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Jesus: The Suffering Servant - Sermon #3
THE TEMPTATION OF THE SERVANT
Intro: As we continue to move through the Gospel of Mark, we are observing Jesus as He begins His earthly ministry. His coming was announced by John the Baptist, v. 7-8. Then Jesus appeared and submitted to baptism, v. 9-11. Jesus was baptized, not to cleanse Him of any sin, for He had no sin to be cleansed of. Jesus was baptized to publically accept His Father's mission to be the Savior of the world. As soon as He was baptized, Jesus was anointed by the Spirit of God for service, and Jesus heard the voice of His Father acknowledging Him as His Son and approving of Him in every way.
Our verses today reveal even more about the preparation of Jesus Christ for His mission of service to fallen humanity. As soon as He is baptized, the Spirit of God “driveth” Jesus into the wilderness. The word “driveth” is a strong word. It means “to throw or cast out, to force out.” This word does not suggest that Jesus had to be forced to do the will of the Father; it simply means that the Spirit of God moved on Jesus in a strong manner and led Him into the wilderness to be tested.
I am interested in this passage because Jesus Christ went through a period of temptation and He came out the other side victorious. Every person in this room faces time of temptation as well. We need help when our times of testing come, because, unlike Jesus, we fail in this area far more often than we succeed.
This passage offers some much needed help and hope when our own times of testing and temptation come. Let's look into these verses and consider The Temptation Of The Servant.
Since Mark's account of this event is so limited, we will be calling on the testimony of Matthew to aid us in our understanding of the Lord's temptation. You can find Matthew's account in Matt. 4:4-11. Let me show you some of the details of our Lord's temptation that can help us when we face temptation in our own lives.
I. v. 12 THE TIMING OF HIS TEMPTATION
A. The word “immediately” lets us know that the trial Jesus faced in the wilderness occurred just as His baptism was completed. There was no lag in the action. One moment Jesus was hearing the approval of the Father; receiving the anointing of the Spirit and confirming the acceptance of His mission; the next moment, He finds Himself being compelled to go into this time of temptation.
B. There is a great lesson here for the children of God. We are never more vulnerable than when we are coming out of a time of great victory. Satan loves to attack us when we think we are the strongest. This is clearly taught in the Bible, 1 Cor. 10:12.
Look at Elijah on Mount Carmel. He prays a short prayer and the fire of God falls consuming the sacrifice. He takes the 450 prophets of Baal and has them all put to death. He prays again and it rains for the first time in three and one-half years. He even outruns the chariot of King Ahab all the way back to Samaria. Elijah is at the top of his game! Fast forward less than twenty-four hours. Jezebel sends him word that she is going to do the same thing to him that he did to the prophets of Baal, 1 Kings 19:2. What does Elijah do? Does he remember the power of God and say “Bring it on Jezzie! God can handle you!”? No, he runs away in fear.
C. Beware when you enjoy a great spiritual victory or get in on a good move of God. You might think that you are invincible and that you have reached a place where the devil can't touch you. When you think like that, you are headed for a time of testing! (Ill. How many faced a trial on the heels of Wednesday night's service? ) (Ill. Satan will also come when you are tired and weak - Ill. Jesus!)
II. v. 12 THE TERRITORY OF HIS TEMPTATION
A. We are told that Jesus was sent into the “wilderness”. The Jews saw the wilderness as a place of danger, gloom and as the abode of demons. For them it represented everything that was evil and separated from God.
B. Jesus was sent into the wilderness to do battle with the devil on his own territory.
Jesus had already invaded the devils' territory when He was born in this world. Satan is the “god of this world”, 2 Cor. 4:4. When Jesus came into this world, He was declaring war on the devil and bringing the battle to him.
In the temptation, the battle lines between Jesus and Satan were clearly drawn from the outset.
C. The temptation of Jesus served three basic purposes.
1. The devil found out just Who he was dealing with.
2. The Son to experience the Father's ability to take care of Him.
3. We can see that there is help for us when we face our own times of testing.
(Ill. I am glad that Jesus endured temptation and testing. He is able to help us when we face those times in our own lives, Heb. 2:18.)
