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The Test

November 7, 2021

The Test

Passage: Luke 4:1-14
Service Type:


LUKE 4:1-14

I don’t know if you’ve ever watched a house being built, or you’ve built one yourself. But if you have, you know there are a lot of steps to going from a vacant lot to having a fully functioning home. 

There is the marking out the lines of where you want the footers dug. Then the backhoe comes and breaks ground. Then the concrete company comes, pours deep concrete chunks called footers which will be the foundation for the house. Then the flatwork guys pour the basement floor or the slab, then the framers come and put up the shell of the house followed by all the other pieces that will make this structure livable.

We’ve been in this series on the book of Luke now for two months, and so far it might not feel like we’ve gotten very far. Jesus hasn’t even started his ministry yet. He hasn’t really said much, He hasn’t taught us any lessons, hasn’t performed any miracles… it’s been a little slow going so far. But Luke has been carefully digging out the footers and creating a foundation for the rest of Jesus’ life and ministry that every word, every lesson, every miracle will be built on. 

The foundation that Luke has laid so far is Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. It started with the fulfilling of prophecies about a miraculous virgin birth in a city she didn’t live in, and the fulfillment of someone to prepare the way; then even the child Jesus continued fulfilling more scriptures – being dedicated to the Lord according to the Law, being found in the temple where Malachi said to look for him, fulfilling righteousness by being baptized, and then having God speak audibly, as a visible picture of the Holy Spirit lands on Jesus, inaugurating him as the Messiah, the Chosen One, the Son of God, fulfilling Isaiah 42:1 that the Lord will put his Spirit on the servant he delights in. 

We didn’t talk about this last week, but it’s here at Jesus’ baptism that we get our first clear look at the Trinity working together. The Father speaking. Jesus the Son receiving. Holy Spirit filling and empowering. 

Today comes the last step in the process before we start to see Jesus’ ministry take shape. The foundation has been laid, now today Luke is going to pour the pad that Jesus will stand on, sleep on, work on, live on, as it were, and here’s why this matters: If we are in Christ, everything that was available to him is available to us. So whatever foundation he is standing on, we can stand on too. 

PRAY – Lord I pray that your eternal word that does not change would do the work in us that you intended it to do, so that You are glorified and Christ is exalted. Holy Spirit, open our eyes to see the glory of the Father and the Son today. Amen.

Please turn with me in your scripture to Luke chapter 4 if you aren’t already there, and let’s jump right in. 

Luke 4:1-2 CSB

There are a couple of things worth mentioning here. Jesus is:

    • Full of the Spirit - He is fresh off of his baptism. Publicly he has been identified by God as the Messiah, the dearly loved Son of God, and he was filled with the Spirit. 
      • The Holy Spirit is going to be Jesus’ power source as he goes about the rest of his ministry. Jesus is never alone. The same Spirit who powerfully enabled Jesus to be born of a virgin will now powerfully enable and strengthen Jesus to do what he came to earth to do. 
  • Led by the Spirit - We talked about this last week a little bit. This is Luke’s way of saying Jesus isn’t making things up as he goes. He is being led. 
  • More importantly perhaps, Jesus is submitting himself to the plan and leading of God, through the Spirit. The apostle Paul writes to the Philippians in chapter 2 that Jesus emptied himself, humbled himself – the king became the servant; the one who deserved obedience now the one being obedient; the Giver of life willingly submitted to death.  
  • In the wilderness - An overall nasty kind of place. Dangerous. Home for the demonic, home for the wild and unruly, home to animals and villains, a place where death ruled.
    • This whole scene is meant to draw our attention back to the people of Israel coming out of Egypt. God took them through the Red Sea (which according to 1 Corinthians 10 is symbolic of baptism) and then God led them out into the wilderness on their way to the land of Promise for 40 years of testing that would involve intense hunger and the opportunity to prove their faith. 
      • If you read the book of Exodus, which is one of my favorites in the whole Bible, you’ll see that Israel failed miserably at every turn. 
    • So now Jesus, in a very similar story line, has participated in baptism and now the Holy Spirit leads him into the wilderness for 40 days of testing that would involve hunger and opportunity for Jesus to prove his faith. 
      • This parallel story is completely on purpose. Jesus is the representative of the nation. He will succeed where Israel had failed. 
  • Devil: This is not some kind of internal struggle for Jesus, like when you hear people say things like, “I’m battling with my demons.” This isn’t Jesus out on a nature walk trying to find himself, wrestling with his calling or his mission – It is a confrontation between two very real personalities that stand opposed to each other. This is war. 
    • Accuser - Zechariah 3:1-2
    • Tempter - 1 Chron 21:1
    • Murderer, Father of lies - John 8:37-44 - 
    • Deceiver - 2 Cor 11:3
    • More crafty than anything else God created – Gen 3:1

The last time humans went head to head with the devil, it wasn’t in a wilderness; It was the most beautiful place on earth, full of abundance and life and blessing. Adam and Eve walked with God, were affirmed by God, and had everything they ever could have needed or wanted. 

