We are over the hill in this sermon series.
We’ve been watching Jesus showcase his authority over demons, over sickness, over disease, and last week on the top of the mountain he unveiled it in all its face shining, resplendent clothing, ascended prophet appearing, cloud encircling glory!
We now know Jesus has LIMITLESS authority.
But we’ve gotta come down the mountain.
And as we come down…
…We see Jesus humbling himself.
…We see Jesus hiding his authority.
…We see Jesus succumbing to earthly authorities.
This is the Lenten portion of our AUTHORITY sermon series. Today, we watch as Jesus submits himself to the temptations of the devil himself.
Before we begin, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
The battle starts in Matthew 4 verse 1, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
The wilderness was in Ancient Israel was a desert. It was (and is) very hot, very dry, very dusty, and very wild. It’s the kind of place that Bear Grylls might attempt to go (with a camera crew and emergency supplies close by).
Jesus goes into this desert alone.
It’s where wild animals are.
Or something worse.
And something worse did meet Jesus there.
Or someone worse.
The Bible doesn’t tell us a lot about the devil. We know that he is an angel who became conceited (1 Tim. 3:6), he was kicked out of heaven (Luke 10:18), he used temptation to bring our world into ruin (Genesis 3), and that the world is under his evil influence (1 John 5:19).
He’s really good at doing evil.
And he’s really good at getting others to do evil.
Maybe you know.
In fact, his initial temptation, the one that led the first two human beings – Adam and Eve – into sin brought destruction on this earth. The truth is that in a certain sense…
It’s because of the devil that sin is in the world.
It’s because of the devil that death is in the world.
It’s because of the devil that COVID 19, racism, winter storms, and joblessness are in the world all results of his very first temptation.
This dry, barren, pathetic wasteland.
Filled with death and bones and vicious animals.
That’s his kind of place.
It’s his home turf.
II. The Temptations
After fasting forty days and forty nights, Jesus was hungry.
I think this is probably one of the greatest understatements in Scripture.
Mostly because I fast for two hours and I’m hungry.
Jesus fasts for 40 days and 40 nights.
He’s hungry, sure…
Maybe even tired.
His body is weak.
His hands are shaking.
It’s not a great time for Jesus.
Isn’t this the time when the devil likes to strike?
The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (v.3)
Or make it rain drown bread from heaven.
Or get some ravens to bring you crumbs.
Or hit that rock with a stick and make water come flowing out.
Since you are the Son of God, this can’t be hard for you.
Obviously, your “Heavenly Father” doesn’t care about what happens to you on this earth.
It’s been forty days.
He doesn’t care about you.
You’ve got to take matters into your own hands.
But Jesus didn’t even blink, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (v.4)
My dad’s Word brings life.
Like back at the beginning when his Word brought life to this world.
Your words, on the other hand, bring death.
Like shortly after the beginning when your words brought death to this world.
My Father will sustain me.
He already has been sustaining me.
His plan is for me to die on a cross.
Since I don’t see any crosses around this place…I’m not dying here.
I know my Father will provide.
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. (v.5)
The holy city is a reference to Jerusalem. It’s a beautiful city. The heart of Ancient Israel situated on a hill.
Within Jerusalem was the temple. It was the second version, having been rebuilt after the first was destroyed, but still quite magnificent.
The highest point of the temple would have been near the Kidron Valley. It was about 100 feet from the top of the wall to the ground. It is also important to note that the word pinnacle comes from a Greek word meaning wing and was commonly used to refer to a turret-like structures on the top of the wall.
But the devil didn’t bring Jesus up there to marvel at its architectural features…
“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down.
It is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
That’s from the Psalms.
Your Father’s promise!
He’ll protect you so that not even your foot gets hurt on a stone.
Like the ones down there.
But your Father said he’d keep you safe. So…What are you waiting for?
You’ll be a beacon of faith.
You’ll be world-renowned.
They’ll write books about you.
If you just force your Father’s hand and…
And so, Jesus jumped…
At the chance to rebuke Satan again.
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (v.7)
Sure, my Father could protect me from dying on those jagged stones.
Just as easily as he could raise up those stones and run them through you right now.
But God didn’t tell me to jump.
I take orders from him.
He doesn’t take orders from me.
Just like I don’t take orders from you.
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. (v.8)
The highest mountain near Jerusalem was Mount Hebron. It’s currently 4,652 feet. One can certainly see for a great distance from there.
But this is something more. There appears to be otherworldly forces at work. Because from this mountain peak, the devil was able to show Jesus all the kingdoms of the world.
The glories of Jerusalem.
The busy streets of the Greek agora.
The powerful structures of Rome.
“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Cause I know the Father promised it to you. He said it would all be yours…
…after you suffer.
…after you are betrayed.
…after you are abandoned.
…after you are falsely accused.
…after your own people turn against you!
…after you nails pierce your flesh.
…after you slowly lose oxygen.
…after you struggle to breathe.
Then…sure, it could be yours.
Why go through that painful plan?
