The Wilderness Experience

First Sunday in Lent | March 10, 2019

Deuteronomy 26:1-11 • Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 • Romans 10:8b-13 • Luke 4:1-13

Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.

Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.’”

Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”

Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say,

‘You must worship the Lord your God
    and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,

‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you.
And they will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”

When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.

Luke 4:1-13 New Living Translation (NLT)


This week is the first Sunday of Lent and on the first Sunday of Lent the Gospel passage is an account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. This cycle the lectionary uses Luke’s account. If you’ve been following along, we have been in Luke’s Gospel since Christmas. Luke gives us a unique perspective, especially of Jesus’ early life – the only Gospel writer who does that.

In all of the Gospels, Jesus’ temptation immediately follows his baptism. Luke tells us that Jesus was 30 years old when he began his ministry and gives us a genealogy – although in reverse order. Then Luke begins his account of Jesus’ temptation.

Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days.

I think this really corresponds to those wilderness experiences in our life. It seems when we are low, the enemy tries to kick us lower – he tries to get us to think things that we normally wouldn’t think – he tries to get us to do things that we normally wouldn’t do – all in an effort to get us off track – to take our minds off the Father and be disobedient.

One of the things the enemy does is appeal to our sinful nature and if we are not careful, we give in. Look what the writer James says about temptation.

And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

Temptation is not from God. It comes from deep inside of us. The author of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus was tempted in all ways just like us. Jesus knows what it is to be like us and yet — Jesus never sinned — Jesus temptation was from an external source and yet being full of the Holy Spirit he was able to be victorious.

As we think about this, we are almost always tempted in three ways – it is the same way that the devil tempted Jesus.

First the devil tempted Jesus with provision. Jesus had been in the desert with nothing to eat for 40 days. He was hungry and the devil said turn these stones to bread. Jesus refuted the devil with scripture.

Then the devil tempted Jesus with power. He offered Jesus a shortcut. But the Holy Spirit was working in Jesus. Jesus knew why he was here. Jesus knew the whole earth belonged to Himself – after all he created it.

Lastly, the devil tempted Jesus with protection. The devil said “Toss yourself off the temple and God will save you.” We all do that at times – we take a leap of faith and hope God will save us. But again Jesus knew the Holy Spirit was working. Three times Jesus refuted the devil with scripture – even though the devil twice twisted the scriptures.

Today you may be going through a wilderness experience – the devil might be giving you a hard time. The devil will twist scripture and make it things look right. He will tempt you with provision, and power, and protection. But don’t listen to him. Pray – seek the Lord – ask the Holy Spirit to fill you to the brim.

As we begin our journey to the cross – remember Jesus is our example. Let’s follow Him as we prepare our hearts for his resurrection.

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