Kaleo San Diego Church
Jesus’ first temptation in the wilderness
Matthew 4:1-4 Jesus’ first temptation in the wilderness
Kaleo El Cajon
January 9th 2010
Today I want to address a question that all of us face throughout our lives. What do we do when what we know in our mind is right, differs from what we feel inside us? What I am talking about is what happens when we are conflicted because we have this deep powerful feeling inside, telling us that we really need something, all the while knowing in our minds that God is calling us to be satisfied. What do we do when we know in our heads that God is supposed to satisfy us but inside we still have these longings for something else? What does that mean and how are we supposed to respond?
All of us struggle with these questions on a daily basis. Am I going to wake up when I set my alarm, in order to get some reading done, or am I going to sleep in until I need to get up for a meeting? When your children or a coworker is really getting under your skin, do you tell them how you feel, do you unleash your displeasure on them or do you bite your tongue and try and be patient? When someone confronts you about something, do you try and justify yourself, or do you listen to that massive urge inside that wants to explain why you did it or point out how they do worse all the time? What do we do with that voice? Do we give into what feels so natural and right or do we fight it? Believing that our God has justified us so we don’t have to justify ourselves, that our God has been patient with us so we can be patient with others, that our God is seriously better than sleep so we can get up. What do we do when we feel this battle within?
You see the world is constantly advertising to us that these desires which we feel are natural and that they need to be expressed. That is why so much of the advertising we see today is sexual or is about money or possessions or reputation. It appeals to our desires and tells us that what we really need is to satisfy our basic human desires and if we just did that we would be happy. And the deception isn’t as black and white as we would like to think. You see the world teaches us that what love means is satisfying peoples desires. And so it tells us that if God really loved us, he would want us to be happy right? If God really loved us, he couldn’t possibly want us to feel hungry, or sad, or lonely, especially when what we need to satisfy these desires is right around the corner. It is totally accessible.
So, what do we do? What do we do when we have these deep desires for something that we think we need and yet we know in our head that God has not given us these things yet? For many of you who are single your desire might be for a perfectly normal and good thing, like companionship. It could be a longing for a spouse, for a family, for companionship and yet God has not brought anyone into your life who would be good for you. What do you do? What do you do when someone desires to date you and from the external perspective they are exactly what you are looking for but they don’t love Jesus? Or maybe they do love Jesus but you find that together you both distract each other from God instead of point each other to him? For some of you this might be a job. You don’t have a job and you desperately need a job or you do have a job and you desperately hate your job. What do you do? How do you respond to the difficulties of life without a job while waiting for God to give you a job? How do you respond to the difficulties at work while trying to find a different job? The question we are going to look at today is a question that all of us face. What do we do when we feel like we know what we need better than God does? What do we do when what we feel like what we need is not what God is giving us? How do we respond? Do we complain, do we take matters into our own hands, do we despair? What do we do?
Well, today we are going to look to answer this question, as we look at the life of Jesus. How he responded when what he felt like what he needed and what God provided for him were different. Today, I feel like we are going to be able to relate to Jesus in a sweet way, because today we are going to see Jesus tempted. We feel tempted every day don’t we? We can relate to temptation. That is what I have been trying to talk about in the introduction. How do we respond to temptation? What do we do when we feel torn between what we know in our heads is right and what we feel deep inside we need or we deserve or at least we want really bad?
Typically in our temptation, we feel very alone don’t we? We feel like no one else can really relate to what we are going through. We might ask others for advice and they warn us about the danger of what we are considering. But we struggle to listen because we know they don’t really understand. They can’t possibly truly know what it feels like to be in our situation and endure the pull that we are feeling. That is why it seems every answer people give us, even if we know in our head it’s right, doesn’t count, because still they don’t really understand. But the Bible tells us that this is not true. The Bible tells us that while others might not truly understand, our Jesus does. Hebrews 4, reminds us that Jesus has been tempted in every way just like we have. We will never endure a temptation that he has not been faced with. Never can we truly say that no one knows what we are going through, for our Savior knows. So today, I want us to look at one of Jesus temptations.
