Who’s your Daddy? Who is in charge here? And isn’t this at the heart of temptation? Are you going to control your own destiny or are you going to walk in the will of God? At the heart of the Fall – you know the whole Garden of Eden fall of mankind thing – was the question of who will be God. Satan, the sneaky snake, basically told Eve that God was trying to keep them from succeeding on their own. Take a bite and you will be like God. And she did and she shared. This was the issue in the forty days of wandering in the wilderness as well. Who will you trust? If God gives you manna, or “what is that stuff,” and then informs you not to gather too much, do you trust his word? If water has evaporated, and food is scarce, who do you turn to? Do you long to run back to Egypt or can you trust in God’s plan? Who’s your Daddy indeed.
So, what is the theology behind the tempting of Jesus in Luke 4:1-13? There are a plethora of suggestions and the list will most likely grow and expand. The two that make the most sense to me are 1) Jesus is the new Adam who resists the tricks of the Slanderer, and 2) Jesus is the true Israel who follows God’s plan in the wilderness. I think both of these are true in that the temptation is about the question of God’s will and trust. It is no surprise, therefore, that we begin with Jesus all full of the Holy Spirit being led by the Spirit. Even, being in the wilderness to face off with the Devil is God’s will. This was no chance meeting. This was not a well-orchestrated surprise attack by Satan. Jesus was Spirit led into the wilderness to endure the Devil’s slandering lies. The title “Devil” means “slander, complainer, accuser.” In the midst of a desert experience; in the presence of the Enemy of God for forty days; in the weakened state of extreme fasting – will Jesus walk in the will of God?
After forty days of fasting, the Devil tempts Jesus to turn a stone into bread. There was most likely no doubt on either Satan’s or Jesus’ part that this could be done. So, if you are really the Son of God, push the God button. Trust in your ability rather than God’s plan. Jesus’ response is a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3; “Man shall not live on bread alone.” In the Deuteronomy text, God is telling the people of Israel that the forty years of wandering was about being humbled so that they would trust in God’s word more than bread. Jesus is giving the Devil the same message; he will be humbled and walk in the will of God; he will trust God more than his ability. Being the Son of God is not about taking the reins out of God’s hands or pushing the God button. It is about obedience.
The Devil then leads Jesus up. The Matthew account tells us that Jesus was taken up to a very high mountain. Matthew, by the way, has this as the final temptation. Satan then offers Jesus authority and glory. This is most likely an offer of authority and glory sans the cross. All Jesus would have to do is worship before the Devil. This is a real offer. The Devil has this authority and Jesus knows it. But will the authority truly be his if he worships before the Devil. Again, at the heart of the temptation is finding a different way; a way than sidesteps the cross; a way less painful; a way that is not God’s way. Jesus again quotes from Deuteronomy. This time from 6:13, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” This is what the Israelites were commanded as they anticipate entering the promised land. Worship and trust in God alone. No sidestepping. Don’t hedge your bets with Baal. Only Yahweh. Period.
Jesus is then taken to Jerusalem and is taken to stand on the “little wing” of the temple. We have no idea what this was. Josephus, a Jewish historian, mentions a “royal colonnade” that overlooked the Kidron Valley to the east. This was said to be a “giddying height.” So, maybe there. Satan again mentions Jesus’ status as Son of God and quotes from Psalm 91:11-12, “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you, on their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Jesus responds with Deuteronomy 6:16, “You shall not put the Lord you God to the test,” which, in Deuteronomy, continues with “as you tested him in Massah.” Massah is where the Israelites demanded water. It was a lack of trust that God would provide; an accusation that God and Moses were going to allow them to die in the wilderness. The Devil is saying, “You cannot trust that you are God’s son – you have to prove it.” So, who’s your Daddy? Who’s will are you walking in? In the desert – in extreme exhaustion, hunger, and thirst – can you continue to trust in God. When there seems to be an easier, less painful way, can you simply trust that God knows what he is doing? I hope so. Trust God and walk. Peace, Walter