Sunday, November 15, 2009

11/15- Matthew 4:1-11, The Temptation of Christ

(Duccio's Temptation of Christ)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Matthew 4:1-11 (Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13)

1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted [a] by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." 4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'People do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' " 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For 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.' " 7 Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' " 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." 10 Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' " 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Calvin Abridged: There are two reasons why Jesus withdrew into the wilderness: 1) that after fasting for forty days he would come forth as a new, heavenly man to discharge his office. 2) That he might be tried by his temptation as an apprenticeship before he undertook his elevated office as the highest teacher of the church- the ambassador of God. In the same way Moses was withdrawn from the people into Mount Sinai before the giving of the Law. Christ abstained not to give us an example that we might have a forty day fast, but as an evidence of his authority (as Moses had authority to give the law, so Christ has authority to give the Gospel). The only one who followed Moses’ example of fasting forty days was Elijah who was called to restore the Law. Why did God will for his Son to be tempted? The Spirit led him into the wilderness. God intended to show in the person of His Son how Satan opposes our salvation. He attacks Christ because he is preparing to redeem us. So ministers are also the objects of Satan’s daily warfare. The Son of Man voluntarily endured these temptations, and it is a victory for all of us. The temptations that befall all of us are not accidental, or regulated by Satan’s will- without God’s permission, but the Spirit presides over our contests an exercise of our faith. This will aid us, giving us hope for God can fortify us against our distresses. 4:3- “Stones to bread”- The ancient commentators said there were there temptations: 1) gluttony, 2) ambition, and 3) covetousness. But it is not gluttony when a hungry person desires food. Christ had scripture at hand to defend against this attack. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God (Gal. 4:16,17). 4:4- “By bread alone”- (Deut. 8:3) This shows the temptation was an attack on Christ’s faith, so that Christ might use wicked methods for procuring food. Certainly we are pressed hard when we are tempted to distrust God and use our own advantage in a way not authorized by his word. Thought we live on bread, we must not ascribe the support of life to the power of bread, but to the secret kindness, by which God gives bread the ability to nourish our bodies. Here the stupidity of those who think life consist in luxury and abundance; We should trust in God for food, and for the other necessaries of the present life. 4:5- “Then the devil took him to the…highest point in the temple”- Probably this was in a vision more than physically taking him. There was probably long intervals between the temptations. The strategy of this temptation was to induce Christ to exalt himself against God- to go beyond his human limitations. He also wanted to render his life useless. The devil misapplies scripture in 4:6 (command his angels to lift you up). Satan often profanes the Word of God to torture it for our destruction. Angels have been given to guard over Christ and us, but only when we walk in our ways- not purposefully exposing ourselves to death and danger. 4:7- “You shall not tempt the Lord”- whoever desires to make an experiment of the divine power, when there is no necessity for it, tempts God by subjecting his promises to an unfair trial. 4:8- “the devil took him to a very high mountain”- This temptation is that Christ should seek apart from God, the inheritance which he promised his children- thus robbing God of the government of the world and claiming it for the devil.

Thoughts: Jesus was tempted just as all of us are, but these are temptations that would thwart him specifically from the cross and the dangers of life. Jesus thwarts Satan each time by quoting from Deuteronomy- thus showing the importance of knowing and even memorizing scripture. The devil quoted scripture- so we should not be surprised when people twist scripture to prove an evil point. In the end, Jesus triumphs and goes onto face persecution, rejection, the cross- but it is by his faithfulness to his calling and his cross that the resurrection occurs. It also should be noted that God did not truly forsake Christ in all this. The minute Satan left, angels came and nurtured Jesus. So God comforts us when we are faithful to Him, resisting the devil. To some the idea of angels and devils seem far fetched. But there is more to life than we see, and spiritual influences in many places. To think we make all our decisions in a vacuum is naïve.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord for facing temptation so faithfully. Give us grace to do the same this day. Amen.

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