Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Temptation of Christ

The Temptations of Christ

This account follows immediately[1] after His Baptism. Whereas in the baptism account, the divine voice says “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." (Luk 3:22 NIV), during the three temptations, the Son of God was tempted twice with the phrase “If you are the Son of God….” in attempts to make Him doubt His Messiahship or identity. The word “tempt” in Luke 4:2 is translated from the Greek word peirazō, which also means “to test”, although no explanation was given in the accounts as to why the testing was necessary. But what is clear is that He was driven by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness.

The significance of these three temptations

  1. "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." (Luk 4:3 NIV)

In the first temptation the devil suggests Jesus will die if He does not eat[2]. This temptation was not a temptation to immorality or sin in the traditional sense as there was nothing sinful in eating. Rather, it was a testing as to kind of Messiah that He would be. In other words, it was a testing whether Jesus would use His power and His privileges as the Son of God for selfish gains. Therefore, this was a test as to whether Jesus would trust His Father to provide for His basic needs or whether He would usurp the sovereignty of God the Father for His life.

  1. "I will give you all their authority and splendor…if you worship me (Luk 4:6 NIV)

In this temptation, the devil promised Jesus success through a “cross-less” solution. He could have the world and rule it. With the kingdoms of the world given Him, he could meet the basic needs of the world - rid the world of hunger, war, injustice, poverty, etc. All He need do was worship the devil and His mission. The end justifies the means.

  1. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here” (Luk 4:9 NIV)

The exact intention of this temptation is debatable. Some have suggested that it was a temptation to perform something spectacular. However, the problem with this view is that no one is mentioned as being present other than Jesus and Satan. The most likely interpretation of this temptation is that it involves a dare on Jesus’ part to make God rescue Him. Jesus recognized the fine line between trusting God for the needs of life and challenging him to rescue him from artificially created difficulties[3].

[1] Mark connects the baptism account with the temptation account with his characteristics “And immediately…” (Mark 1:12), and Matthew with “Then…” (Matthew 4:12).

[2] The Bible said that Jesus did not eat for forty days. There was no comment in the Bible whether Jesus drank or not.

[3] This temptation is common among those who profess to follow Jesus. It is not always clear whether a “leap of faith” is an act of true faith or putting God to a test. That is true even if at times such a daring of God is called the “testing the promises of God.” The former would be an act of faith, whereas the latter is clearly an evil, presumptuous challenge. See Deut 6:16

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