by Dr Pauline Simonsen
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Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1).
Read Matthew 4:1–11
At his unexpected baptism, Jesus was powerfully affirmed in his divine identity as the beloved Son of God. And straightaway, the Spirit who fills him leads him out into the wilderness for 40 days of solitude and fasting – and temptation by the devil.
This testing was crucial to Jesus’ human identity. Temptation was part of Jesus’ experience as a full human being. He was ‘tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin’ (Hebrews 4:14–16).
Temptation itself is not a sin; it is a typical experience for every human being living in a broken world. Jesus joins us in it. His temptations come when he is deeply vulnerable – also a very typical human experience! When we are tired, hungry, disappointed, or hurt – that’s when the enemy is sure to show up. Do you know your vulnerable times, when the tempter will try his luck? Ask the Holy Spirit for words of Bible truth that will confound Satan’s tempting. Ask the Spirit to help you learn them, so they are hidden in your heart, ready for the crucial moment!
Satan’s deepest temptation of Jesus was to doubt God’s word about Jesus’ identity. Jesus has just heard God’s proclamation about him: ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:17). God’s declaration is the very bedrock of Jesus’ being. From this reality will come all Jesus’ ministry. So it’s this reality that Satan tempts Jesus to doubt. ‘If you are the Son of God’, he sneers, twice. Luring Jesus to doubt God’s word; making him feel he needs to prove his divinity with flashy performances. After all, the strategy worked so successfully with Adam and Eve way back in the garden of Eden: ‘Did God really say … ?’
Satan does his most devastating work when he gets us to doubt what God has said about who we are. What did God say over you at your baptism? That you were redeemed by Jesus Christ on the cross; that Satan’s power over you is broken and you are washed by God, rebirthed to new life as a child of God. God has declared it and sealed you in the family name: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
That is who you are and no-one can take that name and identity away from you. You are hidden in Jesus Christ for eternity.
Just remind yourself – and Satan! – of this reality, next time you are vulnerable and tempted to believe his lies.
Gracious God, defend us from the subtleties of Satan. Hide your word in us that we may grasp it in the time of trial. Lord Jesus, walk with us and give us your strength and victory. Amen.
Pauline leads a Bible college and offers spiritual direction in Palmerston North, New Zealand. She’s married to Roger – who is recently retired – and she enjoys having him home a bit more. When she gets some free time, Pauline loves cooking and reading and likes nothing better than sitting with a cat on her lap and watching the birds in her garden.