So Satan doesn’t tempt Adam and Eve with what we think are the big sins. He doesn’t tempt them with an affair, or with drugs, or stealing, or killing each other. He goes straight for the jugular; he points to our circumstances and uses them against the character of God. So here is Jesus, hot, dusty, sweating, hungry, tired, out in the wilderness…


[3] The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." 

Satan is not questioning whether Jesus is the Son of God, like “if you are, prove it.” He knows 100% he is. He is tempting Jesus to use his “Son-of-God-ness” to meet his own human needs. It’s like Satan is saying, “Come on ‘loved son of God,’ You’re hungry and you know that stone will become bread if you tell it to. You have certain needs. You are the Son of God, for crying out loud. If anyone deserves lunch right now it’s you, and without even lifting a finger you can make it happen. You deserve to be happy. God’s not coming through. You could use a pick-me-up. Make it happen.

Temptation: You are self-sufficient. You can ease your own suffering right here with your divine power.

Jesus knows he makes the best bread. It would be delicious, and it would meet a felt need. But he would have to use his unique gifts, designed for other people, on himself. He would be acting on his own accord, and not depending faithfully on his Heavenly Father.

This one is a pretty easy temptation for us in Western culture. We’ve bought this one hook line and sinker. We have the power to ease our  “suffering” too – it’s called “credit.” We ease our suffering by getting new stuff all the time. 

My phone copmany keeps telling me I need to ease my suffering by getting a new iPhone. My Facebook feed tells me I need to ease the suffering of wearing the same clothes over and over by getting all new ones. Sometimes parts of Facebook or Instagram try to tell us we need to ease the suffering of marriage, or ease the suffering of singlehood by inviting someone else in through our screens. 

But we’ve all felt the let-down of giving in to those temptations. It never satisfies. Jesus knows there’s more to living than a full stomach; he’s not here to meet his own needs. His identity does not come from what he has or what he eats. So… 

[4] But Jesus answered him, "It is written: Man must not live on bread alone."  He said later in John 8:34 – My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.  That’s where the real sustenance comes from. 


[5] So [the devil] took [Jesus] up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. [6] The devil said to him, "I will give you their splendor and all this authority, because it has been given over to me, and I can give it to anyone I want. [7] If you, then, will worship me, all will be yours." 

I don’t know how much of Jesus’ ministry Satan was in on. Did Satan understand why Jesus was on earth? Did he have insight into the mission? Not sure. But what is clear is that Satan treats this moment as if he has home field advantage right now. Satan is like, “welcome to my neighborhood, Jesus. Let me show you what all I own – oh yeah – it’s everything you created. Remember how people rebelled against your Father and listened to me, and ever since then have been under my hand? Well, I’ll give it all back to you. All the glory, all the authority – all the stuff you want anyway, it’s mine to give away, and I’ll give it to you. Doesn’t cost you anything. All you have to do is worship me.” 

Temptation: You think being hungry is bad – wait till your body is shredded by whips and they Nail you to a piece of wood with railroad spikes through your wrists. You can bypass all of that, and get straight to the glory and honor and power right now. Shortcut the cross. You’ll be glad you did.

This temptation is about splendor and authority. Glory & Power. Jesus knew power and glory and honor would come. But not through earthly kingdoms or earthly power structures. It would come through laying down his life. Sacrifice. Glory will come; but first the cross. Power will come, but first: weakness. 

We are not big fans of feeling like we’re on the bottom of the totem pole, so this temptation works pretty well with us too. We don’t just want stuff – we want to know we belong and that we’re needed and that we have influence; a voice. We want to be in the right friend group, the right circles, we identify ourselves with sports teams or popular products, someone at the table tells a great story – we can’t just sit there. We have to tell a story of our own. We want the right people to notice us. We don’t want to be thought of as weak, or overly emotional, or insignificant, so we promote ourselves if no one else will.  

