We’ll start this morning by thinking about something you are tempted by? What are the temptations in your life. I don’t want you to say them out loud. Honestly, most of us have a few that we would rather not share, and that’s OK.
But think about it anyway. At your weakest moment, what seeks to draw you way from God?
Are you tempted to steal? Seek revenge?
Are you tempted by sex? Or Money? Or Power?
Are you tempted, in your weakest moment, to put others down, make fun of them, or withhold caring or affection?
Are you tempted to give up hope? Have you been tempted to commit suicide or homicide?
Are you tempted to be greedy, or cheat or overindulge?
Are you tempted to lie, or exaggerate, or omit part of the truth?
Are you tempted to self-glorify, or boast or be prideful? Tempted to condemn others in judgment?
Have you even given in to these or a myriad of other temptations?
In Luke, Jesus had just been baptized by John in the Jordan, as we spoke about that last week. When he came out of the water, the Holy Spirit filled Jesus and immediately he was led out to the wilderness.
For 40 days he was tempted by the devil.
Now, forty days was a long time. Do you notice it was never 39 days, or 41 days? Forty days meant, a very long time. Just like if we say, “a month of Sundays” or “till the cows come home”.
That’s not to say it wasn’t exactly 40 days, the words of the bible are truth, but when you said something happened for 40 days everyone knew you were talking about being put to the test. Anything that went on for 40 days, or 40 weeks or 40 years was an ordeal. Forty was the outer limits of time. Considered unbelievably long.
For 40 years, the Israelites were walking in the wilderness and were tempted and tested by many things.
For 40 days, Noah was in the ark being rained on, and Noah’s faith was tested. It was again a very long time.
Elijah was on Mt. Horab for 40 days.
For 40 days, Moses was on Mt. Sinai. The people did not know what had happened to Moses and it took them only what would seem to us a relatively short time to give in to the temptation of idol worship. But remember, this 40 days, to the ancient Hebrews, represented this amazingly long time. He might as well have been gone forever. Some people maybe thought he was never coming back. It had been 40 days, after all.
If you look for powerful, recurring numbers in the bible, 40 is one of them. The other most prominent biblical number that also dealt with testing and temptation and punishment was three. We think of Jonah and the fish, and Jesus and the cross as just two examples.
So here, Jesus went into the wilderness. For 40 days Jesus ate nothing and he was famished. He was hungry. And the Devil tempted him.
How many times…..three times.
Even today three is a powerful number. Think of most sermons. The traditional style is three points, and a conclusion. And how long do they go on…sometimes it would seem, forty days. That’s a very long time.
Seriously though, it may seem like forty days, but a really long sermon, where the preacher is really on fire, would rarely go past 40 minutes. But that is forty minutes testing your ability to sit comfortably on a wooden pew.
Jesus had to listen to Satan preach at him for forty day without a break, and we know Satan, in his own way, was also (no pun intended) really on fire. Satan was tossing his best stuff at the Lord, quoting scripture, using illustrations, doing his fire and brimstone thing. For forty long days, the devil pounded away at our Savior, putting him to the test in every way he could think of. Trying to find a crack in Jesus’ spiritual armor, trying to beat him.
Jesus is still trying to beat Jesus to this very day. In today’s reading, he is unsuccessful. He’s still gives it the college try, but in the end, and the devil knows it, he still loses. But he does seem to be having fun in the meantime.
Luke 4:1-30 [From the NLT – New Living Translation]
1 Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,* 2 where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.
3 Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, change this stone into a loaf of bread.”
4 But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’*”
5 Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. 7 I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”
8 Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say,
‘You must worship the Lord your God
and serve only him.’*”
9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! 10 For the Scriptures say,
‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you.
11 And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’*”
12 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’*”
13 When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.
14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. 15 He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
Satan says … “If you are God, turn this stone into bread.”
Jesus answered back…”man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
That’s a direct quote from Deuteronomy 8:3.
The fact that Jesus knew this verse should be no surprise. Jesus knew the Word of God because he is the Word of God.
And He tells us we are to feast not just on food for the body, but on the very bread of Life. And He is that bread.
The bread you buy in the store is just bread. There is nothing of real substance there to nourish you. You need more and I, Jesus, am all the more anyone needs.