Turn with me to Matthew 4:1-5, and let’s look at what we can learn from Jesus’ temptation. Now, at the end of Matthew 3, Jesus has just been baptized. As soon as he came up from the water, the spirit came down and rested on him and God the Father spoke from heaven “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” Now, you would expect there to be some kind of party next right? Some kind of celebration? God is pleased with his son. God loves his son. How is God going to show Jesus his love? The next verse comes and challenges everything we normally think about love. In the next verse we see that the spirit that descended upon Jesus lead him not to a feast but to a fast. Not to a celebration but to the wilderness. The spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, alone, where he was to be tempted by the devil. Moments after God had proclaimed his deep love for Jesus, he finds himself led by the spirit into the wilderness alone. And there he fasts and he prays and he meditates on God’s word. It is important to know he didn’t go out simply too fast for the fun of it. Fasting wasn’t something you did by itself, fasting accompanied times of prayer and of meditation on God’s word. And so Matthew tells us that for forty days and forty nights Jesus fasted in the wilderness.
Now when we read this, we probably assume that this is a very strange way for God to show love to his son. If Jesus would have went into Jerusalem, had a feast with some of his closest friends and family, and then had some time to just relax before beginning his ministry, that we would have seen as a great way to show Jesus how loved he is. But God comes and says the way I show my son how much I love him is by giving him what is best for him. By providing for him what he truly needs. And that is not found in the city, its not found in friends or family or anything physical, what Jesus truly needs is me and in the wilderness he will find me in a special way. And so the spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness away from people, away from food, away from every type of worldly pleasure, and to a place of total and utter dependence upon him. In the wilderness through a time of fasting and prayer and meditation on God’s word Jesus meets his Father in a special way.
I find this passage really amazing. I seriously find it amazing that the God of heaven who had lived for all eternity without any unmet desire. I mean he lived in the presence of his Father in perfect union with him in a perfect place with no sin and full of comfort and pleasure, this God took on flesh and not only did he just take on flesh. He came to earth and experienced pain and suffering and hunger and sickness and tiredness. Here he is by himself in the desert and he hasn’t eaten in 40 days and the Bible says he is hungry. Jesus knows hunger. Some of you in here know hunger. Some of you know what it is like too long to eat something and not be able to do it. The Bible tells us that Jesus knew hunger. Real hunger, deep hunger, 40 days of not eating hunger. Jesus wanted to eat. That’s what it means to be hungry. To have deep feelings that longed to be satisfied with food. Often when we think of Jesus we think of someone who never had any strong desire for something that he didn’t have. We don’t usually think of Jesus as someone who has been conflicted. I mean he was God right so if he really wanted something he could just get it, not like us, we have deep longings for things we can’t get. But that is not what we find here. Here we find that Jesus has a deep longing for something that he doesn’t have. He longs for food. I want us to know this Jesus. This human Jesus. This Jesus who got hot, who grew tired, who was hungry when he didn’t eat. Know this Jesus. He is a Jesus that we can relate too. A Jesus who can sympathize with us. He is the Jesus that Hebrews 4:15 talks about when it says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Jesus was tempted like we are. And how are we often tempted? We are tempted when our desires don’t match what God has provided. We are tempted when what we long for is not what God has chosen to give us. Here we see that this is exactly how Satan tempts Jesus. He tempts him with his desires. Good desires. A desire for food. There's nothing wrong with a desire for food. Nothing wrong with being hungry. So Satan takes this good desire, this desire for food and he comes to Jesus and he says, “Since you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Basically he is saying, “You’re the Son of God and you should not have to go hungry.” God’s children should not really go hungry should they? I mean if God really loved you, he wouldn’t want you to be hungry would he? He would want you to be happy. God wants you to have what you need: Jesus, and you need food right now? You are hungry, that is your body telling you what you need, you need food, you are the Son of God, you have power, use your power to satisfy your needs.