You can have all the latest fashion, or equipment, or gadgets, or whatever interests you, and still be empty inside. The author of the book of Ecclesiastes in scripture said you can drink yourself stupid, party it up, you can win the championship, etc, but you still come off the high and feel just as lonely or empty as you did before. You can generate a lot of social media popularity, but at the end of the day, digital likes, comments, and followers don’t translate into meaningful relationships, and when we put the phone down and look at the stack of dishes on the table, we still feel like we’re at the bottom. 

Later in his ministry, Jesus would perhaps reflect on this moment as he said: Whoever tries to save their life will end up losing it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?  

So [8] And Jesus answered him, "It is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only." 

Jesus’ answer reveals that our desire for glory and influence and not being at the bottom is actually a worship problem. 


[9] So he took him to Jerusalem, had him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here. [10] For it is written: He will give his angels orders concerning you, to protect you, [11] and they will support you with their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone." 

To this point, Jesus has been quoting scripture in order to refuse the temptation. But now, Satan grabs the Bible and quotes Psalm 91. Jesus – can you imagine if people started just living out that verse the freedom and the joy they all would have, and the attention you would have for your ministry? 

The temple is the place where God’s presence lives. It’s where heaven meets with earth. So on earth, this is as close to God as you can get. Right here, at the temple. So if there is anywhere a Father is going to protect his Son, it’s in his own house, especially since the temple was one of the busiest public places in Jerusalem. 

If you jumped from here, did some backflips, landed on your feet without a scratch – I mean, do you know how many Instagram followers you would have if you did that everywhere you went?!?! God has to do exactly what his word says, or else it’s a lie! How could he be trusted otherwise!? If you’re really the Son of God, then your Father has to come through, and the people will love it! 

Temptation: Use God’s own words to make him serve you. Specifically, to avoid suffering. 

And man, we’re still doing that one. The prosperity gospel, the word of faith movement are some of the fastest growing religious groups in the world. They read a verse like Jeremiah 29:11 which is everyone’s favorite verse: I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you and they name it, claim it, and frame it – there it is: prospering and no harm. 

They say that means God doesn’t want his own children to be sick. God doesn’t want you to suffer. God doesn’t want you to be poor. So declare yourself to be prosperous. Declare yourself to be healthy. God has to be faithful to that verse. 

Now, generally speaking, if you follow God’s principles (according to Proverbs), if you follow God there is some level of prosperity and safety that happens. So what’s the problem with claiming those verses? Why is that so bad? Well one reason is that generally when you make those kinds of declarations, your focus is really on the prospering, not on the glory of God being seen. The focus is really on the “not being harmed” than it is the glory or will or eternal purposes of God. 

Another reason is that it doesn’t take the whole Bible into account, where oftentimes suffering and poverty does serve God’s purposes. And in the case of Jesus, that’s exactly what was happening: Hebrews 5:8 says, “Although he was the Son, (that part was never in question) he learned obedience from what he suffered.”

But God’s primary concern for us isn’t our health, wealth, or prosperity. God’s primary concern is that we see his glory shining brighter than anything else this world has to offer, brighter than healing itself; brighter than any amount of money or stuff; and that we learn to delight in him through faithful obedience. And that often comes through hardship.

Satan’s temptation was for Jesus to use God’s word as a “get out of suffering free” card, and Jesus responded, no that’s not how it works.

[12] And Jesus answered him, "It is said: Do not test the Lord your God." [13] After the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time. [14] Then Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread throughout the entire vicinity…

Author John Piper said this about this whole scene:

Satan had one aim in the wilderness: to do whatever he could to keep Jesus from suffering. He was willing to let Jesus have all the glory and authority of a world ruler if he just wouldn't gain it through suffering. He was eager to let Jesus use his divine power if he would just use it to relieve his suffering. He was willing to let all the worshipers in Jerusalem see and acknowledge his divine sonship if only the angels of God would keep Jesus from suffering…Because the suffering and death of Jesus meant the final destruction of Satan and the salvation of you and me. And Satan's aim in this church today is to stop you from following Jesus; to stop you from denying yourself and taking up your cross daily to follow him."


This sermon is not meant to be a theology of suffering. What I mean is that we are studying the way Jesus responded to temptation, and we’re not saying every temptation you and I have looks exactly like this. 

