If you look very closely to how Satan tried to tempt Jesus in his forty days and forty nights fast in the wilderness, you will find a fascinating way that Satan tries to tempt people. Temptation doesn’t root in action – it roots in identity and desire.
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” – Matthew 4:1
“After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” – Matthew 4:2
Here we see and know that by this point, Jesus had a burning physical desire to satisfy his hunger.
The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” – Matthew 4:3
The phrase that caught my attention the most is the underlying questioning of Jesus’ identity. Satan begins his temptation by opening with “If you are the Son of God…”
Here we see that Satan lays out the foundation of his temptation by questioning Jesus’ identity in God. Why did Satan have to do this? Doesn’t Satan know that Jesus is sure of who He is?
I think what Satan was trying to do is to leverage on the possibility that Jesus would give in by proving that He is indeed the Son of God.Satan knows that questioning the identity is a powerful preempter of any form of temptation.
It goes two ways:
- If you don’t know who you are, others will dictate it and it can be a powerful source of temptation.
- If you want to become somebody you think you’re not, you become easily flattered and your pride can be easily bubbled up. A prime source of temptation.
After the questioning of identity, immediately Satan tries to attack that desire which burns the brightest – it is Jesus’ physical weak point at the time. Bread is good but the context of obtaining it is not Jesus’ mission. Was it a sin to turn stone into bread? No. But was it the point of his fast?
Jesus knew his mission and he stuck to it. He put His mission over desire.
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” – Matthew 4:4
Jesus was sure of two very important things at this point: His identity and His mission. Even if turning stone to bread is not necessarily an evil thing to do, it may well be something that would make Jesus fall short of his target – which, in this context, is a sin.
Susanna Wesley describes sin in a most brilliant way to her son John Wesley. She says:
“Son, whatever weakens your reasoning, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away your relish for spiritual things; in short, if anything increases the authority and power of the flesh over the Spirit, then that to you becomes sin, however good it is in itself.”
I hope that we keep this in mind. Sin can come in as ever so subtle in our lives especially in these busy, busy days.
Jesus overcame sin by knowing and quoting the Word of God. That’s why it is so critical to read and meditate on the Bible.