Lessons from Christ’s temptation
We live in a society that will accept nothing less than instant gratification: fast food, status updates, instant photography, etc… This applies to luxuries as well as our basic human needs. We sometimes joke now that “ain’t nobody got time for that!” because often we feel like we cannot spend time waiting for something.
Christ can empathize with our natural desires, which is why he is such a qualified high priest. He knows what its like to be hungry, to be frustrated, to feel cold, hot, tired, etc…
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Heb 4:15
Something I have been thinking about recently is what we can learn from the three areas Christ was tempted in while in the wilderness. It may not be anything new, but was an interesting perspective I had not previously looked at:
We can see how he lived the human experience and felt the human needs/drives, but also how resisting the temptation to receive instant results paid off: Initially, with the physical need met in due time, but then resulted in exponentially to giving others that which he was desiring before attaining a much greater level himself spiritually.
Put another way, we can see through the three categories of the temptation of Christ how resisting the temporary present can result in an exponential and eternal payoff later.
The first temptation was in the form of satiating physical hunger. He responds to all of these temptations with scripture. (The tempter did not pick his battles well when getting into a scripture battle against the living Word.)
Satan offered Christ bread. Well, he didn’t really offer bread, but rather suggested that Christ miraculously produce bread. Christ’s scriptural response in all of the temptations seemed to shut up the tempter, as there was no comeback that could measure up!
Later in Matthew we read about the miracle of the handful of fish and a few loaves of bread feeding a great multitude. In John 6, we read a conclusion of that miracle :
“Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill… Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world… I am the bread of life” John 6:26, 32, 35
Having just experienced the spring Holy Days, we have fresh in our minds some of the symbolism of bread, and while some of that fits into a different analogy than this, we can still glean from the life-giving importance of bread.
Christ endured great hunger and probably did long desperately for some food, but refused the instant gratification; the get-it-now-no-matter-the-cost way. He longed for a better bread physically and spiritually.
- He was eventually fed and sustained physically
- Because of his intercession, we can ask for our daily bread in his name
- He now awaits an even greater feast when he returns.
This is something Christ had to be tempted in lest we feel that we endure something our immortal and incorruptible high priest could not understand.
It seems that Christ had to hold back from commanding physical protection multiple times. In giving up his desire for protection in this circumstance and ultimately in his final hour, he again awaited a better provision from God; this time in an incorruptible nature.
In forsaking his physical life, he gave us the opportunity for it. By his wounds we are healed, and through his sacrifice we can ask for God’s protection, even though we may also have to forsake our safety to attain a “better resurrection”
“Absolute power does not corrupt absolutely” does not hold true if that power is in the hands of our soon-coming King. In the wilderness before Satan, Jesus was tempted to receive power and authority over the earth.
Satan did and does have authority over the kingdoms of the world to a point, but Christ forsook the easy and instant way out and awaited a better inheritance.
We read about the power and authority that Christ has received, far beyond what Satan could have offered:
…and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.- Eph 1:19-23
Christ rejected the desire for power and authority to await that inheritance from the almighty Father. Because he is now at the right hand of God, we have been given a spirit of power and love and of a sound mind 2 Tim 1:7
In these three areas we see that our Saviour rejected the desire to fulfill his human needs in the moment to wait for something better. We’ve all had to do this in some regards, but I find it interesting
One related verse that I hadn’t thought about in this context is found in Acts 20:35 – that its more blessed to give than receive. We see that what Christ wanted to receive, he gave, and in turn received greater.
- He longed for bread, but we find that he fed 5,000 and is now the bread of life.
- He longed for saving his life, but sacrificed it so that we might live, and now is eternal.
- He longed for authority of this creation, but refused the offer from the wrong source, to await God’s appointed authority, and is now the door through which we can enter the Kingdom of God in His family and have the potential to rule over cities!
Let us be willing to forsake the temporary and long for what is everlasting!