Adam’s Triumph (Luke 4:1-13)
The First Sunday in Lent (March 6, 2022)
Life is hard! The birth process itself is quite precarious and an all-out struggle. And then the real fun begins. The aches and pains of growing, learning, and just surviving. It’s not for the weak of heart that’s for sure!
But, oh, how much harder it is to be a Christian in this anti-Christian world! It’s one big sea of temptation and we are constantly forced to swim against the tide. The ebb and flow of this world is to put our faith in someone or something other than the true God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are incited to indulge our lusts in all sorts of sexual and deviant behaviors. Ultimately, we are being pressured to conform the teachings of the Bible to our will rather than letting the Word transform us to God’s will. Hourly we ought to be praying, “Our Father, Who Art in Heaven, lead us not into temptation!”
The good news is, however, you and I do not stand alone in our struggle against temptation. Today, we are reminded of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Some might think that temptation was a mere trifle for Jesus since He is the Son of God. However, we ought never trivialize Jesus’ suffering under the devil’s assault. After all, the temptation of Jesus was not some kind of spiritual exercise as though He was just sporting with the devil to amuse Himself. Quite the contrary, Jesus’ temptation was part and parcel of the whole mission and purpose the Son of God had in becoming man. He took on human flesh and became man in the womb of the virgin Mary for us. He humbled Himself to be born in the lowly condition of sinful man for us. He was baptized for us. He took upon Himself our sins, our diseases, and our maladies for us. He was put to death for us. Likewise, He endured the assault of the evil one in temptation in our place; that is, for us, that He might bring us victory over temptation in our lives.
All three Synoptic Gospels place the incident of Jesus’ temptation immediately after His baptism in the Jordan River. But to show us who the one being tempted here really is, Luke inserts the genealogy of Jesus immediately before His wilderness experience. Luke starts the genealogy by saying, “Jesus, when He began His ministry, was about 30 years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the Son of Heli” (ESV).” Then Luke ends the genealogy by saying, He was the “son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.”
This is totally incredible! You will not see any genealogy like this anywhere else. The Holy Spirit wants you and me to see that Jesus stands in a unique position. He is Adam all over again and the representative of all mankind. Just as Adam was son of God; given he had no human father or mother but was created directly by God, so Jesus, even though He is fully human having been born of woman like the rest of us and the descendant of Adam; He also like Adam had no human father. His humanity was begotten directly by God. At the same time, Jesus is Son of God in another totally mind-boggling way. He was conceived in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit. As Holy Scripture teaches us, He was begotten of the Father from all eternity (John 1:14, Col. 1:15, Phil. 2:6). He is not only in very nature, Son of Adam; that is human, He is in very nature, The Son of God.
Accordingly, Jesus stood before this accuser of all mankind, the devil, as the representative of us all. When the devil tempted Jesus, he was tempting our whole race! Like with the first Adam, the success or failure of the Second Adam, Jesus, is our success or failure. We are after all sons and daughters of the first Adam by birth and we are made sons of God and brothers of the Second Adam by virtue of our rebirth of water and the Spirit. In Romans we read: “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.”
Jesus’ temptation, therefore, was and is a big deal for us! That is why we see that Jesus was led by the Spirit of God and tempted by the devil. Jesus’ temptation was not some kind of avoidable option for the Christ. All the synoptic Gospels agree that Jesus was sent into the lion’s den of temptation by the Holy Spirit. He was literally the Lamb being led to the slaughter. Matthew and Mark’s accounts are even stronger than Luke’s. Matthew notes that Jesus was led up to the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tested by the devil (4:1). Mark quite emphatically writes, “The Spirit cast Him out into the wilderness.”
Even though the devil would have liked nothing better than to deceive this Second Adam also into rebellion, this time of testing was clearly God’s purpose for His Christ. God was making history repeat itself for the sake of all mankind. But unlike the temptation of the first Adam, which took place in the perfect existence of the Garden (in Greek “paradise”), the temptation of the Second Adam was to take place in the wilderness, or desert; the sin ravaged existence of fallen man. This time there was no level playing field. Evil had already corrupted mankind. This time the deck was truly stacked against Adam. Jesus was all alone. As the Son of God and Son of Man, failure to resist temptation would have been the total defeat of heaven as well as earth. Not only our salvation from sin and every evil was on the line but God’s supreme rule in righteousness hung in the balance.