III. v. 12-13 THE TRIALS OF HIS TEMPTATION
(Ill. Mark's description of these events is very brief, but we can see some important truths here.)
A. The Leadership - The temptation was all about Jesus doing battle with the devil. But, Mark is quick to tell us that the “Spirit” of God is the One Who caused Jesus to go into the wilderness.
When temptations to evil come, they never come from the hand of God, James 1:13. God never leads people into sin. He is in the business of leading us away from evil, 1 Cor. 10:13. However, He will send us into periods of testing. He does this, not to cause us to fail, but to help us grow in the Lord.
He knows that we do our best growing when the pressure is on. God will not send you into a time of temptation to sin, but He will send you into a time of testing to help you grow. Just ask Joseph about why he ended up in that pit, Gen. 37; Gen. 50:20. God will never send you into sin, but He will put you in places where your faith will be tested! Satan also uses these times to tempt us.
B. The Loneliness - In that wilderness place, Jesus was cut off from friends and family. He was shut off for a time so that He might be tested. His only companions where “the wild beasts”, “the angels” and “the devil”.
We do not know why Mark mentions the “wild beasts”. He may have mentioned them to emphasize the fact that Jesus was in a barren place inhabited only by wild animals. The deserts in Jesus' day were inhabited by lions, hyena, wild boars, and jackals. These were all fierce beasts of prey that might have stalked the Lord Jesus. Some believe that these animals recognized their Creator and came near to comfort Him in His trials.
The angels did not give Him food until His testing was finished, Matt. 4:11. The word “ministered” is the same word translated “deacon”. It means “to wait tables, offering food and drink to guests.” But, they were with Him during the entire ordeal. They communed with Him and gave Him emotional, spiritual and mental support during the testing time.
The Spirit of God was also there to give the Lord Jesus comfort during this trial. The Holy Spirit is called the “Comforter” in the book of John, John 14:16. The word “Comforter” refers to “One Who comes alongside of another to offer aid and comfort.”
Of course, the devil was also there. He was there to see Jesus fail. He came to tear the Lord down and defeat Him if he could. How many times during those forty days did Satan tell Jesus that no one cared? How many times did he tell the Lord how foolish He was for trusting God? How many times did he point out the fact that Jesus was alone, had no food and no friends?
(Ill. There are times when it feels like we are walking through the hard places of life all alone. It seems that the only one around is the devil. He comes around to do to us just what he did to Jesus. He comes to mock our faith and challenge our resolve to truth the Lord.
Even when it seems you are all alone, you are not! The Lord's angels are there ministering to you in ways that you will not know until you get to Heaven, Heb. 1:14; Heb. 13:2. The Lord Himself is there! Even when you can't see Him, sense Him or feel Him, He is still there to help you, Heb. 13:5; Matt. 28:20. He is in you. He is with you. And He will never leave you, John 14:16-18.
Our Lord knows how to help those who are lonely! He has been there!)
C. The Length - This time of testing lasted forty days. The number forty in the Bible is used for “times of testing, times of probation; and times of preparation”. Israel spent forty years in the wilderness. Moses spent forty years on the backside of the desert in training. The spies spent forty days spying out Canaan. The rains were upon the earth forty days and nights during the flood. So, the number forty is a number associated with testing.
We are told by Matthew that Jesus fasted those forty days, Matt. 4:2. He also spent that time in close communion with His Father. He was preparing Himself spiritually for the showdown that was coming when Satan unleashed his temptations. Jesus was getting ready for battle.
(Ill. This time of testing lasted forty days for Jesus. We never know how long our times of testing will be when they do come our way. Our duty is to be prepared for them when they come; to weather them in the grace of God; and to exit them with our testimony intact. We do not know how hard the battles may be, but we do have His promise that He will support us through them all, 2 Cor. 12:7-10.)
D. The Load - Mark simply tells us that Jesus was “tempted of Satan”. This implies that He was attacked by the devil during the entire forty day period. Matthew tells us that it was at the end of the forty days, when Jesus was weak from fasting, that Satan came against Him with his strongest and most pointed attacks, Matt. 4:2.
