Inspiration – Jesus resisted temptation for you

Rev. Terry Goerz,
Redeemer Lutheran Church

The events of the Temptation of Jesus take place shortly after John baptized Jesus in the Jordan. That baptism not only identified Jesus to the world, but also identified Jesus to Satan and His demons.

As far as Satan was concerned, the baptism painted a big bull’s-eye on Jesus and made Him Satan’s No. 1 target just as Adam had been Satan’s No. 1 target after God created man. So it was not long after the baptism that Jesus had this battle with Satan.

It is important to understand that these temptations were very real. We should not think that Jesus relied on His divine nature to get Him through this event. Both Matthew and Luke remind us of Jesus’ humanity by telling us that after Jesus battled Satan for 40 days without food, “He was hungry.”

God never gets hungry. Hunger is a characteristic of Jesus’ human nature. The fact that Jesus was hungry reminds us that Jesus withstood Satan’s attack using only His human nature. He used no resources that we, as human beings, do not have.

So what does Jesus’ temptation mean for you? Well, hear this good news from the Temptation in the Wilderness: Jesus perfectly resisted temptation, and He did so for you. He did this so that, along with the forgiveness of sins, He could give you the credit for His perfect resistance to temptation.

When Jesus overcame Satan in the wilderness and on the cross He totally disarmed him. Satan is the accuser. Even today he will try to accuse us of our sins. But now in our hearts we can say with confidence, Jesus overcame temptation and as a perfect sacrificial lamb, without sin, paid the price for my sin on the cross. Satan can no longer accuse us. He is totally disarmed if we have confidence in our forgiveness.

Again, Jesus resisted temptation so He could give us the credit for His perfect resistance. This is important, because this text is so often taught in a troubling way. The message is often perceived as, “Jesus went into the wilderness and resisted the devil to set the example, to show you that it could be done. Therefore, if He can do it, so can you. So get out there and resist that devil. That’s what being a Christian is all about.”

…if that is the message of this text, then it has no comfort for you. The notion that you can do whatever Jesus did is ludicrous from the start, as you are not the sinless Son of God. No, you have that sinful nature that still clings; and so often, you have already succumbed to temptation before you even knew you were being tempted.

If the entire message of the text is, “Go resist temptation like Jesus did” then this text only sets you up for failure. The reason Jesus came was because we cannot save ourselves by works.

So hear the good news of the text again: Jesus did not go into the wilderness to set an example that He expects you to live up to. He went there and resisted all temptation because He knows full well that you can’t, and He wanted to do it for you.

Of course, that does not give us permission to let sin rule in our lives. Our baptism put a bull’s-eye on our back, too. Satan cannot take our faith from us, but he will try hard to have us shipwreck our faith ourselves by lettings ourselves become slaves to sin all over again. He is a great deceiver. He would love us to try to maintain our righteousness by resisting temptation by our own will power.

God does not need us to redo what Christ has done for us already. Rather, Jesus wants to change our nature so sin has no attraction to us. He wants to make it so our nature is described by qualities like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

“Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature,” said Jesus in Galatians 5:16.

Aim for sanctification, not refighting the battle Christ has won for you already. When we do sin, have confidence in our salvation, in the cleansing we receive in confession and the sacrament of the altar.

Grow your faith and self control will come naturally as one of the fruits of the Spirit, not as a result of your fighting temptation.

God has no desire to reform your sinful nature. It will die with your body. Although we are expected to enter into the struggle of sanctification, a lifelong struggle against our sinful nature which we never fully achieve, the tools of that struggle are God’s word, worship, communion, and faithful service, not refighting the battle against temptation that Christ has already won for us.


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