Chapter 14 – The Deliverer Arrives
At long last, after thousands of years, that which Satan had tried to prevent by every stratagem he could devise, came to pass. "When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, Born of a woman." Gal 4:4. If Satan did not witness Gabriel’s announcement to Mary, at least he heard the angelic choir announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds and knew the time had come.
"Now the dragon stood before the woman
who was about to give birth so that he might devour her child as soon as it was
born," Rev 12:4. Satan’s first line of attack was to destroy the infant
Jesus. He inspired a jealous rage in Herod who ordered the destruction of all
male babies two years old and under; for by this time several months had passed
since the birth of Jesus, and Joseph had secured a house for the family to live
in (Mt 2:11). Through information given by the Magi, Herod figured the infant
king must be somewhere under two years of age. Being warned, Joseph and Mary
We hear nothing further of attacks on the boy Jesus for almost 30 years – until Jesus appeared publicly to begin His ministry. Now Satan had to plan his strategy well. We must grasp the feeling of this contest – two deadly enemies facing each other: Satan, a malevolent, venomous serpent weaving back and forth, watching for an opportunity to strike; Jesus, God incarnate, deliberately restricting Himself to the limitations of vulnerable flesh so that He might act on behalf of all mankind * . Satan came armed with hate; Jesus with love
Satan was not entirely sure what form Jesus’
ministry would take but he was very well aware that Jesus had come to do battle
with him. How, he did not know. He did know from what God told him long ago in
It was no secret Jesus was God’s Son. It was announced publicly from heaven at His baptism. Mt . Afterwards, Jesus went into the desert to fast forty days; and the tempter came to Him Mt 4:1-11; Lk 4:1-13.
It does not seem the average Christian comprehends the intensity of the temptations that Jesus withstood in His first major face-to-face confrontation with Satan out there in the desert. Turning stones into bread? Seems almost insignificant – a little like magic to us. But nothing in that conflict was insignificant.
Bread is power! He who can furnish bread,
rules. "For a piece of bread a man will do wrong." Pr 28:21. When
Jesus fed the crowds with bread what was their response? They wanted to take
Him by force and make Him king! Jn 6:15. Jesus,
realizing this, escaped across the lake to
A few years ago I understood for the first
time how this principle operates. My wife and I had spent five years in
I fired the supposed pastor and his wife and installed another with good references. I returned a year later to check and found the food situation better but the children mentally abused and their clothes in tatters. "Why," I asked one boy whose shoes were disintegrating,. "have you not asked the director for new shoes?"
‘I did," he replied, "but he said, ‘Where am I going to get money to buy you shoes?’"
We returned to
Then the Lord whispered to me, "Stones into bread! Stones into bread!" The temptation of power was more than these men could resist. They had once been poor themselves and now had the power to give food, or to withhold food. They had the power to clothe, or not to clothe. They had the power to accept a child into the orphanage, or not to accept. They had the power of life or death, as it were. They became gods to the children and the people seeking help – and that is heady stuff: stuff that evil, mischief, and dictators are made of.
This is what Satan was offering Jesus. Be a despot. Wield absolute power over the people through bread – and be like Satan! If Jesus did this, there would be no more further conflict with Satan because their aims would be one. No battle, no cross: only raw power. Even today it remains one of Satan’s greatest weapons for the enslavement of mankind, beginning with communism, whose leaders have power over the masses as their principle motive, and filtering on down to the overbearing, local official or tax collector. People so motivated can be frustrating when one has dealings with them – sometimes even frightening.
Despots through the ages have worked this theme. Economists say that in times of difficulty, people will always choose a dictator who can furnish bread over personal freedom. Will the Antichrist arise and take power on that platform? There will be many similarities.
Jesus resisted with Scripture. It is not only bread that keeps a man, woman, boy or girl alive: for at the foundation of our being we are spiritual, and to have real life we need to feed on the Word of God. For Jesus the temptation was severe: that siren call to power, the glory that goes with it, and the avoidance of suffering.
The issue of the second temptation was presumption, of which many are guilty of today by putting themselves in peril and then demanding God act. But besides that, Satan was suggesting to Jesus He throw Himself from the pinnacle of the temple (some 150 feet high) into the crowd of worshippers below. One can picture Jesus hurtling down out of the sky, landing unscathed in the midst of the faithful, and proclaiming Himself the Messiah sent down from heaven by God. Again, kingship without conflict. I am sure Satan felt if he could entice Jesus to do this, His acceptance by the people as king was of no importance. People are fickle. They could be induced to change their minds later, and meanwhile, Jesus would have damaged His standing as the obedient, sinless son of God by giving heed to Satan.
