|THE FIRST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
February 27, 2000
This morning we’re continuing our study of the early ministry of Jesus. I invite you to turn with me to Mark 1:12-15.
Mark begins his Gospel like the opening of a great drama. He sets a scene for us - with scenery - the wilderness of Jordan - the introduction of the main characters - a hint of what’s to come.
Last week when we looked at this opening - in verses 1-11 - we we’re introduced to John the Baptist - a prophetic voice - out in the wilderness by the Jordan River. Then Jesus is introduced - baptized by John - and identified by God as the One who will take away our sins. The stage is set - the scene is opened.
Mark 1:12-15: Immediately - right after Jesus was baptized - the Spirit impelled Him - Jesus - to go out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.
When the Bible uses the number 40 its significant - usually its a time of preparation and testing. Moses spent 40 days and 40 nights on Mount Sinai receiving God’s instructions for the people of Israel. (Exodus 24:18) Elijah spent 40 days and 40 nights at Horeb learning to listen to God and to trust Him. (1 Kings 19:8,15)
Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness fasting - a time of testing and preparing for ministry on our behalf.
Verse 14: Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.”
In between verses 13 and 14 - there’s a whole year of Jesus’ ministry missing. If we read the Gospel of John - in that one year of time there’s the encounter with Nicodemus - the woman at the well - the wedding of Cana. Mark leaves all that out in order to get to His main point which is the message of Jesus. The Kingdom of God is here. God in His mercy and grace as broken into our lives. Repent and believe in the Gospel.
I want to come back to verses 14 and 15 - and the message of Jesus. But before we get there I’d like to have you turn with me to Matthew 4. Because Matthew records what happened in the wilderness when Jesus was tempted. Before we get to the Kingdom of God - its important for us to see the questions Jesus was asked that we need answers to.
On eBay this last week - eBay is this online auction site - where people can auction off just about anything. People log-on and bid on items over the web. This last week on eBay there was a man from Canada auctioning off his soul. He got $20.50 for it. The coming of Jesus - His preparation for ministry - proves that we are worth so much more to God than $20.50. God - through Jesus - gives us the answers to our deepest questions.
Matthew 4:1: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.” - same setting as Mark.
First question: WHAT IS THE BASIS FOR HOW YOU’RE LIVING YOUR LIFE?
Verses 3 and 4: The tempter - Satan - came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He - Jesus - 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.’”
When Jesus was baptized - God had spoke from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son.” (Mark 1:10,11) God's word declaring His approval and presence with His Son. A declaration of God’s working in Jesus to bring the salvation of mankind.
Now - 40 days and nights later - Satan comes and says, “Jesus, we all heard what God said. But look at you. If you are the Son of the Almighty God, what are you doing out here in the wilderness? Why are you so hungry? Can you really trust what God said? Maybe you should take matters in your own hands and do something about this? You’ve got brains. You can do miracles. Turn the rocks into bread. Satisfy your needs. God isn’t going to do it.”
Its the same question Satan tempts each of us with. Can we really base our lives on God’s word?
To answer Satan - Jesus quotes from the Bible - in fact its significant that as Jesus answers each of these 3 questions He quotes the Bible. The Bible has the answers we need. Here - He quotes from Deuteronomy 8:3.
After 40 years in the wilderness the people of Israel are about to enter the land God promised them. Deuteronomy 8 is a part of Moses’ last words to the Hebrew people. “He - God - humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” Verse 6: “Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.”
Moses is saying - People of Israel - “Don’t forget how God did exactly what He said He would do. For 40 years as you wandered around in the wilderness - a desert with few natural resources - with nothing to sustain you - God provided for over 2 million of you - just like He said He would. He did it to humble you - because you had to learn to trust Him each day to take care of you - to follow His word - to obey Him. Now, when you go into the Promised Land - don’t forget to obey God’s word. His commands still apply. He still demands obedience.”
We often hear this. The Bible was written a long time ago to a different culture. Times have changed. It just doesn’t fit today. And there are a lot of interpretations to the Bible. How do we really know what God actually said?
Those are good questions. The problem is that most people who ask those questions aren’t really interested in the answers. And there are answers. But most of the time - asking these questions is really an excuse to avoid taking the word of God as the word of God and having to base our lives on what God says.
Its easier to avoid Bible study and accountability to God’s word - to live by our own wisdom and understanding - if we simply pick and choose those parts that we want to live by and dismiss the rest as “subject to various interpretations” and “not for us today.”