In a clear allusion to Moses’ 40 days and 40 nights on top of Mt. Sinai without food or water, Luke records that Jesus ate nothing for 40 days in the wilderness. But unlike Moses’ experience, it wasn’t as though Jesus could not rustle up something to eat. His fast was self-imposed. Matthew notes: Jesus fasted for 40 days (4:2). Jesus knew that serving His belly would have been a distraction.
Prayer was Jesus’ food. He needed complete spiritual strength. Jesus knew the stakes for God and man were high. His battle was not against flesh and blood, but against the full spiritual power of darkness. There could be no shortcuts, no making the way easy for Himself. For if He did, then the devil would win because Jesus would be serving Himself and not be doing it totally for us!
And of course, at the culmination of the 40 days of being unsuccessful against Jesus, the devil chose first to attack Jesus at His most vulnerable spot; not merely His great physical hunger, but at the fact that the hunger was so needless, since Jesus had the divine power to create some food for Himself. The devil spoke to Jesus ever so slyly, “If you are the Son of God,” then speak to this stone that it might become bread.”
The Bible clearly tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are and was still without sin (Heb. 4:15). As this first temptation clearly shows, Jesus was tempted well beyond what we have ever faced. Can we even fathom having the power to fill our hunger yet resisting using that power! The severity of such a temptation is staggering. Yet the devil would employ this temptation over and over again on Jesus, culminating finally at His most vulnerable moment, as Jesus hung in total agony under the wrath of God on the cross. Through the mouth of the crowd, the soldiers under His cross and even one of those crucified with Him, Jesus would be challenged, “If you are the Son of God, then come down from there” (Luke 23:35,37, 39).
There is true irony in this temptation. The first Adam, who had succumbed to the lie to eat so that He could be like God, would forever in his fallen state be forced to eat bread by the sweat of his brow (Gen. 3:19). Here the Second Adam was being tempted to prove He was God by taking the easy way out and miraculously make bread for himself to eat. The essence of the temptation of both Adam and Jesus was to serve one’s self.
Isn’t this devil’s seduction of us as well. Day in a day out we are tempted to use everything at our disposal to serve ourselves rather than others. The temptation is before us constantly to use our time... our money... our talents to meet our own needs first, to secure glory and recognition for ourselves. Then if we have anything left, give to the needs of the church’s ministries or the needy in our community. We can rationalize all we want but serving self in the place of others is not Christ-like. It is satanic!
But our Hero... our Second Adam, wasn’t about to use His divine power to serve Himself. Jesus replied to the devil, “It stands written, ‘ Man shall not live by bread alone.” What a fitting reply. Jesus Himself is the Bread from Heaven that if anyone eat of Him in faith he shall live forever (John 6). Because Jesus refused to eat for Himself, He now can feed us with Himself, the true Bread that gives life; “Take, eat, this is my body given for you” (Luke 22:19).
The devil, however, was not ready to give up. He led Jesus up to a high place to show Him all the kingdoms of the inhabited world simultaneously. Then with his forked tongue, he laid before Jesus the bait, “I will give you all their authority and glory because it has been handed over to me and to whom I desire to give it.” And then came the deadly, hook, “If you, then, will worship me, it will be yours.” The absolute brashness and presumptiveness of the devil is truly remarkable! He was tempting the Son of God, the very Creator of the World, with all the glory of the kingdoms of the world as if it was within his power to give.
In the first place, could the devil ever make good on such a claim? Was it within his power to give to whomever he wanted the kingdoms of the world? To a certain extent, the answer is yes. He is called the prince of this world.
Yet, Holy Scripture also makes it very clear that the devil can only do, give, or take away, as God allows him, for God’s own eternal purposes. After all, there is only one God and ruler of all and it is not the devil.
But, in the second place, remember the devil is the deceiver. All he can do is lie. We can rest assured that he had no intention of giving Jesus anything even if he could.
But the temptation the devil laid before Jesus was real none-the-less. After all, Jesus was still a mortal man. He is flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, subject to the same needs we are. He, too, was worldly in the sense that as a human being, having what you lack, power, honor and glory, sounds mighty desirable. Remember as Jesus Himself said, He had no place to lay His head. He had few amenities in this life.
On top of this, Jesus knew God had promised He would put all things under His feet. The catch was, however, He would have to suffer and die first. But the devil was offering Him a shortcut. The devil was making it appear that he could give Jesus all that God had promised without a struggle¼ without pain. In other words, the devil was offering Jesus worldly glory without a cross.
