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Temptation #1 Turn these rocks to bread

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Temptation # 1

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 4:1-11

Forty days seems to be the wall where the body becomes so desperate for nutrition it begins to feed on itself.  The acid in the stomach begins to eat at the lining of the stomach itself as the body urgently fights to find some kind of nourishment.   People who have undertaken long fasts lasting over forty days often state that they "know" the fast is over when they become extremely hungry around the fortieth day.  Jesus has been fasting in the desert for forty days and forty nights.  His mind was clear, but His body had reached its limit and he was hungry.

A 40 day fast requires

  • Determination
  • Dedication
  • Strength of will
  • Strength of character
  • Discipline

This test shows a great deal about the character of Jesus, His strength of will, determination and endurance.  Why? Because it takes a person of strength, character and willpower to complete a long fast.  Personally I have a hard time enduring from one meal to the other and that’s with snacks involved.  Jesus had reached that point of intense hunger.  His stomach had begun to rumble and cramp with the need for food. 

With temptation, timing is everything.  Jesus was evidently near a pile of stones that were round and flat, looking similar to the small loaves of bread that were a staple of Judean life.  Seizing his opportunity, Satan came to Jesus and said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” as he pointed to the stones.

To understand this temptation, we have to discover what the sin was that Satan was trying to entice Jesus into committing.  Which brings up an excellent question.  What was the sin involved in this temptation?  The Bible describes sin as the breaking, or transgression, of God's law (1 John 3:4). It is also defined as disobedience or rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7), as well as independence from God. The original translation means "to miss the mark" of God's holy standard of righteousness.

It would help if we could hear Satan’s voice inflection when he threw out this temptation.  We all know that just changing our voice inflection can add multiple meanings to our words and actions.  For example some have suggested Satan was trying to incite lust in Jesus. 

Lust defined is an intense desire, physical hunger or need for something.

If it was lust, Satan probably used a smooth oily sales pitch of a used car salesman whispering,"Go ahead turn these stones to bread.  Think about the soft chew, bread in your mouth, the smooth buttery flavor saturating your taste buds with the essence of heaven.  The satisfying feel of it sliding down to your stomach to ease those hunger pains!”  You can imagine Satan made those stones to suddenly appear as the most delectable looking looking bread a man could sink his teeth into,  while the mouth watering aroma of fresh baked bread began to waft through the air.  Have you have ever been hungry and experienced the luscious aroma of fresh baked bread?  If you have, then you know the intense visceral affect it has on the body. The powerful aroma stimulates sudden intense hunger pangs, causing the stomach to rumble, and the mouth to salivate and the taste buds to tingle in anticipation of that first bite.  For a man who has endured a forty day fast, this would have struck like a physical blow with almost unbearable hunger pains. The heady aroma began to stimulate Jesus’ mouth to water and his stomach to rumble intensely.  Just writing this makes my stomach begin to tighten and rumble a little.  Imagine what it did to Jesus who hadn’t eaten anything for forty days?

We know Jesus had the ability to turn the stones to bread. He turned water to wine (John 2:2-12) and later took five small loaves of bread and two small fish and multiplied them to feed 5000 people (Matt. 14:13-21).   Would this sudden powerful desire cause Jesus to lust and use His power to transform those rocks into bread to satisfy his intense hunger?  Would it have been sin to give into the temptation of desire and lust to transform the stones into bread?  Maybe! Or was there another element in this temptation? 

 

PRIDE?

Others have suggested that Satan was attacking Jesus’ pride?  After all Lucifer's  weakness and sin had been pride as evidenced in his five I will’s. 

12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!  13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

Isaiah 14:12-15

Satan/Lucifer’s Pride

“ ‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl.Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. 14You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. 15You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. 16Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned.  So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.  So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. 18By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries.  So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching.