In fact, James 1:13-14 tells us that our temptations look a little different than Jesus’

  1. Though the Spirit led Jesus to be tempted, scripture tells us God doesn’t lead us into temptation. James 1:14 says each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire.  We lead ourselves into temptation 99% of the time. 
  2. There are a few examples of the devil tempting or luring people in scripture, but most of the time, he can save his energy: we are lured by our own wishes and wants. 
    1. When Christians are tempted to look at porn, it’s not always because Satan is trying to get at you. Might be. But most of the time, the temptation is because we just really want to look. We’re hungry for bread, and it’s easy to find. 
    2. When we’re tempted to steal or cheat; when we are tempted to tell a lie or gossip about someone – it’s not always because the devil is trying to get us down – a lot of the time it’s just because we want to. We feel a need, and will do whatever it takes to satisfy it.

But the devil’s temptations to Jesus and the temptations of our own flesh can be summarized like this: You shouldn’t have to suffer like this if God loves you. So, don’t wait for him: treat yourself.

Jesus says the opposite: Luke 9:22 – ”It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things.  And if you want to follow me, a life of comfort and ease is not where you’ll find me. It’s not where you’ll learn or grow or exercise obedient faith. You too need to deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” 

Jesus knew that in the end, glory was coming. The suffering would end, and he would be exalted. But he also knew that on the other side of suffering was not a pile of the latest and greatest things. On the other side of the cross was not fame or influence. On the other side of suffering was not the applause of men. 

Jesus knew that on the other side of the cross was the same thing he already had on this side of the cross – the approval and applause of his heavenly Father who, Philippians 2 tells us, highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, (and listen to this part, because this is big) to the glory of God the Father. He would be exalted, but that wasn’t why he endured the cross.

Jesus rejected the devil’s offer and chose to suffer instead because that is how the Father would be glorified. And at the end of the day, even though God highly exalted him, made the whole earth bow to him – Jesus was still pointing at the Father. The foundation Jesus will stand on for the rest of his life and ministry, even as he heads toward the cross, is that his identity is firmly rooted like the footer of a house, in his identity as a loved Son of God; AND, that he will accomplish God’s glory through faithful obedience. 

Why is this good news for us today?

Hebrews 4:14-16 - Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens – Jesus the Son of God – let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.  

The outcome of Jesus’ victory over Satan here in the wilderness is that he could be our living, breathing, high priest right this second in the presence of God, working on our behalf. His victory means when you are experiencing a temptation of any kind, you can call out to him and he knows! There is nothing you can pray where you can say “Jesus, you don’t know how this feels!” He does! 

And because he does, you and I can approach him with confidence and boldness in our time of need, and we will find mercy and grace. Might not always find healing. Might not always find the answer we’re looking for. 

1 Corinthians 10:13 says God is faithful and won’t let you be tempted beyond what you are able, and with every temptation you experience, God will always give you a way out. Might not be an easy way out, but no matter what temptation you experience, part of his mercy and grace in our time of need is that there is always a way out.

Here is the invitation that still stands for all of us today, River City: approach the throne! You’re not going to get body-slammed for experiencing temptation! You’re going to find mercy and grace! You’re not going to get trampled because you gave into temptation one too many times – there is mercy and grace for real sinners, real sufferers. 



JODI: Before we continue in singing, here are two more verses of Psalm 103: 17 But from eternity to eternity the Lord’s faithful love is toward those who fear him, and his righteousness toward the grandchildren 18 of those who keep his covenant, who remember to observe his precepts. 19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.


In the book of Exodus, God was getting ready to deliver his people from slavery in Egypt, and he warned the King of Egypt that death was coming to the kingdom that night. God then instructed Moses to have all the families of Israelites kill a lamb, and apply some it’s blood to the doorposts of their homes. When the angel of death came that night, the only way anyone survived was if they had the blood applied to their homes. It didn’t matter how righteous or unrighteous the people were inside the home – the only thing that mattered was the blood. 

Ephesians 1 says we now have redemption from OUR sins, not because of how righteous we are or because we are able to get our act together, but because of the blood of Christ applied to our hearts through faith. It’s not about how good or bad we think we are – the only thing that matters is the blood. 



Jude 1:24 – Now to him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen. 

Thank you for joining us today – we hope to see you next week. 




  1. Bock, Darrell L. Luke. 2 vols. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994/96., 336
  2. Ibid, 337
  3. Ibid, 337
  4. Ibid, 337
  5. Ibid, 344
  6. Ibid, 360
  7. Green, Joel B, The Gospel of Luke. NICNT. Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s, 1997, 191