I’ve got an easier plan.
Just bow down.
And it’s yours.
I’ll get it for you.
Only worship me.
“Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (v.10)
God is God; you aren’t. I follow his plan; Not yours.
Your plan means momentary ease for an eternity of suffering.
His plan means momentary struggle for an eternity of glory.
I’m not abandoning his plan.
I’m abandoning you.
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
III. Authority over Temptations
This is quite the showdown.
The authority of heaven versus the authority of the earth.
The ultimate good versus the ultimate evil.
But it’s more than just a good story.
It teaches us some applicable truths.
(1) Satan’s Authority Is False
Satan felt like he had Jesus where he wanted him.
It was the desert.
Jesus was tired.
Jesus was hungry.
Jesus was malnourished.
Did you notice something about verse one?
It said that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert.
This showdown wasn’t the devil catching Jesus off guard.
It was God’s plan the whole time.
God’s plan to showcase the devil’s failures.
God’s plan to expose his weakness.
God’s plan to make a public spectacle of Satan.
Because he has no REAL power.
If you’re struggling to defeat a sin.
If you’re struggling to say NO to temptation.
If you find yourself continually losing your temper…
Or repeatedly going back to your addiction.
If you think saying NO to your boyfriend pressuring you for sex is too hard.
Or saying NO to your friends pressuring you to drink too much is too difficult.
You’re believing a lie.
Actually, you are believing a liar.
Did you know devil means “liar?” That’s appropriate, because that’s all he does.
That sin will not make you feel better.
That sin will not improve your life.
That sin will not be ‘no big deal.’
Sin is not something that you have to do!
Sin is never something that you have to do!
The devil’s authority is a lie.
Call him on it.
(2) Jesus’ Authority is Trustworthy
Because Jesus crushed the devil under his feet before breakfast.
This wasn’t even hard.
Though he was hungry, tired, and alone.
Jesus defeated the devil simply by speaking a few words.
In fact, it’s almost as if he’s playing with the devil. Because what happens after the third temptation that’s different from the others?
Jesus adds the command, “Away from me.”
And with that, the devil is gone.
To be fair this isn’t Jesus’ last interaction with the devil.
Because later on Jesus would face the devil’s handiwork head on.
He’d face every sin that Satan ever got you to commit.
He’d carry the guilt that came as a result of your listening to the devil’s lies.
He took on the death that the devil himself brought into the world.
And Jesus crushed it all.
Just like some kind of a desert snake.
Jesus fearlessly walked over to that snake.
And stomped on its head.
And Jesus always wins.
And with Jesus, you will win too.
(3) Jesus Has Given Us His Battle Weapons
Because did you notice the each of Jesus’ rebukes contain a similar phrase?
“It is written.”
As in, “God’s Word says.”
As in, “the divine Scripture states,”
As in, “The Bible tells us this.”
You have that same Bible.
You have God’s Word.
So… Use it. Here are a few ways that will help you fight off the devil’s temptations:
(1) Read It
Because it is wise to dress the part for your day.
If you are going on a job interview, it’s a good idea to wear a suit.
If you are going jogging, you might want to wear your workout clothes.
If you are going clogging, you will need to bring along your pair of wooden clogging shoes.
The truth is that each day is a battle. You need to wear what you need for battle.
And God’s Word is what arms you for battle!
It gives us a sword that we use to slay the devil’s lies.
It gives us a helmet of salvation we put on to stand in God’s saving power.
It gives us the breastplate of righteousness that identifies us as God’s forgiven children.
It gives us the belt of truth that secures us in the reality of our Saving God.
It gives us shoes of readiness that makes us swift to avoid any attacks the devil throws our way.
It gives us a shield of faith ready to extinguish the deceptions that the world aims at you.
(2) Know It
Because sometimes you don’t have a Bible on you. You do have a phone, but sometimes that might be out of battery life.
So why not have key passages ready to go to fight against the devil’s schemes?
If you struggle with lust, learn passages the rebuke lust.
If you struggle with lying, learn passages that rebuke deception.
If you struggle with greed, learn passages that rebuke greed.
If you struggle with pride, learn passages that rebuke pride.
You know yourself.
God knows your too.
He has provided you with the exact weapon you need.
(3) Speak It
Have you tried this? Have you tried actually, verbally speaking God’s Word when you are tempted?
Because it’s God’s Word.
Spoken against the devil.
I don’t know that the devil can hear our thoughts.
He’s not all knowing like God.
Tell him what you’re thinking.
It is written, “Don’t sin.”
It is written, “Worship God.”
It is written, “You already lost devil.”
It’s kinda like trash talk.
Can you trash talk the devil?
Absolutely. Please do.
The truth is demoralizing to the devil.
The truth is that the devil has no authority over Jesus.
Jesus crushed him.
The devil has no authority over Jesus.
He knows that.
The devil has no authority over Jesus.
He already lost – repeatedly.
The devil has no authority over Jesus.
Since Jesus has authority over your heart…
The devil has no authority over YOU.