To understand what Jesus faced and what it teaches us, we need to look at Matthew's account of these events. Turn to Matthew 4. Let's examine the three temptations that are mentioned here and see what lessons we can glean from them.
1. The First Temptation - Matt. 4:3-4 - In this temptation, Satan questions the Son's relationship with the Father. No doubt, Satan had heard the Father's declaration in Mark 1:11. Now, Satan calls that relationship into question. He mocks Jesus and says, “Look at You starving here in the wilderness! If You are really the Son of God why are You starving to death in the wilderness? Use Your power and turn these stones to bread. Feed Yourself since You are the Son of God.”
Now, there is no question that Jesus could have turned the stones to bread has He wanted to. He had the power to do so. And, it is not a sin to want to meet a legitimate need. But, to use His power in that way at this time would have shown a lack of faith in the Father. The temptation here is for Jesus to act independently of the Father and the Spirit. The devil wants Jesus to do His Own thing.
Christ's answer to the devil showed the condition of His heart. He would rather starve to death than be out of His Father's will! Being in the center of the Father's will meant more to Jesus than food or life.
(Ill. What a challenge to us! How easily we sell out to get our hands on the things we desire. How easily we give in to compromise and sin so that we can satisfy the lusts of our flesh. Like the foolish Jews, we love bread more than we love the Father at times, John 6:26!)
2. The Second Temptation - Matt. 4:5-7 - Here, Satan tries to get Jesus to perform the miraculous apart from the will of the Father. Satan took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple. This spot was said to be 450 feet high. Satan misquotes Psalm 91:11-12. Satan left out the phrase that says “to keep thee in all thy ways”. This is God's promise to protect the Messiah as He carried out the Father's will. Satan was trying to get Jesus to step outside that will and work a miracle to prove that He was Who He claimed to be. He was also trying to get Jesus to accept immediate fame. If He had stepped off the pinnacle of the Temple and floated to the ground, He would have been instantly famous.
Again, Jesus responded in the proper way. His response was one of faith. Jesus is saying, “It is never right to operate contrary to God's will regardless of the outcome.” God honors obedience, not outcomes. (Ill. Saul - 1 Sam. 15:1-33.)
(Ill. Again, there is a lesson for us. Far too many people and ministries in our day seem to think the ends justify the means. They have the mentality that everything is all right as long as a few people are brought to the Lord, and as long as things turn out all right in the end.
God does not bless programs, people, puppets and petting zoos. He blesses His Word and He blesses obedience to His Word. The increase belongs to the Lord, 1 Cor. 3:7. Obedience to His Word is our responsibility! External prosperity does not mean that God approves of what we are doing. God always has and always will bless obedience! He may not bless it in external ways, that men recognize, but He always honors those who honor Him!)
(Ill. Moses and the twice smitten rock - Num.20:1-12 - Moses was commanded to speak to the rock so that water might be given. He struck the rock twice instead. God graciously gave the water, but Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because he disobeyed. I would rather have the blessings and presence of God than the prosperity that can be achieved through human means!)
3. The Third Temptation - Matt. 4:8-10 - Here, Satan, as the god of this world, offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world. Satan is attempting to get Jesus to take the crown and bypass the cross. For a simple bow to the limited sovereignty of Satan, Jesus could skip the pain of Calvary and have the world fall at His feet.
Apparently, Satan had the power to grant this promise. But, Jesus responds in a way that honors God once again. He reminds Satan that only God is worthy of worship. You see, Jesus did not come to this world just for a crown. Oh, there is a crown in His future, but for Jesus, the path to the crown leads by the cross! Jesus came to this world to die. He would obtain the crown by laying down His life on the cross.
(Ill. Again, there is a lesson here for us. Satan would have us take the easy, painless way. He promises us an easy path if we will just allow him to be the ruler of our lives. But, if you give the devil an inch, he will become your ruler!
God's will is that we walk in His ways, and that we trust Him to give us the things He desires to bring into our lives in His time, Psa. 37:5.)
IV. v. 13 THE TESTIMONY OF THE TEMPTATION
A. Luke says, “and when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season,” Luke 4:13. This would certainly not be the last encounter Jesus would have with the devil. He would ultimately defeat Satan forever when He died on the cross. But, here, in His temptation, Jesus won a great victory over Satan.