And so here Jesus is faced with a temptation. What will he do? Will he use his power for himself, will he seek to act independently from his God, or will he use his power only for the good of others? Here we will see clarified the very purpose of Jesus coming. Did he come to be served, to use his powers for his own good, or did he come to serve, and to give his life for others? Here we will see what Jesus will do when what he desires and what God provides for him are different. You see, if God wanted Jesus to eat what could God have done? If God thought Jesus needed to eat, God could have made the rocks into bread. Jesus doesn’t have to use his own power independent of God. Instead, what Jesus knows is that his God will give him what he needs. Regardless of what his body feels, his God knows what he needs and Jesus knows that God will provide for him all that he needs.
That is why Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 8:3, which says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” What Jesus is saying is that there is a deeper need than even physical bread. That life is not about food and water, but ultimately life is about God, it is to be lived in dependence upon him, in reliance upon him. Look at the first part of Deuteronomy 8:3, because that will help you see the context. Here we see Moses reminding the people that God let them hunger in the wilderness. God let his beloved children Israel hunger in the wilderness. He let them hunger and have no idea how on earth they were going to survive, in order that they might learn to trust him. He wanted them to learn to look to him. To come to the end of themselves and wait upon him to provide for them. Notice what the text says next, it says, after he let them hunger, he fed them with manna. He fed them with bread that came from heaven and he did this that they might know that man does not live by bread alone but by every word, which comes from the mouth of God. He wanted them to learn to rely upon him and to be able to wait knowing that God would provide exactly what his people needed. Look at vs. 2; it says that for the children of Israel, their time in the wilderness was a test. It was a test to see what was in their hearts, to see whether they would trust in God or whether they would take matters into their own hands.
Here we see that Jesus time in the wilderness was also a test. It was to see what was in Jesus heart. You see there are many similarities between Jesus time in the wilderness and the time that Israel spent in the wilderness. Jesus baptism is meant to remind us of the Israelites crossing of the red sea. They went into the water and then came out alive on the other side. Then Jesus immediately goes to the wilderness for forty days meant to symbolize the forty years that the Israelites spent in the wilderness. Jesus hunger is to remind us of their hunger. But I also want you to notice some differences. I want to take a moment and look at how the Israelites responded to their hunger because I think in their response we will see a picture of how we often respond to our unmet desires.
There are actually a number of passages about how the Israelites responded to their hunger but tonight we will simply look at one that sums up all the rest. So, here is the situation. God has rescued the people out of Egypt, the most powerful nation in all the world. In fact as they were leaving, the Bible says that people where giving them things to leave, giving them gold and all kinds of stuff to leave. So they left and were given gifts, then the Egyptian army changed their mind and chased them down. Then God parted the red sea, his people made it safely to the other side and God destroyed the Egyptian Army. Even after all this, the people got hungry and complained to God. God answered them and gave them mannah from heaven. He gave them bread that came down each night and fed the people each day. And so every single day except on the Sabbath the people got out of their tent and found the ground layered with bread from heaven and they gathered it and they ate. They ate all that their bodies needed. In other words, you must see that the Israelites had all that they physically needed for life. And the Bible says that God was leading them through the desert, he led them by day and by night with his presence. And then we get to Numbers 11 and we find a curious thing. The people begin to complain. And their complaining grows. They complain because they have a strong craving. In other words, they began to be overcome with this feeling that they wanted something that God had not provided for them. They longed for meat and this craving was real. The Bible says that they wept out loud, each person outside their own tent because they longed for meat. So, the people are not satisfied with what God has given them. Even though he has done so much for them, they want more and they want it so bad that they begin to cry. Feel their desire. Feel how much they long for something that God has not given them. You too may have felt such cravings. Haven’t you ever longed for something so badly, longed for it maybe even with tears? That is what these people feel right now. They long for meat. It is a real feeling. But what do they do with this feeling? That is the question. They turn it into a complaint against God. In fact, they allow this craving to take such a foothold in their hearts, that it turns them away from God. They begin to feel like things were better before they met God. They begin to feel like things were better in Egypt.
