June 17, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 4:1-2 (NRSV)
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.
For context, read Luke 4:1-13 here.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is tempted by the devil. Scripture teaches us that this was real temptation. Jesus felt strongly the pull of opposite desires. Yet he chose the way of God’s kingdom. The fact that Jesus experienced genuine temptation means that he sympathizes with us when we are tempted. We don’t have to hide in shame. Rather, Scripture invites us to speak openly of our struggles so that we might be helped by God’s mercy and grace given through Jesus.
After Jesus was baptized and the Holy Spirit came upon him, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, “where for forty days he was tempted by the devil” (Luke 4:2). The following verses describe the specific temptations Jesus faced and how he overcame them by drawing strength and guidance from Scripture. In each of the temptations, the devil tried to get Jesus to use his unique identity as the Son of God for his own benefit. Yet Jesus refused, remaining committed to the mission to which God had called him.
For much of my life, as I read this story I was surprisingly unimpressed. Of course Jesus didn’t give in to the devil’s illicit invitations. He was the Son of God, after all, God in human flesh. He had superhuman strength to defeat the devil’s schemes. To be honest, I didn’t really believe that Jesus was truly tempted. His temptations seemed formal or formulaic, not genuine and heartfelt. I did not understand that Jesus was actually wrestling with the meaning of his messianic calling. He was rejecting the obvious and expected path of glorious kingship, choosing instead the enigmatic and unexpected way of sacrificial servanthood. For Jesus, this wasn’t merely a thought experiment. It was a heartfelt, gut-wrenching challenge.
In the New Testament letter to the Hebrews we find theological reflection on the temptation of Jesus: “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16). The NRSV uses the word “tested” where other translations (NIV, KJV, CEB) go with “tempted”. Either way, the point is that Jesus was tempted/tested “in every respect . . . as we are,” though he never sinned. Whether in the wilderness or the workshop, whether alone or with others, Jesus was truly tempted. He felt the conflict of desires we know so well. He felt the temptations that are so familiar to us.
This means, according to Hebrews, that Jesus can “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). He really understands what it’s like to be us when we are tempted. For this reason, when we are tempted we don’t have to hide from Jesus in shame. Rather, we can “approach the throne of grace with boldness” (Hebrews 4:16). We can tell Jesus what’s really going on with us without holding back. As we do, we will “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Jesus not only understands, but also supplies what we need to say “No” to temptation and “Yes” to God’s kingdom.
As you read about Jesus’s temptation in Luke, how do you respond? What thoughts do you have? What questions are stirred up? What feelings?
Do you believe Jesus was really tempted? Do you think he actually felt the desire to do what was not right? Why or why not?
How free are you to let the Lord know when you are tempted? What might help you to become even freer to do this in the future?
Take some time to think about your experience of temptation. Then talk to the Lord about what you’re thinking. Be honest! Ask for God’s help to say no to the temptations that are most common in your life. Ask for wisdom about how to avoid these temptations.
Lord Jesus, thank you for understanding us to thoroughly. Thank you for knowing what it feels like to be tempted. Thank you for inviting me to be honest with you about my temptations. Thank you for the promise of help in my time of need.
Dear Lord, I do ask for your help today. You know the temptations that are so familiar and powerful in my life. I ask you to give me the strength to say “No” to them. Like you, may I draw from the power of your Word. May my calling give me the clarity to reject sin and follow you. Help me, Lord, to be more and more like you each day. Amen.
This devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Created to Rest: Entering Into Joyful Communion With God