Once upon a time, the devil enters a church during the service. His appearance causes a rumble in the church as people scamper and disperse from various directions including the officiating ministers. In no time, the church is empty of people except one man who sits at the back of the church. The devil comes to the man and asks why he is not afraid of him like the others and the man replies and says to him, “I have been living with your sister for 48 years, so it makes no difference meeting you today”.
The short story is indeed funny, but what we quickly learn from the story is that one of the strategies of the devil is to scare us and push us into wrongdoing (scampering and dispersing from God). St. Peter says that he comes like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). The devouring here is not physical but spiritual and involves nudging us into disobedience and sin.
Jesus Christ and the Tempter
The Gospel Reading today (Luke 4:1-13) begins by relating to us that after the spirit-filled baptism at the Jordan, our Lord Jesus Christ was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert for a period forty days where he faced three-fold temptations by the devil after the period of prayer and fasting.
It will be essential for us to note here that Jesus was under the leading of the Holy Spirit and not any material or human drive. Furthermore, the presence and leading of the Holy Spirit could not shield him from the temptation of the devil. Moreover, the devil comes to him at the end of his forty-day fasting when one could presume it is all quiet and peaceful. Furthermore, the temptation comes shortly before the Lord begins his public ministry.
A Brief on the Person of the Tempter
Think of any person that is highly intelligent, thoroughly evil, slimy, deceptive, wicked, vindictive, and hypocritical; that is the devil. The Bible has many names for him, accuser (Rev. 12:10), adversary (1 Pet. 5:8), enemy (Matt. 13:39), evil one (Matt. 13:19), father of lies (John 8:44), murderer (John 8:44), thief, killer, and destroyer (John 10:10a), unclean spirit (Matt. 12:43), and others.
“If you are the Son of God, command this Stone to Become Bread.”
The first temptation of our Jesus Christ pertains to his immediate need, namely food. Remember that he was disembarking from a forty-day fast from food. It is also instructive to note that the devil starts by using a challenging statement that strikes on the identity of the Lord, “if you are the Son of God.” The devil often strikes by distorting the truth or raising doubts in our minds about what we know or believe.
Responding to the first temptation, our Lord directs him to the word of God in Deuteronomy (8:3) which says, “one does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Incidentally, that chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy talks about God’s instructions to the Israelites on the fortieth and last year of their wandering in the wilderness.
We learn from our Lord’s response that you don’t argue nor bargain with the devil. The only way to respond is to refer to the word of God. We could recall and appreciate St. Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians (2 Cor.10:4), where he says that the weapons of our warfare are not human but have divine power to destroy strongholds and refute arguments and every obstacle that rises against the knowledge of God. The word of God is a potent weapon against the devil’s machinations.
I shall give You all this Power and Glory…If You Worship Me
In the second temptation, the devil takes our Lord up and shows him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. He goes on to promise that he would give all of them to Jesus Christ if he bows down to worship him.
Here again, we see a deceptive move by the devil to fault our Lord. Temptations would always come with the promise of a benefit or gain. The devil’s gifts come with a condition and a lot of hidden charges. Furthermore, if there is someone who does not like to share that would be the devil. And to think of it that he would hand over all his kingdoms to anyone is a blatant lie.
Again, to the second temptation, our Lord responds with the word of God, “you shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve” (Deut.6:13). Notice that the devil will not give up when he fails the first time. Moreover, the “benefit” of the second temptation seems to be more attractive than the first one.
If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down .…He will command his angels concerning, You to Guide You….
Again, the devil comes using his usual tact of challenging the identity of Jesus Christ, namely, “the Son of God.” Here the devil wanted Jesus to presume God’s protective love using a famous biblical text from the Book of Psalms (91:11-12). It is hilarious that the devil did not extend the quote up to verse 13 where it says, “you will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.” The reason is evident because the verse is against him; the devil.
On this temptation, the devil provides a scriptural text, and our Lord responds with another text which shows a context, “you shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deut. 6:16). Every text in the bible leverages a context; otherwise, it becomes a pretext. Notice here that the devil came three times which in biblical understanding indicates completion. Here it means that our Lord faced thorough temptation, but the devil could not tamper him.
Moving Forward: Overcoming the Tempters Strategies
We all face one temptation or the other at various points in life. Life without temptation is an illusion because temptation is a significant part of our fallen nature and evident in our fallen world. Temptation comes when we experience the enticement to do something that is contrary to the will of God. Temptations come in many ways to make us revolt against God and please the devil.
Within the inauguration of our forty-day Lenten journey, there is the need for us to be aware of the following strategies of the devil to tempt us to sin.
- He comes at a vulnerable time and when there is a need.
- He creates doubts in your mind.
- He comes with lies and deception.
- He comes with promises, but underneath is a trap.
- He appeals to your position, rank or identity to entice you.
- He makes it seem that he doesn’t exist and gives you false reasons to believe.
- He would come again even if he keeps failing.
As we continue to the march into Lenten Season, may God’s grace (2 Cor. 12:9) remain with us and assist us to pass through the trials and ascend into triumph with our Lord Jesus Christ who overcame the temper’s machinations. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).
Have a fabulous week ahead.