Welcome to Becomning Closer! 


Satanic Point of View

Luke 4:1-13

(A more conventional treatment of this passage can be found in our series on the Life of Christ). It is sometimes interesting to go over to the enemy camp and ask, “Why did Satan do that?” That’s how we shall treat this passage of Scripture.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. And the devil said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE.'" And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, "I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. "Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours." Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'" And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, 'HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU TO GUARD YOU,' and, 'ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'" And Jesus answered and said to him, "It is said, 'YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'" When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.

(Luke 4:1-13 NASB)

General Thoughts

The first logical question is, “Why now?” Why did Satan pick this particular time to bring out his great temptations?

  • Satan often brings his temptations when we are on a spiritual “high”, as just after baptism. He hopes for false confidence and a sense of self-reliance. If we are quick to take credit for the spiritual uplift, he will be quick to try this.
  • If he is successful, the spiritual “low” produced is very deep indeed, for we will think, “Wow – I was so high and still fell to temptation. I’m hopeless.”
  • Forty days of fasting will indeed produce a spiritual high – but a physical low. Satan hopes the body overrides the spirit.

As this translation makes clear, Satan has been tempting Jesus in little ways for those forty days. He’s been chipping away with the little stuff, hoping to bring in the big temptations when Jesus was prepared for the little ones. Jesus, after all, is human like the rest of us.

We might also ask, “Why out in the wilderness? Wouldn’t it be more effective in front of people?” Perhaps. But things that happen in the wilderness are out of sight, and that has its advantages for Satan as well.

  • “No one will ever know.” The smile of the temptress is seldom seen while you’re holding your wife’s hand. We are good at trusting in concealment.
  • If successful, this produces the burden of a guilty secret – one of the finest handles Satan can have on a person.
  • Even if no further external sin comes from it, we are then tempted to self- justification (purely in private, of course). By this we defile the conscience, and open many doors for Satan.

The First Temptation – the Flesh

The temptations of the flesh, while open to all ages, are most powerful in the young. (Jesus is about thirty, at the end of his youth.) They are therefore used to open the combat. Why the young?

  • Hormones, for one thing. Sexual urges are strong in youth, and there seems also to be the ability to eat and not get fat.
  • There is also the question of wisdom. We do not teach our children, by and large, to be wise. We teach them to be cool. Wisdom often arrives when it’s too late to be of use.
  • Sometimes it’s simply the case that the other temptations have yet to ripen in appeal.

If we do not deny the body, we are always open to this temptation.

“If you are the son of God”

Why did Satan phrase this as a question? Shouldn’t he have said, “Since you are…”? The attack of pride will come later. Listen to the same attack on us: “If you are a child of God…”

  • The “if” is there to stir doubt. How do you know you are really saved? Are you sure you’re not just imagining this?
  • There is also the temptation to go beyond the bounds – to blur the lines of right and wrong. After all, one shouldn’t be legalistic about these things, right?

Remember: Satan cannot create. He can only twist. And he will twist a child of God into a child of hell if he can.

“Tell this stone to become bread”

The word “tell” is also translated “command.” Note that he did not use “create” or “make” – but command.

  • It seems so easy, but it is a misuse of the authority of the Son. Stones do not become bread. The Son has authority to do the Father’s will.
  • This is also a temptation to show off. There is the challenge of, “If you’re really who you say you are, then …”
  • Suppose it succeeds. The self-justification is pretty obvious; “I needed to do something bold and dramatic.” Bold, dramatic and wrong. There is always a temptation to “do something, anything, even if it’s wrong.” Whatever you do somehow becomes the courageous course and the only option you had. We tend to vindicate the results after the fact.

The Second Temptation – The World

Think about this. The world is Satan’s domain; all these kingdoms are his to give. Always, he seeks after prideful men who can be pitted against one another. Why, in this supreme test, would he offer so much power to Jesus?

The corruption of power

“Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Acton had it right; Gandalf does not dare take the one ring. Power can be a blessing when you know what needs to be done; power for the sake of personal pomp and ego gratification is well known to be power corrupting. Power, especially political power, is inherently dangerous to the soul. This may be why God has given so little of it to his children.

Authority versus tyranny

If you wish to know true authority as against tyranny, there is one simple question: who benefits? True authority benefits those in subjection to it (we call them public servants). Satan’s model is that of the tyrant who manipulates his people to his will; Christ’s model is that of the servant leader, who washes his disciples feet. When Satan gives power, it is only to those who will be corrupted by it, for he gives it in his own way.

It is interesting that our founding fathers understood this so well, and we understand it so poorly. They took a dim view of human nature, especially when exposed to the temptations of power. I would bring to your mind three of the principles which they espoused frequently:

  • The first is that of checks and balances. This is needed to prevent temptation from getting a foothold. We may not fear the corruption of power, we may welcome it – but we might just fear the other fellow enough to restrain ourselves.
  • They also assumed that only those of noble, virtuous spirit were fit to serve – and that we would not elect anyone else, knowingly. (Do you know who was the first divorced man to occupy the White House?)
  • That also implies as its corollary that the population must be one motivated by Christian morality – a statement frequently found in the writings of our founding fathers. “When America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” (De Tocqueville).

The results of this – or of its lack, rather – are plain to all.

Third Temptation – Pride

It is no secret that pride is Satan’s most powerful weapon. To understand how it works in this instance, we must first understand our relationship with God.

That relationship, usually called faith, is a trust relationship. Trust relationships are not invulnerable; they can be destroyed:

  • They can be killed by a suspicious desire for proof. If you hire a detective to check on your wife’s fidelity, there are only two possible outcomes. Both of them are bad.
  • They can be killed by presumption. Literate readers will recall James Hunt’s poem, The glove and the lions. Her lover jumps into the lion’s den to retrieve her glove – and flings it in her face to rebuke her vanity.
  • They can be killed by manipulation. Men of my generation will recall how commonly we tested the girls with “prove your love.” (Why women did not reply asking us to prove our love by waiting until marriage I do not know. I am told the problem is now history, so we will not waste time on it.)

All of these are caused by pride.

Pride is the attack of Satan on the true Christian. Note, please, that only in this instance does Satan quote Scripture. The passage quoted is darkly prophetic (Psalm 91) and not at all clearly applicable. But as we said, Satan cannot create, he can only twist.

Do you think this does not apply to us? Have you ever heard anyone justify his conduct by quoting (usually out of context) some particular verse of Scripture?

Satan’s aim, of course, is to produce a Pharisee. It is no accident that Jesus had harsh words for them, and practically no one else. A double dealer in matters financial might be shamed; one who is a hypocrite in the things of God is the most difficult of all people to be moved to repentance. The evil produced is of a horrible kind.

Opportune Time

Satan fails, and withdraws until a “more opportune time.” As far as we can infer, that time came in the garden at Gethsemane. Here he warned the disciples about temptation; here they failed. Here he triumphed.

Consider the fruits of that triumph!

  • He shows us that even in the greatest of temptations man can resist. We are encouraged to resist – and Satan will flee.[1]
  • We also know that he was tempted like we are – and therefore knows our agony.[2]
  • Most of all, we know there can be no alliance between Christ and Satan – nor is there.[3]

The great divide between good and evil has been shown; there is no fence to sit on. It is good to be on the winning side.

[1] James 4:7

[2] Hebrews 4:15

[3] John 14:30

Previous     Home     Next