Strength for the Challenges of the Day
|Simon Dewey — Google Images|
To fully identify with the people He had come to save, Jesus had to know, by personal experience, what it was like to be tempted. God the Father sent His Son into the wilderness and said to Satan, “Give it your best shot.” To add to the challenge for Jesus, He went forty days and forty nights alone and without food. He was physically at His weakest—the perfect moment for Satan to catch Him in some fault. That the devil even thought he had a chance to bring the Son of God down only reminds us how deluded our enemy actually is.
Hebrews 4:15 tells us “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”
God the Father knew that His Son would not fail. Jesus knew He would not fail. So why go through the exercise? This event is recorded so that we would know that Jesus, as the old song goes, “understands our every weakness;” so we can come to Him in prayer with honesty and talk to Him about our challenges in life knowing that He has already been where we are—and has triumphed.
This latter is also an important point. Because Jesus faced Satan’s temptations and did not yield to them, we can do the same because of the power of Christ that resides in us through the Holy Spirit.
First Corinthians 10:13 reminds us, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
Notice that it is God who allows us to be tempted—but never beyond what He knows we can take. Notice too that there is always an escape. For Jesus, the escape was quoting back to Satan the appropriate Scriptures that challenged the half truths of the temptations.
What strikes me in these few verses from Matthew is that: “After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said...” It appears that Satan was allowed to begin his tempting only after the forty days and nights. What was Jesus doing during more than a month alone in the wilderness?
On all the other occasions when it is recorded that Jesus went off alone, we are told that He spent these times in communion with His Father. There is no reason to think that He wasn’t doing the same thing here—forty days and forty nights talking with His Father.
He was about to be tempted. He was about to begin His public ministry. He was on the way to the cross. There was lots to talk about. There was lots of spiritual strength to be gained to make up for the human frailties that Jesus had accepted as His reality when He took on skin for us.
There is an obvious lesson here. If we want strength to resist the temptation that will surely come our way—because God allows it—then we need to spend lots of time in communion with the One who can give us the strength to bear the temptation and who provides the way to escape when the load gets too heavy.