I want you to see just how foolish this craving makes the people. The people wish they were back in Egypt. They say, remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost us nothing? Do you see that? They said the fish cost them nothing! Do you see how twisted they have let their minds get? Not only have they forgotten all that God has done for them. They have forgotten how he had rescued them, how he saved them from the Egyptian army, how he fed them every single morning, keeping them alive, keeping their clothes from wearing out; they forgot all that God did for them but they also forgot about the Egyptians. You see they said the fish cost them nothing. In reality the fish cost them everything. They were slaves; they worked all day long building things for the king. They had no rest, they were whipped and mistreated. All their male babies were strangled by order of the king. Can you imagine how deceived the people are? Most of the people had lost children to this king, they had watched him kill their baby boys and yet all they remember is how good the fish tastes! Guys, here we see how deceptive sinful desires can be. They make us forget all the consequences. Our desire for the pleasure of sin makes us forget everything it has stolen from us. Some of us have seen our sin steal so much from us. We have seen how our anger or our pride has destroyed relationships; we have watched our addictions steal our family, our marriages, and our children. We have seen how our sin has hurt people that we have loved. And yet in the heat of the moment it is so easy to forget. So easy to simply remember the good, the pleasure and forget that sin kills. Oh how foolish these people are that they forgot their slaughtered children and instead thought only of the fish they used to eat! So we see just how deceptive our desires can be. They are so overcoming, so powerful, that they blind us to all the destruction they wreak. Notice how powerful the people allow this desire to get. They wept for meat. They had plenty to eat but it wasn’t good enough. Notice how our desires are never content. At first they grumbled for bread, then when they got bread they want meat and God comes to them and shows them just how deceptive our desires are. You see, if you asked an Israelite weeping at their tent what it is that they longed for so much, what it is that if they only had it they would be happy, they would say, “Some meat. All I want is some meat.” But notice what God shows them. God says that he will give them meat. He will give them so much meat that it will come out their noses and it will become loathsome to them.
Notice what Numbers 11:20 says. Look at what the text is telling us. It shows us that our greatest desires, what we feel if only we had we’d be satisfied, that when we reject our God who is near for these, we find even though we thought it would satisfy, it will eventually let us down. Whenever we reject God in order to pursue anything, we will find that it will never satisfy us like we wanted it to. And ultimately, it will destroy us. Even if it satisfies for a time, it will eventually lead to our destruction. Here we see that while the meat was still between their teeth, God’s anger burned against them and he struck the people with a great plague. If they were to choose meat instead of him, he would show them the ultimate result of their choice. Numbers 11:34 says that the people called the place “the graves of craving” because there they buried the people who had the craving. This is the end for all who chose to reject God in order to follow the cravings of our flesh; the end will be the graves of craving. There is nothing lasting, nothing permanent, and nothing satisfying in the things we crave, they will one-day leave us with nothing.
Guys, there is so much of ourselves that we see in the Israelites. How easily we forget all God has given us. How quickly we let desires for things we don’t need consume us and drive us to be willing to reject God in order to get that thing we think we need. You see the Israelites were able to reject God so quickly because they never really saw God for who he was, but only for what he could give them. They saw God as their genie, as the one who could provide for them. They thought life was about them, about fulfilling their desires. So because life was about fulfilling their desires, when they wanted meat they had to have it, even if it meant rejecting God. It’s so easy for us to fall into the same trap. To believe that life is about us. To love God for what he can give us. To reject him when he seems to fail to give us what we really really want deep down inside. To believe our world which says that love means satisfying our felt needs. But you see that is not what love is. Love is about giving the beloved what is best. It is about providing for the beloved that which is ultimately best for them. And that is what our God has offered us. He has offered us what is best for us. He knows that we were not made to live by satisfying our physical desires alone but we were made to know God. To live off his word. To let him satisfy us with himself. We were made for so much more than food. We were made for so much more than sex, companionship with another human, acceptance at work, physical pleasures and comforts, we were made to know our maker! We were made to worship our creator, to serve him, to know him, to love him, to gaze upon his beauty and to depend upon him for our life! Augustine says, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” We were made to know God. He created us to be his children, to depend upon him, to allow him to satisfy us completely and not to reject him for some temporal pleasure.