In the third temptation, Satan was no longer hinting at the rulership of this world. He showed Jesus all the kingdoms of this world with their glory, and bluntly offered to give them to Jesus if Jesus would worship him; for, he said, the kingdom of the world had been given to him and he could give it to whomever he chose. (Notice Jesus did not contest this claim.) But to Jesus, who had shared the glory of the Father, it was a cheap pathetic offer; and His weary rebuke to this tiresome pest, "Begone Satan!" must have seemed to the tempter like a slap in the face.
Satan certainly misjudged Jesus. He thought He would be power-mad just like him, so he was asking Jesus to join him in his rebellion. But Jesus, would not gain His power by grasping for it (Mt -21; Phil 2:5-9) nor did He ever attempt to use His power to personal advantage. He refused to call down fire out of the sky to consume His enemies and those who were healed He commanded to tell no one. Would that some of His followers today were of the same spirit.
That the temptations were formidable and the cause of extreme anguish to Jesus is shown by the fact that afterwards angels came and ministered to Him. We must see that His ministry could not have begun without these satanic temptations. Jesus, as the second Adam, had to resist where Adam had succumbed. He had to succeed where Adam had failed **. Jesus now had one goal ahead of Him: to destroy the works of the devil (1Jn 3:8) and through doing so, wrest the kingship of this world from him and receive it Himself. Satan knew the issue well, and that is why he tried so hard to offer the world to Jesus by devious means.
This was not the end of the tests Jesus faced from the enemy. Lk tells us the devil left Jesus until some other opportune time. There is the incident in which Jesus told Peter, "Get behind me, Satan!" for Peter was advising Jesus as Satan would have advised Him. Doubtless, the enemy was behind many of the attacks from the scribes and pharisees, not to mention some of the sneering remarks from the crowd.
As Jesus’ ministry progressed, Satan must have wondered what His strategy was. Jesus did cast out demons, but otherwise there was no all out, direct confrontation as the adversary had expected. All Jesus did was go around with a ragtag collection of inept disciples and tell everyone He had come from God to save them, for which He was frequently ridiculed and sometimes attacked. Satan, perhaps, thought this was too good to be true. This Deliverer was a lion without teeth.
Satan began making his plans. He had most of the Jewish leaders in his pocket already – and now a real prize: he had managed to penetrate Jesus’ inner circle of disciples – and about that he felt quite smug. As for the rest, he would scare them all and they would scatter like ants.
Satan must have been beside himself with glee as he saw the treatment Jesus received: betrayal by a trusted associate, an arrest, a false trial, scourging, mocking, reviling, a crown of thorns, his beard torn out; dragged from Pilate to Herod and back, paraded up the street carrying a cross, jeered at by the crowd: and tortured to death by crucification. It was easier than he ever expected. The promised seed had come to naught. The battle was over.
Satan did not know he was in trouble until that resurrection morning when Jesus burst forth from the tomb – but by then it was too late. Jesus had conquered Satan’s most powerful ally, Death – and seized eternal youth. He had faced temptations, trials, and death at Satan’s hand, but in obedience had carried out the Father’s will. He made atonement by His Blood, became the second Adam, and ransomed man. He had resisted sin, overcome, and triumphed. He became the source of salvation to all who obey Him. He was the Lamb slain: worthy to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor, glory and blessing. He had destroyed the works of the devil. Rev 5:9-13; Heb 5:9; 1Jn 3:8.
* NOTE: We must understand that Jesus, in His pre-incarnate state as the second person of the Trinity, was the very One who had created Lucifer. It was Himself, Satan’s Creator, who came to do battle with him.
** NOTE: Many fail to understand why Jesus kept referring to Himself as THE SON OF MAN. It was to emphatically identify Himself in His mission as the second Adam, come as a member of Adam’s race, to take Adam’s place and achieve what Adam failed to do. The same term SON OF MAN is applied to Ezekiel over 90 times. But the significance of it can only be understood when one notes how it is stated in Hebrew: "Ben-adam". Ben means son. Adam means both our ancestor Adam, and also man in the exclusive sense of a member of Adam’s race. Thus, Ben-adam means both Son of Man and Son of Adam. Jesus, in calling Himself Ben-adam was continually reaffirming His membership in Adam’s race. But He was also the Son of God. Note the specific use of the two names with contrasting functions in John 5:25-27