93% of all Americans own at least one Bible - most own more than one - 70% never read them. Of Christians in America - the people we’d think would be reading their Bibles - 23% say that they never read their Bibles. Never - not seldom - not sometimes - but never. Only 18% say they read their Bibles daily.
Recently someone said, “We have too many Bible studies.” But, we need to be in the word - reading - disciplined in our study - sharing together around the word of God - studying together - asking questions - challenging each other with God’s word - holding each other accountable. The wisdom and truth of God’s unchanging word should be the basis - the foundation - for how we live our lives.
Second question: IN WHOM DO YOU TRUST?
Verses 5 and 6: “Then Satan 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.’”
Satan takes Jesus to the roof of the Temple in Jerusalem - some 450 feet high - overlooking the Kedron Valley. Satan says to Him, “If you really do trust God’s word - step off. God will protect you. He said He would. Or, don’t you trust Him?”
Verse 7: “Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
The verse Jesus quotes comes from Deuteronomy 6 and a scene recorded in Exodus 17. The people of Israel were wandering in the wilderness and they had come to a place called Massah and Meribah where there was no water - the people and animals were thirsty. And, they were complaining to Moses. They were grumbling about Moses. In fact, they were getting ready to stone Moses.
Finally, the people came to Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt to kill us and our livestock. Is God with us or not?”
Moses says to them, “Why are you testing God? God said He would take of you and He has. Why can’t you trust Him now? Does He have to prove Himself worthy of your trust again?” God tells Moses to strike a rock - and when He does - water comes out for the people to drink. (Exodus 17:1-7)
In Deuteronomy 6 - the verse Jesus quotes - Moses says to the people - when you go into the land God promised you, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah.” (Deuteronomy 6:16)
We test God, when rather than trusting Him and living according to His word - we demand that He continually prove that He is worthy of our trust. We don’t need to step off the roof of the Temple to prove that God will do what He says He’ll do. He’s already done it time and time again in our lives.
We fail to give God first place in our lives - our homes - our careers - and then when our kids rebel - we ask God to somehow rescue them. When our marriages come apart we cry out to God for healing. When our career becomes a disaster we want God to fix it. We step off the roof and demand that God keep us from hitting bottom.
When God saved us - He already proved that He should have first place in our lives. Why now, do we ask Him to prove Himself to us again? If we really trust God we will live placing Him first in everything.
Third question: WHO WILL BE YOUR GOD?
Verse 8: 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.”
How many of you have watched this program with Regis Philbin, “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” Be honest. Okay, tougher question. How many of you watched this program on FOX a couple weeks ago, “Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire?”
This was really bad. 50 women were selected and competed on live television from the Las Vegas Hilton. After a compatibility quiz and a swim suit parade the five finalists appeared in wedding gowns and answered more questions. Then the multi-millionaire - who had been hidden up to this point - stepped out and proposed to the winner. Right there on national television - a judge married Rick Rockwell - the millionaire - and Darva Conger - the winner.
Of course - the marriage is already coming apart. It makes me wonder if FOX will air the sequel, “Who Wants To Divorce A Millionaire.”
Satan takes Jesus to a high mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world - all the wealth - all the glories of human civilization - the greatest of our achievements. And Satan tells Jesus they’re all His for one act of worship. No need for the cross - the beatings - the rejection - the agonizing death. You can achieve it all by worshipping Satan.
Again Jesus quotes scripture - verse 10: Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’” (cf. Exodus 23:20-33; Deuteronomy 6:13) These words that are repeated through out the Bible. Worship God and only God.
Everyday we face the temptation to live by this world’s system - to follow Satan’s plan for this world - to seek success by our own means - to fantasize that our money - our time - our talents are ours - to imagine that we’re the masters of our own fate - to invest in the plans of men rather than the plans of God.
When Jesus was tempted there were 3 crucial questions being asked - questions that at some point we must answer. What is the basis for how we will live our life? In whom will we trust? Who will be our God?
Which brings us back to Mark 1:14,15 - and Mark’s main point. After His time in the wilderness - Mark writes - Jesus comes “preaching the Gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; turn from your sin and believe in the Gospel.”
God has revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ - we know the answers to the questions. Jesus comes to offer us the reality of what those answers really mean. To know God’s grace and mercy in our broken lives. To know God’s power and healing and forgiveness. Jesus says - turn to God - believe - the Kingdom of God and all God offers you is right here - receive it from Him.
_________________________Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.