And yet we all have been like the Israelites. Even though God has saved us from so much, we have still rejected him in order to seek our joy and satisfaction in things that he created instead of in the creator himself. Having all we needed, we have still longed for more. We have refused to wait for our God. Refused to truly believe that what he was giving us was best for us. Think about your life, I want you to think about your life right now. Think about the things in your life that you would change if you could. Think about the things in your life that you would change if it were in your power. Think of what you would add, what you would take away. Think about it. Do you have these things in your head right now? Now, I want you to know that this is what the Bible says for all of you who love God. If you love God, if you truly love him, then I want you to know that God has not withheld any good thing from you. In fact God intends to work everything, even the things you wish would change, out for your good and his glory. He is a good Father. He provides good things for his children. He knows what is best.
I am reading a biography on a man named George Muller right now and his life is an amazing example of the provision of God. When George was married, him and his wife sold everything and gave it to the poor. He lived the rest of his life pasturing and ministering to orphans, always relying on whatever God would provide. He did this for 70 years. And there were hard times. In his journal he recounts over one thousand times when he did not have any money or know where his next meal was going to come from. One thousand times! But he says this in his journal, “Now the truth is that, while we have been brought low; yea, so low, that we have not had even as much as one single penny left; or so as to have the last loaf on the table, and not as much money as needed to buy another loaf… Yet I am bound to state this, and I do it with pleasure. My Master has been a kind Master to me, and if I had to choose this day again, as to the way of living, the Lord giving me grace, I would not choose differently.” George Muller, having given up everything to follow his God, giving up so many of life’s pleasures and comforts. Giving up security, money in the bank, insurance, food in the pantry, owning a home, having given all these things up for his God, he feels bound to make clear that “My master has been a kind master?” Guys, I want us to get to the point where we can say this. When we find that in our greatest need our savior is enough. When we can find that even when the life we have dreamed of and the life our God gives us don’t match up, we can still say, “Our God knows best, and he has been a kind master.” I want you to know that it is true. He is a kind master. Any who have ever cast themselves on him, as George Muller and so many others have, can all attest that he is a good and kind master. That his steadfast love is better than life, that the communion they find with God even in the desert is far superior to the pleasures of this world that there bodies have craved for. Our God is good to those who wait for him.
Go back and look at Jesus, look at him in the desert, even when he was so hungry, God knew what was best for his son. God was loving Jesus even when he let him go hungry. Yes Jesus’ human desire was for food, yes he thought he really needed it and he felt conflicted between believing that God knew what was best for him and the hunger that was shooting through his body. But Jesus chose to trust God instead of his feelings. And in trusting God, he found that the steadfast love of his father was better. Better than any bread, better than any comfort, better than anything that his body craved; the steadfast love of his Father was better even than life. That is what Jesus showed us in the desert. He showed us what it looked like to trust God when everything inside us longed to satisfy a physical desire. And I want you to notice how God does provide for his son. He does not abandon him in the desert but he provides for him, in his time. The Bible says that after Jesus had passed the tests, the devil left him and God sent angels to minister to him. God provided for his son. In his time he took the devil away, in his time he sent angels to minister to him to provide for him, to give him what he needed. Jesus trusted in his father and found that his father was faithful.
And not only was God faithful to his Son, but he has been faithful to us. To a foolish people who have rejected him and over and over again chosen to try and find satisfaction in his creation rather than in God himself, to fools like us, God has come and given his greatest gift. You see, Jesus came to pass this test because he knew we would fail it. Jesus refused to give in to his feelings and his physical desires because he knew that we would. And so he came and he came to fulfill all righteousness, to pass every test, to overcome every temptation so that in our failure he might give us his success. In our foolishness he might give us his wisdom. That is our savior. He came and bore every temptation we would ever bear and he bore it to its fullness. He was tempted so much more than you or I have ever been tempted. You see in our temptation what do we do most of the time? We give in don’t we? In our temptation we break and so we never really know how bad the temptation could have been because somewhere in the middle we break. Its like we are a branch and the temptation comes and weighs on us and after it hits like fifty pounds, we give in and break. But we never know how much more that temptation would have weighed if we wouldn’t have broken. Our savior does. He has bore every temptation to its utmost because he has refused to break. And he did that for us. He bore every temptation to its utmost so that he could forgive all his people for the times we have broken under temptation.
