Monday, November 13, 2006

The Temptation of Jesus

January 28, 2007
Luke 4.1-15

Luke's telling of Jesus' temptation sheds great light on the objective in communicating Jesus' story to Theophilus the high priest of 37-41 A.D.. Immediately after baptism, Jesus retreats in the power of the Spirit, readying himself for three years of intense ministry. Much of Luke's story of Jesus is foreshadowed in his temptation account.

There is a striking similarity of Jesus to Moses and Elijah. Jesus, led by the Spirit, fasts for forty days in the wilderness (Luke 4.1-2). Moses fasted for forty days (Exodus 34.28; Deuteronomy 9.9, 18), as did Elijah (1 Kings 19.8). Immediately following each of these forty-day fasts, the respective individual encountered God in a significant way. Moses received the Law from God. Elijah encountered God in the rock, and God assured him of a remnant in Israel. In Luke's story, Jesus begins to usher in the kingdom. This parallel would have been easily identifiable for Theophlius the high priest. (Many parallels can be drawn between Jesus and the pair of Moses and Elijah. For example, Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets, which tell of Jesus [see Luke 24.24.27, 44-45; Acts 28.23]. Also, they appear with Jesus at the Transfiguration. We will look more closely at the significance Moses and Elijah in Luke's story in two upcoming studies: The Transfiguration and Two Witnesses: Moses and Elijah?)

A close examination of each of the three temptations proves helpful as well.

Temptation #1: "Turn this stone to bread." Jesus responds by citing Deuteronomy 8.3: "Man shall not live by bread alone." In Deuteronomy 8, God admonishes the people of Israel to diligently keep his commandments (8.1, 6, 11ff.). The Jewish aristocracy was guilty of violating this admonition.

Temptation #2: "To you I will give all authority and the glory of the kingdoms of the world." Jesus responds by citing Deuteronomy 6.13: "You shall worship the Lord you God, and him only shall you serve." In Deuteronomy 6, God admonishes Israel to refrain from going after other gods (6.14), and to diligenttly keep his commandments (6.1-3). Again, the Jewish aristocracy was guilty of violating this. Comparison of the Greek language between Luke's second temptation account and the scene of Daniel 7.13-14(LXX) (which, it shall be seen in weeks to come, bears high priestly significance) reveals a further significance. Satan claims that he "will give all this authority and glory of the kingdoms of the world to you [Jesus, the son of God]." In Daniel 7.14, the Ancient of Days gives to the one like the son of man the authority and glory and kingdom, an eternal kingdom. Is Satan perhaps assuming for himself the role of the Ancient of Days (a role which he knows is not his)? Jesus' responde seems to indicate so. Though citing Deuteronomy, Jesus counters Satan's appeal for Jesus' service with the command that only God is to be served. In Daniel 7.14, "all the peoples, nations, and languages...serve" the one like the son of man. Luke is perhaps implicitly drawing attention to the scene of Daniel 7 as a backdrop for Jesus' refusal to exercise his authority over the kingdoms of the world prematurely - for he knows that one day, as the Son of Man, the Ancient of Days will give all outhority to him. The real temptation was in taking prematurely the authority that was already due him, according to Daniel 7. And Satan, by offering it in these terms, implicitly recognizes that Jesus intended to one day fulfill of Daniel 7.13-14. So, what was so significant about Daniel 7.13-14 for Jesus? That shall be reaveled in weeks to come. For now, we note that Satan illegitimately tempted Jesus in prophetic terms, against which Jesus answered with seemingly prophetic understanding. And further, Theophilus the high priest would have found this parallel with Daniel 7 significant.

Temptation #3: "Throw yourself down [from the temple],that the angels might rescue you [verifying that you are the chosen one of God]." (Satan citied Psalm 91.11-12.) Jesus responds by citing Deuteronomy 6.16: "You shall not tempt the Lord your God." Again, the context of Deuteronomy 6 is one of admonition to refrain from the worship of other gods (6.14), and to keep God's commandments diligently (6.17-19). This temptation would have been quite significant for a high priest because it takes place at the temple. (Luke's account differs with Mathew's in this one detail, Matthew's inverting the second and third temptations: Matthew 4.1-11.)

From here, Jesus continues in the power of the Spirit to begin his ministry (4.14), as foretold in Isaiah (4.18-19).

Read Luke 4.1-15. Consider how significant each of the three temptations were to Jesus, and his mastery over Satan in them. Learn from Jesus' resolve and discipline in personal fasting in the wilderness and responding to temptation with scripture. Memorize scripture. Meditate on it, that you may overcome temptation.


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