But that was a good try, Satan. Next….
The devil took Jesus up to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world. “If you worship me, all this will be yours. You will have glory and authority.”
Now, to many that is a real temptation. Riches, power, love, glory.
The devil may have thought he really had Jesus on this one because He knew what the people were expecting. I say MAY HAVE because some people think that the devil is all-knowing – he isn’t. To make him all knowing is to make him equal with God – he isn’t.
But the devil does know scripture and knew that the people wanted Jesus to be a conquering messiah. They wanted him to ride in on a white horse and save them.
So here’s the pitch Jesus, I, the devil, can give you that.
Right. Even if you had the power, and I needed the help, why would I turn to you for it, you pitiful fallen angel of darkness. My Father in heaven is the ALMIGHTY GOD OF THE UNIVERSE. Why would I need you?
But stop to think…Don’t we do the very same thing sometimes? Doesn’t Satan tempt to think we can rely on him to give us power and control of our lives? We may not call it Satan, but he’s in there.
And there is power in the darkness. The devil can offer power and grant it. But unfortunately, it’s not God’s power, but the power to corrupt and destroy.
A powerful man was asked why he did some of the things he did in his life, he answered “because I could.” Kings and Presidents and the rich and famous do what they do often, “because they can”
That’s the power the devil offers Jesus.
The power to do these things. I will give you the power. “If you worship me…”
Unfortunately the devil is a liar. He does not have the authority to give God’s power to anyone, much less Jesus, who already had it. But many, starting in the garden, and lasting till the very last day, will believe that he does.
But Jesus answered him “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” Did you notice that Jesus said to the devil “worship the Lord YOUR God”??
There’s bumper sticker that reads “God doesn’t believe in atheists.”
Even if the devil didn’t believe him to be almighty God, he still was. Even the devil knows the God is truly in charge. He attempts to fool people by convincing them otherwise, but he’s dead wrong. If you are tricked by Satan’s lies, you will always regret it.
And then finally, the devil takes Jesus to the top of the temple. “Jump off. If your angels are really yours, they will not let you be hurt.” Again, here how the devil calls the “your angels”. The devil has his own fleet of dark angels, but the test is not of those angels, but of the angels at Jesus’ command.
The devil knew that Jesus commanded angels. He knew who Jesus was. And He knew Jesus’ mission. He wouldn’t bother trying to derail Him otherwise.
And that’s what this was. The devil trying to derail Jesus on the way to cross. The Psalms spoke of the coming Messiah and said “His angels shall watch over him and he will not dash his foot on a stone.”
That’s the devil quoting scripture again trying to trick Jesus.
You’re right Satan, the Angels would obey me, they do obey me, because I am God and you know it. But that is not my mission, my fine fiery adversary, so get behind me. I will make no deals with you.
Jesus was taunted the very same way on the cross, if you remember. Surely he could get himself down off the cross if He were the Son of God. Yes he could.
And he could continues by say “I also could have kept myself from even getting on the cross. I could have not bothered with you all. I didn’t have to come to save you.
I did it and I am doing it now, because I love you and this has been planned from before the beginning. And I, the Lord, am keeping my Word.
Is that not proof enough?
Jesus answered “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
And the devil left him. For now. Until the next opportunity. The devil comes back.
We continue at verse 16:
16 When he [meaning Jesus] came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free, 19 and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.*”
20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
22 Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”
23 Then he said, “You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’-meaning, ‘Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’ 24 But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown.
25 “Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner-a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.”
28 When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. 29 Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, 30 but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.
We don’t know much at all about Nazareth in Jesus’ day. Nazareth is barely, if ever, mentioned in first century documents outside of Scripture. It has been suggested that Nazareth was a small community of somewhere between 500 and 2000 people.
It was situated in the hill country of Galilee, a region of fishing and farming. The people spoke with a distictive accent, so by speaking others could know that you had come come there. It was known to have a large population of non-Jews, also known as Gentiles, specifically immigrants, foreigners, and resident aliens.
HarperCollins Bible Dictionary describes Nazareth as, quote, “an insignificant agricultural village.”
