Introduction: If a really important world heavy weight boxing match
is scheduled, I try to watch it. I just watched some very exciting
football (American football) contests. You probably like to watch
contests. What if you had a personal interest in the contest? I’m
not talking about betting, I’m talking about you dying if your
champion did not win. That is a contest we can watch closely this
week! Let’s dive into our Bibles and take a ringside seat for three
rounds of the most important contest in the history of the universe!
- The Wilderness Match – Round One
- Read Matthew 3:16-17. How do you think Jesus felt at this
moment? (Christians generally remember their baptism as a
high point in life. Having your father tell you that He
loves you and is pleased with you is another great
experience in life.)
- Read Matthew 4:1. What Spirit are we talking about? (It
must be the Holy Spirit. It is hard to imagine that Jesus
would allow an evil spirit to lead Him.)
- Isn’t this odd activity for the Holy Spirit?
- Read James 1:13. James sometimes writes things that make
me wonder. Do we have an absolute contradiction between
James and Matthew? (In Matthew we have one part of the
Trinity leading another part into temptation.)
- Read Matthew 4:2-3. What are the elements of this
temptation? Break it down if you can. (The first element
is to challenge Jesus’ power and authority. “If you are
the Son of God.” “If you can.” The second element is an
appeal to hunger.)
- Read Matthew 4:4. Which of the two elements of the
temptation does Jesus answer? Neither, one or both?
- Do you understand Jesus’ answer? How do you live on
- Read Deuteronomy 8:2-4. What point is God making in these
verses? (We should trust God. God can miraculously speak
manna into existence. God can miraculously preserve our
clothes. We should humbly trust God to take care of us.)
- This is the text that Jesus quoted to respond to
Satan. Tell me, to what element of Satan’s temptation
did Jesus respond? (He responded to both elements.
Satan said “I don’t think you have the power, prove
you do.” Jesus responded, “I don’t need to exert
power because my Father has the power and the desire
to take care of My needs.” Satan appealed to Jesus’
hunger, but Jesus told Satan that God would not let
Him die of hunger.)
- What do you think about the quality of this temptation?
If this is one round of the epic battle between Jesus and
Satan, then Satan must have prepared a long time for it.
How did Satan do? (Recall that in the first two lessons of
this series we decided that sin entered heaven and earth
because of a desire (in Satan and Eve) to be like God. We
see traces of that in the first element of the temptation,
at least as Jesus understands it. Jesus responds that He
does not need to use His Godly powers because He trusts
God to take care of His needs, just like God gave the
people manna. It is interesting that Eve’s temptation and
Jesus’ temptation also involve food – but that seems to be
a secondary aspect of things.)
- If Satan prepared, do you think that Jesus and the rest of
the Trinity prepared for this conflict. What do you think
about Satan repackaging an old temptation?
- What does that tell you about the kind of temptation
that Satan’s confederates will bring in your life?
(Let’s agree that the “hunger/fruit” element of the
temptation is like addictions for us. They are
troubling for many. But, the big temptation is
pride, a desire to be like God.)
- What new thoughts do you have about the
temptations in your life?
- Re-read Matthew 4:1. Have you worked out an answer to the
apparent conflict with James? (What if the Holy Spirit was
anxious to have this combat? What if the Holy Spirit was
convinced that Satan was not that good and not that
original? What if the Holy Spirit thought that Satan was
unprepared? I speculate that the answer to the apparent
conflict is something like that.)
- The Wilderness Match – Round Two
- Read Matthew 4:5-6. This temptation also seems to have two
elements. “If you are the Son of God” did not work before,
why would Satan immediately try it again?
- What is the second element of this temptation? (It
has to do with trusting God. It seems that Satan has
made an “adjustment.” Because Jesus previously
essentially answered, “I don’t need to be like God,
because I’m trusting Him to give me food,” Satan
brings a temptation about trusting in God.)
- Can you trust God too much? Is that the issue?
- Let’s read the text Satan quotes so we can better
understand the temptation. Read Psalms 91:9-14. Would this
text justify Jesus throwing Himself down and trusting God?
(Psalms 91 seems to refer to disasters that overtake you.
Not disasters that you decide to create.)
- Let’s read the texts that form the basis for Jesus’
response. Read Deuteronomy 6:16. This refers to a prior
situation recorded in Exodus that we should read next:
Exodus 17:1-3 and Exodus 17:7. What is the “test” in
Exodus 17? How is God being tested? (The people denied
that God was with them. Moses said that the test existed
in saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
- How does that support Jesus’ answer to Satan? (Notice
how this again goes back to trusting God. Jesus
interprets the temptation as a test of whether God
will be with Him and save Him. Jesus essentially
responds (considering the background texts), “I’m not
going to show doubt about God being with Me by
needlessly jumping off a building.”)
- Have you tested God to see if He is with you?
- Can that happen when we decide to pursue
something God has not directed us to do?
- The Wilderness Match – Round Three
- Read Matthew 4:8-9. What element of the prior temptations
has Satan dropped? Why? (Satan no longer challenges
whether Jesus is the Son of God. Instead, this test
assumes that fact and asks Jesus to give His allegiance to
- What could possibly tempt Jesus in this offer? (Jesus
came to redeem the earth from Satan.)
- If Jesus worships Satan, has Jesus taken back
- Read Matthew 4:10. Jesus again cites the Bible to respond
to temptation. What is the lesson for us when we face
- Jesus again quotes Deuteronomy 6. Let’s read Deuteronomy
6:13-15. What common sin is being suggested to Jesus?
- Let’s assume that Satan is not stupid. Although idol
worship is a very successful temptation for us, it
hardly seems to be a temptation for Jesus. What do
you think is Satan’s thinking in this temptation? (I
don’t see any skill at all. This is not some sort of
subtle trick. Satan is not appealing to pride or
trust in God the Father.)
- Read Luke 22:41-44. Is the nature of this temptation
now more clear? (Yes. This is not a “skill”
temptation, this is a “club” temptation. It is like
the threat of torture. Satan essentially says, “If
you do what I want, I won’t torture and kill you.)
- Is this a temptation that you and I can face? (How
many times are we tempted to take the easy way out?
How many times are we tempted on self-denial?)
- Let’s drill deeper. When I think about self-denial I
think about my nice house and car. Is that the issue
here? (If Jesus worshiped Satan, if He gave His
allegiance to Satan for the sole benefit of avoiding
torture, that would be understandable, but it would
be sin. I think this is more akin to someone giving
up on God to do better or avoid loss. An example
would be if you embezzle money. An example would be
if you denied God just to have friends.)
- Friend, if Satan brought these temptations to Jesus,
imagine how Satan’s fallen angels use these on you. Will
you be alert to these temptations, and follow Jesus’
pattern of trusting His Father and relying on the Bible?
- Next week: Jesus’ Teachings and the Great Controversy.