The wilderness of Judea was not a very comfortable place to be in Jesus’ day. It was a hot, rocky, craggy, barren, uninhabited desert wasteland. Yet this was the arena where Jesus faced off against the greatest enemy humanity has ever known- Satan himself.
“Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan River, being urged by the Spirit out into the barren wastelands of Judea, where Satan tempted him for forty days. He ate nothing all that time and was very hungry” (Luke 4:1-2).
“Satan” -also known as Lucifer, the Devil, Beelzebub, etc. etc.- is often portrayed as comic individual. You’ve probably seen portrayals of the devil much like the one seen at left, complete with a red suit, horns, a pitchfork and so forth. Sometimes Satan is depicted as God’s opposite, a kind of “anti-god” or evil spiritual being who is locked in an eternal struggle for people’s souls.
Even though Satan is often portrayed this way, these representations are really not accurate at all. Here’s the real deal: the individual whom we call “the Devil” is a fallen angelic being. Satan is his name and “devil” is his title, or job if you prefer. The word “devil” means “accuser” and it comes from a Greek term that means “a false witness.” The name “Satan” means “adversary.”
In the Bible, Satan is referred to as…
- “The evil one” (Matthew 6:13)
- “The wicked one” (1John 2:13)
- “A liar and a murderer” (John 8:44)
- “A deceiver” (Revelation 20:10)
- “The ruler of this world” (John 12:31)
Quite a job description, isn’t it?
Satan is a tremendously intelligent, crafty and relentless individual. He is a master of deception and he can assume different forms as the need suits him (See 2 Corinthians 11:14). In fact, 1 John 5:19 refers to Satan and his tremendous ability to deceive people when it says,“…the whole world is under the control of the wicked one.”
Now these things might sound very impressive but the fact is that despite all these attributes, Satan’s power is not unlimited. For example, Satan is not all powerful and he can’t be everywhere at once as God is able to be. Satan can only operate within God’s restrictions and he can be beaten. Jesus did so and by looking at how Jesus did it, we can find some good ideas to use against our adversary. Check out how Jesus handled Satan as recorded for us in Luke 4: 3-13…
This first attempt at tempting Jesus was physical. Obviously, Jesus was hungry and the devil’s suggestion actually sounds very reasonable, doesn’t it? The devil says in effect, “Hey, if you can do it, why not turn that stone into some food for yourself?” But notice that Satan also injects an element of doubt by suggesting, “If you are the Son of God…” as if there was some question as to whether or not it was actually true.
The Doctor also sees a hidden meaning behind the devil’s words here. If you “read between the lines” of this statement, you’ll find that the devil is implying this: “If you really were the Son of God you wouldn’t find yourself out here starving in the desert like this- God would be taking better care of you. Go ahead- you can do it yourself. You don’t need God.” It’s also interesting (but not surprising) to notice what the Devil doesn’t say- notice that he doesn’t say, “ask God to provide something for you to eat.”
But Jesus wouldn’t budge- in fact, we’re about to see Jesus go on the offensive as He answers Satan with Scripture…
While Satan’s first temptation was physical in nature, his next attempt was spiritual. Satan makes a proposal to Jesus and the deal is this: “If you will accept me in place of God and worship me as God, then I’ll not only feed you but I’ll give you all this other stuff too!” But again, Jesus will have none of it…
One thing you can say about the devil- he sure is a fast learner. This final attempt to tempt Jesus is not physical or spiritual but Scriptural. The enemy saw how Jesus used the Bible as a defense against temptation and quickly changed his strategy in an attempt to fight Scripture with Scripture. However, notice that the devil says to Jesus,” Throw yourself down…” and not, “I will throw you down…”
You see, Satan doesn’t have the power to make Jesus do anything- he can only try to persuade Him. In any case, Satan’s abuse of Scripture didn’t prevent Jesus from using it. Jesus addressed this temptation and overcame it the same way that he overcame the others…
So having been beaten by Jesus, Satan departs- for the time being at least. But don’t miss the fact that Satan doesn’t get tired and doesn’t give up- he just waits for better opportunity. That’s why The Doctor encourages you to remember these important verses from the Bible and apply them in your life each day…