We do know nothing good was known to come out of Nazareth. It was a “bad neighborhood”, OK to visit, but any decent person wouldn’t want to live there.
But Jesus tells them: “Today, now, … Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing: here, in Nazareth.”
So …Wow …maybe something good has come from Nazareth after all. And the people are amazed and at first say nice things about Him.
Jesus has come home and has read the scripture reading, and is now about to give his first sermon.
But, in truth, the people do not have ears to hear it.
Of course, Jesus knows exactly what to say, but they aren’t really interested.
They didn’t want preaching, and particularly they didn’t want to be convicted by or rebuked by Jesus. They wanted MIRACLES.
But Jesus preaches instead, by reminding them that God’s love extends beyond the chosen people, that it was an immigrant widow that God sent Elijah to, and not a widow in Israel, and that out of all of the lepers in Israel, Elisha only cleansed the foreigner, Naaman.
Oh yeah, BOO! we don’t like that message. You’re saying that God loves everybody. That God wants everybody. That the Messiah has been sent for everybody. Go away!
We came here to be treated special. You’re saying we’re sinners like everyone else.
Let us tell you what we think about that and give you a push in the right direction. Right over this cliff, thank you very much.
Of course, that wouldn’t be the last time anyone would be attacked by a mob for daring to preach the truth of God’s word. And of course, that wouldn’t be the last time for Jesus.
You would think things would have been easier in Nazareth for Jesus. After all, the people knew him, he was raised there. It was in Nazareth that Scripture says Jesus “increased in wisdom and in stature and in divine and human favor.”
So you’d think the local crowd would cut him some slack, give him an easy time of things.
Instead, once again, he was put to the test.
They came with closed minds, expecting one thing, and when he presented something else, something they didn’t want to hear, they closed in on him to silence him forever.
That’s our situation as his disciples.
We are there, in a real spiritual sense, when the devil comes tempting and people come taunting, and the mobs start forming. There are things about being a Christian that the people of the world don’t like to hear, and don’t want to hear. These things must be said and must be said lovingly, but clearly.
And when the world rejects these things, God can and may help us to slip out of the crowd unscathed just as Jesus did to preach another day, but he may not.
Either way, we are called to stand up and stand together for what is right, and stand against the darkness.
In a Christian newsletter it was written “A pastor told me that he sees too many people looking at the church as being an optional club which is one of the many choices a person can make with their time, energy and financial resources…”
The Church is not a club or membership organization. It is where Christ is preached and proclaimed and where disciples are made and nurtured.
We come to recognize that we are not who we pretend to be, but sinners who have been redeemed by a God who sent His Son to die for us.
The Church is where we gather as sisters and brothers.
The Church is were we, like Christ, are put to the test.
Why did the people of Nazareth get so angry with Jesus?
They were upset because he said unpopular things, the truth that in Jesus Christ all people can be saved.
The devil really, really, really doesn’t like that. He makes this message upsetting to many people. But Jesus loves us all and wants us all as his children.
He loves smart people and tall people. He loves people from China and Afghanistan. He loves angry people and people who are drug dealers. He loves people who are gay and people who watch too much television. He loves people who are Muslim and Hindu. He loves people who are lazy, and people are racist. He loves people who like model trains and people who eat crackers in bed. He loves rapists, and tax evaders. He loves Methodists, and Lutherans, and Baptists, Catholics and Quakers. He loves the saved and the unsaved. He loves people who sin and people who don’t.
And even if you started to get mad about something I said. Even if you were thinking of tossing me off a cliff for suggesting that God loves some of these people. It’s still true. And it’s what Jesus was saying that made people so mad.
God loves the Gentiles, the people of the nations, the heathens, the pagans.
Jesus said “I love them too, just like I love the faithful.” I love them, and that’s why I came.
And if you didn’t catch that last part I said. “He loves people who sin and people who don’t.”
And there ain’t no people who don’t.
God really, really hates sin. He really does. But he never hates the sinner.
Every sinner can be redeemed by the blood of Christ.
If you’re a sinner, and you are. God loves you. And the worst sinner you can think of, Jesus loves them too.
He wants you to be saved and born again in Him. And in his salvation, you will be changed and you will live.
(c)2010 Timothy Henry