 

Ezekiel 28:12-18

Lucifer was the anointed Cherub who covers.  Ezekiel chapter 1 describes the four remaining Cherubs who guard God’s throne and move His throne from place to place.  Tradition suggests Lucifer’s position had been above or before God’s throne (who covers) and that he lead the angelic hosts in praise and worship of God.  Can you imagine how beautiful Lucifer must have looked with the light of God reflecting through and off all the precious stones and gold he was covered with?   Wow! He must have looked spectacular and he knew it!  Because Lucifer’s downfall was pride!  He was the seal of perfection, wisdom and beauty and it went to his head.  Somewhere along the line he began to crave worship for himself.  Over time this craving grew until he dreamed of rebelling against God and putting himself on the throne thinking, "I will be like the most High".  He decided he wanted to be God and lead a rebellion against God Himself.

*Note:  We as Christians must never underestimate the persuasive enticements of the prince of the power of the air.  Remember, with his wisdom and cunning, Lucifer/Satan successfully enticed one third of the angels of heaven into rebelling against God with him! (Revelation 12:4).  That shows that he is a charismatic and seductive manipulator at the highest level.

So, why not roll the dice and try to stimulate that same sin in Jesus?

If so, he may have sneered as he said, “If you are the Son of God?” implying, I don’t really believe you’re who you think you are!  Prove to me that you’re the Son of God by using your divine power to turn these stones into bread.  Was he trying to sting Christ pride, inciting Him into acting rashly?  Maybe?  But, again maybe there is another element or level in this temptation.

Selfish Idulgence

 

Maybe his voice insinuated, “Hey you’ve endure a lot, forty days without food. If you’re the Son of God, you can turn these stones into bread!”  Why not? You’ve endured. You’ve proven yourself.  Go ahead, indulge.  Go ahead and  turn these rocks to bread and you can end the pain, enjoy the pleasure and be satisfied all at the same time!”

 

Pleasure has always been one of Satan’s most effective lures, combined with lust.  How many millions has he sent down the slippery slope of sin and destruction with the lure of pleasure?  He knows how to wrap temptation in tantalizing packages that look so desirable while he whispers, “No one will ever know, go ahead, try it, it will taste or feel so good! It only affects you, so why not?”  What he never shows is the destructive hooks of the lure that bite’s into your soul and threatens to drag you down to destruction.  Was Satan trying to lure Jesus into indulging Himself?  Maybe.   But, I think the answer may be in Jesus’ answer to Satan’s temptation.

 

Disobedience

Jesus’ response to Satan’s temptation was to quote scripture, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”  An interesting answer!  To understand its significance you have to know a little about Jewish customs and Jewish rabbis.  It was, and still is customary for a rabbi to answer a question with half a scripture, expecting the person asking the question to know and understand the other half of the scripture and the context of the verses surrounding it.  With that in mind we need to look at the verse Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3.

Deuteronomy 8 (NIV)

8 Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. 2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.

6 Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. 7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

19 If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. 20 Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.

Reread Deuteronomy 8 and notice its high points.  This whole chapter focuses on Israel’s testing in the wilderness for 40 years in the desert, God’s commands, and God’s provision.  The chapter is an interesting parallel to Jesus' temptation in the desert for forty days and forty nights.

  1. Obey all the commands I am giving you that you may live and increase
  2. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.
  3. Remember how God lead them through the wilderness to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger.
    1. He led Israel through the vast and dreadful wilderness for forty years, a thirsty and waterless land, with venomous snakes and scorpions.   
    2. He brought water out of hard rock
    3. He gave manna to eat

 Satan’s temptation may have hinted at disobedience, insinuating, “God’s forgotten all about you out here in the desert.  You’re, hot, miserable and starving.  Why wait for God? Be a man, make a decision on your own and  take care of yourself.  You can do it.  If you’re really the Son of God, all you have to do is wave your hand and you can transform these rocks into bread. Why suffer? Why wait on God when you can perform this miracle on your own.”  Was part of the testing waiting on God’s provision?

If you think about it, there were probably elements of all of these sins in Satan’s temptation.  He was playing high stakes poker, rolling the dice for the big prize.  A skillful general and manipulator, he would have designed his attack on multiple layers with multiple hooks. 

Jesus’ answer nullified all four temptations with scripture that cut to the heart, “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  In other words, “I will obey God’s commands and He will provide my needs”  Case in point, at the end of all the trials and temptations, God did send angels to minister to Jesus.

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