It needs to be said here that the temptation of Jesus was not about trying to get Him to sin. Jesus Christ was God in human flesh and it was impossible for Him to sin. The Bible is clear in this matter. First, He knew no sin, 2 Cor. 5:21. Second, He did no sin, 1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15. Third, He had no sin, I John 3:5; John 14:30; Heb. 7:26.
Yet, He was tempted in every way that mankind is tempted, 1 John 2:16; Heb. 4:15. He was tempted in the physical realm, the emotional realm and the spiritual realm, just like we are.
If He could not have sinned, were His temptations real? Yes, they were real. The temptation of Jesus was not to see whether He would commit sin or not, but to prove that He could not sin. He proved that He was the sinless Son of God in that wilderness!
There are some lessons we can learn from His temptation; lessons that can help us in our day of testing.
B. Jesus overcame because He was sinless. We fall because we are sinful. How can we obtain victory in our own battle with sin?
Watching Jesus in His trial can help us through ours. There are two things we need to take note of. First, He was filled with the Spirit, Mark 1:10. Second, He was filled with the Word of God. Three times Jesus was tempted and three times He reached back in to the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, (Deut. 8:3; 6:16; 6:13), for just the word He needed.
The Spirit of God gave Him the ability to stand against the attacks of the devil. The Word of God gave Him ammunition to defend Himself while He attacked back.
If we want to be successful in our battle with the flesh and the devil, we need to be sure that we are living lives that are controlled by the Spirit of God, Eph. 5:18, and filled with the Word of God, Psa. 119:11. We need Him and His power if we are going to have the victory in our own times of testing.
C. The first Adam was placed in a beautiful garden. He was in a perfect setting, and he still failed. Because of Adam's fall, all of his children have been born in sin, Rom. 5:12. We are all in need of a Savior and we all have trouble with sin and temptation.
The Second Adam, the Lord Jesus, was driven into a barren wilderness. There, He did battle with the devil and He walked off with the victory.
Jesus went into that wilderness and faced the devil on his own turf. He did this so that He might help us when our own times of testing come. He understands because He has been there. He is able to help those who will look to Him for the power to overcome their own trial and temptations, Heb. 4:15. He fought the battle so that He could hand us the victory!
Conc: In 1961 a man by the name of Adolph Eichmann went on trial for his crimes as one of the principle architects of the Jewish Holocaust. One of the men who testified against the ex-Nazi was a concentration camp survivor named Yehiel Dinur. A film clip from Eichmann's 1961 trial shows Dinur walking into the courtroom, stopping short, seeing Eichmann for the first time since the Nazi had sent him to Auschwitz eighteen years earlier. Dinur began to sob uncontrollably, then fainted, collapsing in a heap on the floor as the presiding judicial officer pounded his gavel for order in the crowded courtroom.
Was Dinur overcome by hatred? Fear? Horrid memories?
No; it was none of these. Dinur explained that when he saw Eichmann he realized Eichmann was not the godlike army officer who had sent so many to their deaths. This Eichmann was an ordinary man. “I was afraid about myself,” said Dinur. “. . . I saw that I am capable to do this. I am . . . exactly like he.”
Mike Wallace, of CBS' 60 Minutes summed up Dinur's terrible discovery by saying, “Eichmann is in all of us.” That is a horrifying statement; but it captures the central truth about man's nature. For as a result of the Fall, sin is in each of us, not just the susceptibility to sin, but sin itself.[i]
How true that is! The possibility to do the greatest of evil exists within each one of us. The only hope we have; the only help we have, is the Lord Jesus Christ.
First, you need to be sure that you are in a personal faith relationship with Him. Are you?
Second, if you are saved, you need to be sure that you are filled with the Spirit and the Word of God. Are you?
We all fight battles with temptation, but there is help in the Lord if you will receive it. He is waiting to save you if you are lost. He is waiting to strengthen you if you are weak. He is waiting to forgive you if you have fallen.
[i] Adapted from Charles Colson, Who Speaks For God? (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1985), pp. 27-28.