The Means and the End

Today’s reading: Matthew 4:1-11

The temptation in the wilderness.  I’ve personally only known one other person who has ever claimed to have fasted for 40 days, and believe that may have been from food only (not from liquids).  Myself, I struggle to go any extended period of time without food.  I can only imagine how physically hungry Jesus must have been, and yet He points to a different kind of food, the food that comes from the mouth of God.

Obviously this was a push back on Satan, but I believe it was also for us, so that we could see that spiritual food is far more important. Take for example the story of the woman at the well, not only do we see Jesus offer a water that satisfies so completely we will never thirst again (John 4:13), but later in that same passage when His disciples are encouraging Him to eat, He tells them He has food they don’t know about (John 4:32), explaining a couple of verses later that it is not physical food.

We, who would not deny ourselves physical food for more than a short while if we can help it, are able to go days, weeks, months, sometimes years without a daily intake of God’s word!  We starve ourselves and then wonder why we are so spiritually weak as a congregation, a people, a nation.

So then Satan attempts to switch gears.  He takes Jesus up on a high pinnacle and tells Him to throw Himself down, quoting scripture back to Jesus.  Stop there for a moment and think about how knowledgeable Satan is when it comes to scripture.  It is never enough to just know scripture.  The nourishment of scripture comes from knowing God, and the relationship we have with the Holy Spirit.

The scripture Satan quotes is from Psalms 91, which happens to be one of my favorite Psalms.  He tempts Jesus to jump, stating that His angels have been given charge over Him, lest he strike His foot against a stone.  In other words, if you jump, God won’t let you die, He will catch you!  Makes you wonder if Satan knew who he was talking to!  Again Jesus answers in a way that is a push back onto Satan and a lesson for all of us at the same time, when He says “on the other hand, you shall not tempt the Lord your God”.

Have you ever read Psalms 91?  Later in that same chapter it talks about the ability to walk on serpents without harm (vs. 13).  I could not help but remember stories I had heard as a child of what was known in the mid twentieth century as “serpent handlers”, or those who would handle snakes in order to prove this verse.  In reading Matthew chapter 4, I could not help but wonder if any of those serpent handlers ever read verse 7 where Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16.  The lesson here for us is clear: just because you are a child of God doesn’t mean you should go play in the middle of a busy road!  Here is a more practical example or application: if you or your child is sick and there is a medicine available to you that can heal, take it! So often we bring upon ourselves the consequences of our own actions.

So Jesus has now been tempted in two ways, both of which had to do with physical need.  The third temptation is different.  Satan knows Jesus has come to establish His Kingship, and so offers Him power.  He showed Jesus all the kingdoms of this world and said if Jesus would worship him, he would give Him all those kingdoms.  First, remember, any “authority” Satan has at all has been given to him (see Surrendered Authority).  I put the word “authority” in quotes because essentially it is not authority but permission, so the notion that he would be giving “authority” back to Jesus is absurd!

An interesting thing that struck me about this particular temptation however, was that for Satan, he was clearly emphasizing that the means could justify the end.  The end in this scenario is that Jesus would be given “authority” over all the kingdoms of the world.  The means by which that “authority” is gained would be to bow down and worship Satan himself.  Jesus knew in this case or any other that the means never justifies then end. Had he taken this “deal”, Satan may or may not have kept his part, but the thing to think about is that we, all of us, would have been robbed of any ability to reconcile to God.  We would have remained forever lost!

It is never right to allow evil to falsely claim to be able to achieve the greater good of the masses by violating the individuals who makes up the masses.  A perfect example of this is any socialistic society turned into full blown communism (the end), for if you research your history you can see it was always accomplished through an evil such as genocide (the means).

Where is your weakness?  Where can you be most easily tempted?  1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that temptation is common to all of us, but God is faithful, because He won’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able, but will provide a way for us to escape the temptation.

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. -James 4:7

FLEE indicates FEAR. Who is Satan afraid of? YOU when you are submitted to God (i.e. a connected Christian fighting purposefully to push out the lines of the Kingdom). He is not fearful nor does he heed one who fights battles for his or her own purposes.

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Today’s Reading: Matthew 4:1-11 NASB

‘And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'” Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘ he will command his angels concerning you ‘; and ‘ on their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone .'” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'” Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. ‘

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