based on Luke 4:1-13
by Rev. Thomas Hall
Helen and Gladys were going door to door. As members on First Churchs
evangelism committee, they were knocking on doors and inviting folks to their church. But
being in their eighties, they got a bit disoriented and ended up evangelizing a seedy
neighborhood. No one responded to their invitation-except Verleen. Verleen had never been
in church in her life, never even seen a Bible, but was so taken with the Sunday worship,
that she decided to attend the Thursday morning womens Bible study.
"Our study today is from Luke 4," the pastor began. "Its the
story about Jesus in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. Have any of you ever been
faced with temptation, and with Jesus help, resisted?" he asked the group of
ladies after presenting his lecture.
One woman told about how just the week before, she had walked out of the grocery
store with an extra loaf of bread. "Why should I return it? It was their mistake, not
mine," she argued. But finally she remembered who she was-a Christian-and so she
marched back into the store and paid for the loaf of bread. The ladies all agreed that
this was indeed a very good example of resisting temptation.
Then Verleen spoke. "A couple of years ago, I was into cocaine really big.
You know what thats like! You know how that stuff makes you crazy? Well, anyway, my
boyfriend, not the one Ive got now, the one who was the daddy of my first child,
that one, well were high on coke and so we knock over a gas station one night-got
$200 out of it. It was as simple as taking candy from a baby. Well, my boyfriend, he says
to me, Lets knock off that convenient store down on the corner. And something
in me, it says, No, Ive held up that gas station with you, but I aint
going to hold up no convenience store. He beat the hell out of me, but I still said
No. It felt great to say No, cause thats the only time in my life I ever said
No to anything. Made me feel like I was somebody."
Verleen, is right. Thats exactly what this texts all about. Saying no,
because we are special. Saying no, because God is faithful. Saying no because the battle
belongs to the Lord.
Here s where Luke begins the story.
After all the people had been baptized, Jesus also was baptized. while he was
praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit came down upon him in bodily form like a
dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my own dear Son. I am pleased with
What a powerful experience that Jesus has! Jesus is named as Gods deeply
loved Son. Not only that, but he sees this dove-a symbol of purity and of the
Spirit-settling on him. Jesus knows what that means. As Gods chosen, he has a job to
do. But as a human being, he goes about that job dependent upon Gods Spirit. Just
like we need the Spirit to help us do the will of God. So the Holy Spirit descends upon
him like a dove-equipping him to carry out faithfully Gods will.
Youd think that owning that kind of an experience, Jesus would be looking
for a nearby leper or woman with an issue of blood to launch his ministry. Lets see.
Hes got to interview a bunch of guys so he can come up with twelve disciples. Then
hes got to arrange his teaching schedule; finish up his prep work on the parables.
And then go on to do a whole lot healing and delivering. Times a wasting, Jesus
might well have thought.
Yet the Spirit who has filled him does the most peculiar thing we could imagine.
The Spirit leads him away from ministry. This Spirit leads him away into a lonely,
humanless place called the eremos, the wasteland. Isnt that strange? Few
wandered in the outback. Even fewer returned. The literature of the time described the eremos
as haunted; it was where the demons howled and evil lurked.
For over a month Jesus eats nothing. Perhaps he wanders, meanders. But we know he
has the Scriptures on his mind. Probably recalling the Exodus, when Israel spent 40 years
on this deserted wasteland. Griping, grumbling, distrusting God the whole time.
Coming out of his fast, the man is famished. Thats the final warning signal
the body sends before death sets in. He will need to eat soon or perish.
"I see youre hungry, Jesus." the voice says. "Well, Im
here to help you. Just use your power to zap this stone into pita bread. Youll feel
better, live longer. Come on, whats the harm in eating?"
Jesus whirls around seeing no one. But a rock now lies beside his feet among the
sand. "One does not live by bread alone." He kicks the rock aside and walks on.
Next thing Jesus finds himself standing on the summit of some mountain that
overlooks the world. Like hes seeing the globe from the space station Mir. Way up
there. From the mountain, Jesus can see all the kingdoms, all the wealth of the world.
"This is mine, you know," the devil boasts. "I can share this
treasure with you. Just think what it would be like to be king of the mountain. To have
people sing, "He is Lord," and to be referring to you. I can make arrangements
to transfer this big piece of real estate into your hands. Just one thing I need from you.
No big deal, really. Little silly, maybe. But it would mean a lot to me," the voice
wheedles. "Just do me this favor and its all yours--venerate me."
Does Jesus clench his fist in rage? Does he struggle before answering? We
dont know. Be he says only nine words: "Worship the Lord your God and serve him
Now atop the southwest tip of the Temple that towers up over forty feet, the devil
launches his most insidious attack. "You know Ive been listening to the
Scripture too, Jesus. And Psalm 91 is excellent. Says that Gods special Chosen
One could actually throw their body off this wall and never hit the rocks below. Let
me quote this amazing verse for you. Quote- God will order his angels to take good
care of you. They will hold you up with their hands so that not even your feet will be
hurt on the stones."
In one final response, Jesus says, "Do not put the Lord your God to the
We all face temptations, dont we?
It couldnt hurt to skip out of work-just this once.
It couldnt hurt to fudge on the numbers-just this once.
It couldnt hurt to not tell my spouse where Ive really been-just this
It couldnt hurt to take out my frustrations on the kids-just this once.
To focus only on the bottom line,
to act now, and pray later-just this once.
It couldnt hurt to leave Gods law and Christs love out of my
decision-making loop-just this once.