The devil tries to sell us the same bill of goods. He seduces us also into thinking that we can have glory without a cross. He says, “You know, life doesn’t have to be so hard. There is an easier way than serving God, going to church, and seeking to live a moral life. God always makes the road rough for you. Serve me then there will be no cross... no hardship. I’ll hand you all the power, fame, and money you can ever want. Just give in to me. Serve me!”
But here is the question: Can there be glory without a cross? It only seems that way. The devil promised the first Adam he would be like God, and all Adam ended with was eternal condemnation under the wrath of God. As Jesus says elsewhere, “The way is broad and easy that leads to destruction.” The truth is that the way of life and glory can only go through the narrow way of the cross. Without Jesus’ cross there is no atonement of sins¼ there is no forgiveness ¼ there is no heaven. Without our crosses we would easily fall into depending on ourselves and not God, faith would wither, and we would never learn the valuable and saving truth that we are saved by God’s grace alone.
Fortunately for us, our Champion, Jesus, remained resolute in His resistance of temptation. And once again, He resorted to the Word of God. Jesus replied, “Worship the Lord Your God, and serve Him alone.” The devil is not god, neither can he, a liar, ever be God. The Holy Trinity alone is truth and in His truth of the cross is salvation. He alone is deserving of our praise and worship. Only He is the Giver of every good and perfect gift.
Again, however, the devil remained undaunted in his pursuit to make Jesus’ fall; and by default the rest of humanity. He thought to himself, “Okay, Jesus, if you won’t serve yourself and you won’t serve me, then maybe I can get you to manipulate God into being your servant.” He took Jesus to the Holy City of Jerusalem and stood Him on the highest point of the temple. Then he challenged Jesus to jump off and into the courtyard far below. “After all,” he coaxed, “If you really trust God, then you know that He won’t let you get hurt. He promised in His own Word that He would send His angels to bear you up so that you won’t bruise your heel against a stone.”
What a load of horse manure! On the surface it appears the devil was trying to encourage Jesus to trust His Father in Heaven. But look again! This heinous deceiver was simply challenging Jesus to test God’s sincerity. To test God in such a way is not faith. It’s just another way to manipulate God to serve one’s own wants and wishes. It leaves faith dead!
The devil is still seducing us into enslaving God. We are told that if we truly believe in God, then we will “name it and claim it,” that is to say, we will tell God what we want, expect it, and He will give it to us. The rationale given is that God has promised to give us whatever ask for in faith. We can likewise succumb to this temptation by testing God, “Lord, if You really love me like You say then you will heal my disease ¼ You will give me that new car I want¼” With such ideas we are doing nothing less than manipulating God, making Him prove Himself to us first before we will believe in Him, or use His good will to advance our own will. In short we are being the devil himself, challenging God to serve our whims.
Thanks be to God, our Second Adam remained resolute. He drew strength again in God’s Word. He replied to the devil quite succinctly with a direct quote from Deuteronomy, “It has been said, ‘You shall surely not test the LORD your God.” The devil’s barrage of temptations failed miserably. He was forced to flee. Adam was triumphant this time. And even though the devil was forced to flee Jesus for a “more opportune time;” Jesus’ wilderness victory was the sign of what was to come. For at His most vulnerable time, on Calvary, Jesus would win the whole war of temptation for us. There Jesus would accomplish the most unselfish act of all. There He would allow the devil to bruise His heel so that He could die in atonement for all our sins, even our believing in and acting on the devil’s lies sometimes. Jesus’ self-sacrifice served to crush the head of the serpent, our accuser, to make him “beatable” for us.
Thanks be to Jesus, we now can live in the triumph of the Second Adam. Jesus destroyed the works of the devil (I John 3:8). No longer can the devil accuse you. Oh, yes, he can and does still tempt you, but now his bark is worse than his bite. His teeth have been knocked out. His accusations have been overcome in the blood of the Lamb, so that even if you succumb to the devil’s wiles and sin, you still can turn again in repentance and faith to Jesus, your advocate with the Father. He will plead for your forgiveness.
Jesus’ success also makes it possible for you to be successful over the devil’s temptation. Jesus’ victory made God’s Word and promises all the more secure for you. The devil can play dueling Bible passages with you all day long, but he can’t resist faith in the Word of Christ. God’s Word is the Sword of the Spirit and faith in Jesus is your shield against the fiery assaults of the evil one. The devil is forced to flee where God’s Word is not just given lip service, but is believed¼ trusted ¼and acted upon, especially that Word concerning Christ’s victory over him. In this Adam’s triumph, you can “resist the devil firm in your faith and he will flee from you!” Amen.