter.

Again, the devil takes him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them in a moment of time; and says to him. “All these things, their power and glory will I give you, for that is delivered to me; and to whomsoever I will I give it, if you will fall down and worship me all shall be yours.

Then says Jesus to him, “Get you from here, Satan: for it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.[1]   

Jesus refused to cooperate when the devil challenged him to prove he was the Son of God by turning stone to bread. Jesus’ confidence in God’s word proved unshakable, so the devil brought him to the top of a mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and tried to buy his worship. The tempting offered failed. Jesus refused to worship anyone but God. 

The devil’s second temptation was more difficult to deal with than an accusation that God had lied. The offer of authority over the kingdoms of the world appealed to Jesus’ desire and our desires tempt us to sin. If we are not alert, a strong desire will drag our hearts away from God and deceive us into believing a lie. The devil would have accepted his worship and then reneged on giving him authority over the kingdoms of the world.  

Jesus was born to rule all the kingdoms of the world. The desire to fulfill a calling is strong. Speaking of Jerusalem, Jesus said, “how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”[2] Jesus’ desire to protect his people would not be fulfilled during his lifetime on earth unless he submitted to the devil, and the devil kept his word. 

Righteousness demanded that Jesus receive no more than Abraham received during his lifetime: unfulfilled promises.[3] Waiting for an eternal God to fulfill a promise is difficult because our bodies die. We don’t really know what will happen after we die. All we can do is trust that the Bible is true. If the Bible is true, God will resurrect our bodies so we can partake of the things he promised to do on earth. If the Bible is a lie, “we are of all men most miserable.”[4]  

The devil raised the stakes substantially when he appealed to Jesus’ desire. He cannot drag our hearts away from God and deceive us. But he can prey on this weak spot by promising immediate gratification. The devil miscalculated the purity in Jesus’ heart. His desire for authority was rooted in God’s promise. He chose to love God by believing he would keep his word and the devil failed. 

As the time for Jesus crucifixion drew near, his desire to live instead of submit to a tragic death proved a greater temptation than the devils offer. He instructed his disciples to pray “lest they enter into temptation.”[5] Then he walked a stone’s throw away and agonized in prayer until he sweat blood. His spirit was willing. He prayed “not my will but yours be done.” His flesh was weak. He prayed, “take this cup from me.”[6]  

We should not condemn ourselves when our flesh is weak. Don’t run from God, run to him, and tell him the truth. Only God can give us the strength to obey his commands. He may not change his plan for our lives, but if our hearts belong to him, he will help us. While Jesus prayed, an angel appeared to strengthen him. If Jesus needed help to fulfill God’s plan, so will we.

If we worship God, sinful desires will not control us because God is able to keep us from sin. God has not left us alone to battle temptations any more than he left Israel alone in the desert and Jesus alone in the garden. If we overcome temptation, we do well. If we succumb to temptation, God provides a way out through the ministry of the intercessor. 

Jesus is a sinless high priest. He meets our need to be children who are pure and blameless. Sometimes we fail to overcome when tempted, but we don’t have to worry. We don’t need to fret that the sins we commit in ignorance make us unacceptable to God. Jesus is acceptable, and God helps us based on who Jesus is—a holy, blameless, pure son set apart from sinners who is seated at God’s right hand faithfully interceding for us. Therefore, Jesus is able to save anyone who comes to God through him, and we are able to pray with confidence that God will help us.[7]

[1] Matthew 4:8-10 & Luke 4:5-8 KJVER. This is not a direct quote but a combination of both Matthew and Luke’s account of Jesus and the devil’s interaction.  

[2] Luke 13:34 

[3] Christian beliefs began with Abraham’s faith because his faith rested on God’s integrity. Abraham hoped without reason to hope. All he had was God’s word that God would raise him from the dead. Abraham looked forward to the resurrection; Christians look back on a promise fulfilled. Everyone from Adam to the present who embrace God is honest will be resurrected to receive the nation of absolute justice and equality God promised Abraham we would become. 

[4] 1 Corinthians 15:9 KJV 

[5] Mark 14:38 

[6] Luke 22:42 

[7] Hebrews 4:15-16 & 7:25-26

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