Sermon passage: Matthew 4:1-11
Do you ever find yourself tempted to do something which is wrong? What is it? Why is it tempting to
you? Is it wrong in and of itself, or would it only be wrong depending on specific circumstances? When
do you feel the lure of temptation the most? When are you most likely to give in to temptation?
How do you feel when you experience temptation? Temptations are only tempting because, at some
level, we think that they are good; we’re tempted because we suspect that what is offered will be to our
benefit. But what if we know better than that? What if we know that though it might be a delicacy, it is
laced with poison? What if we know that though our temptation might offer pleasure or life, it is actually a step on the road away from God – away from the source of true life, and the fountain of delight.
My biggest temptation might not be something that even crosses your mind. The temptation you
struggle with most might be one that I would never struggle with. Our temptations are, in some respect, tailor made for who we are. In today’s message, we’re looking at the first recorded temptations of Jesus.
Immediately following his baptism, the anointing of the Spirit and the joyous voice of the Father, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.
How do you deal with it when you are tempted I suspect that a common response – certainly one that
I’m familiar with – is to feel ashamed and guilty for being tempted. Surely the fact that we can be
tempted is a sign of how unworthy we are. True, God cannot be tempted by evil. And yet Jesus, God
with us, was tempted. He is fully God, and yet also fully human.
And Jesus’ response to temptation wasn’t to wallow in guilt and shame. Because temptation in and of
itself is not sin. Temptation gives rise to sinful actions when we choose to give in to it. Jesus was
tempted, and Jesus never sinned.
I love that Jesus chose to share with his people the fact that he had experienced temptation. The
temptations thrown at him in Mathew 4 are uniquely his – an attempt by the devil to undermine him as our Saviour. But his temptations are also ours: he was tempted in every way, just like us, but did not sin.
It is not inevitable that temptations lead to sin. Every temptation, Jesus refused. Because he was more
enticed by what his Father wanted. He was more enthralled with pleasing his Father. Who would be enticed by a stale, 2 year old cookie when you’ve got your eyes fixed on a fresh chocolate
chip biscuit still steaming from the oven? It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t want what the devil was offering; it’s just that he wanted to please God more. He wanted God more.
Like Jesus, we don’t have to give in to temptation. We need to learn to identify the poison behind the
temptation; to resist the devil; and most importantly to fill our minds with the hope of glory. Only then will we become more aware of the hook of temptation as opposed to the bait.