That is our God. He is amazing. Not only did he come suffer in order to live a perfect life but then he went to the cross and on the cross he bore the pain and suffering and hell that we deserved for our failure. On the cross he bore the death that we deserved, for all the cravings that we have ever rejected God in order to satisfy. He died for all the meat that we have stuck in our teeth even though he never tasted it. He went to the grave of craving for all us cravers. He went to the grave of craving so that we might live eternally with him. So that our sins might be forgiven, our teeth might be cleansed, and our lives might be redeemed. This is our God, that is what he has done for us and I promise you He is better than anything else we might desire. Whatever promises the world feeds us, none can compare to what our Savior has done for us. His steadfast love is better than life. He will satisfy us in a way that nothing else ever will. Everything in this world, even if you were to have it all, would leave you hungering for more, and yet our savior is enough to satisfy us in the desert. Our savior is enough to satisfy us. We can trust him.
I beg you to know that you were not made to simply satisfy all your physical desires. You are not an animal, you were not made to live like an animal, you were made to find a joy and a rest and a peace in the steadfast love of your God. You were made to rest in him, even when you don’t have the comforts of this life. All of your desires are ultimately a desire for him. Know that. Every hunger you feel, every thirst, every sexual urge, every burning desire to justify yourself, all of them are meant to drive you to your savior, who alone can ultimately satisfy. Eating, drinking, sex, yelling, self-justifying, they will ultimately leave you wanting more. C.S. Lewis says, “That which does not satisfy when we find it was not the thing we were desiring.” He goes on to say, “How do we truly know our desires save by their satisfaction. When do we know them until we say, “Ah, this is what I wanted.” Guys I want you to know that Jesus and Jesus alone will truly satisfy. We think our desires are for physical things but we forget we were made for so much more. We were made for more than bread alone, we were made to know and love and worship our God. It is only when we refuse to run after all of our physical desires but instead look to our God knowing that in his time, in his way, and ultimately in himself we will find all that we need.
So, in all of your temptations know this. You are not alone. When you are tempted to complain or to be impatient. When you find yourself conflicted between a physical longing and a waiting and resting in your God, know that you are not alone. Your savior has faced that conflict. He has faced that temptation and he is with you. And he calls you to look to him and know that he is better, he will truly satisfy. He is better than any physical satisfaction, any feeling, any longing, or any pleasure that this world could ever offer you. And what makes him so amazing is that even in our failure, in the times when we have chosen our own selfish desires, we can still run back to him and find forgiveness in his death on the cross for us. We can find peace and release in his perfect righteousness that he offers to all who put their hope in him. Find comfort in the depths of his love and hope in his faithfulness for us. And as we confess our sins and bask in his mercy and forgiveness, we will know that he is good. We will know that the God who gave his only son for us, the Savior who left heaven and bore every kind of temptation for his people and then died on the cross to forgive them. That God is not going to withhold anything good from his people.
Guys, know that tonight. Seriously know that. Your God will not withhold any good thing from you. He knows what is best. Know that, believe that. You see when you find yourself conflicted, when you find a physical desire overcoming you and making you feel like you need something that your God has not provided for you. Know that it is a lie. Fight that desire by remembering your God is good. He will give you all that you need. You can trust him. Wait for him. Kaleo church, Lamentations 3:25-26 says, “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Guys, wait for your God. Just as Jesus waited for him to provide when he was hungry, you, wait for your God. He has already provided everything that we need. The one who gave his only son for us, he will take care of us and he will take care of us by giving us himself. His steadfast love is better than life, everything is rubbish, every physical desire, every longing, all rubbish compared to Jesus, who we already have, for he has promised he will never leave us or forsake us. Guys our God is enough. He is enough, wait for him. Even when you don’t feel like he is enough, wait, wait for him for he has already proven once and for all on the cross that he will spare nothing to provide for his people.
 Arthur T. Peirson. George Muller of Bristol. Hendrickson, Peobody, MA: 2008. (72).
 C.S. Lewis. The Pilgrims Regress… 123.
AMEN'd this Sermon: