Trial of Jesus

(Mat 4:1-4 NIV)  Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. {2} After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. {3} The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” {4} Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

The tempter came to Jesus after He had finished forty days of fasting and was hungry. It would have been no temptation to Jesus if the tempter had come when Jesus was not hungry. The devil always attacks us in our area of weakness.

When Satan said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God…”, what he actually said was “Since you are the Son of God…”

(Analytical-Literal Translation)  And having approached Him, the Tempter said, “Since You are God’s Son, speak, so that these stones shall become loaves of bread.”

Satan was not challenging Jesus to prove that He was the Son of God but to use His powers in a manner that is not in accordance with God’s will. At that moment, it was the Father’s will that Jesus remained hungry. In response to the devil, Jesus quoted from Deut 8:3.

(Deu 8:3 NIV)  He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

The Israelites were humbled in the desert because they had no food and had to constantly depend on God alone to supply them with manna. But there was another purpose of this hunger – to teach them that having physical food is not everything; it is more important to have spiritual food from God i.e. His word.

There is nothing wrong in itself for Jesus to use His power to create food. He did that several times when He fed the multitudes that followed Him. But at that moment, it was the Father’s will for Jesus to fast. And using His power to create food would put Himself outside God’s will.

Are we also tempted at times to use our “powers” outside God’s will? For example, we may be a gifted Bible teacher but are we using this knowledge to argue with people to show off what we know or are we only using it to teach and edify others?

(Mat 4:5-7 NIV)  Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. {6} “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'” {7} Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Satan was challenging Jesus to test to see whether His Father would protect Him, since He is the Son of God. Satan quoted from Psalms 91.

(Psa 91:9-12 NIV)  If you make the Most High your dwelling– even the LORD, who is my refuge– {10} then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. {11} For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; {12} they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

The answer of Jesus was taken from Deuteronomy, where we read of the smiting of the rock at Massah. The people had complained and questioned whether the Lord was with them. Their sin was to question the presence of God unless they had a miracle to prove it.

(Deu 6:16 NIV)  Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah.

(Exo 17:3-7 NIV)  But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” {4} Then Moses cried out to the LORD, “What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.” {5} The LORD answered Moses, “Walk on ahead of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. {6} I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.” So Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. {7} And he called the place Massah and Meribah because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?”

Jesus was saying that He did not need to test God by casting Himself down from the pinnacle to know that His Father was with Him. To do that would be to question God’s power and presence in His life and demanding that God gives us miracles to prove it. God wants us to walk by faith and not by sight. If we could see miracles every day, there would be no more need for faith.

In the third temptation, Satan pledges to give to Jesus power and dominion if Jesus would worship him. The power of Satan in this world is great. He is spoken of as the prince of darkness, the prince of this world, the ruler of darkness, etc. These titles mean that Satan has great temporary powers.

Christ did not seem to question Satan’s right to offer what he had offered; only the manner by which power and dominion is to be attained. In the book of Psalms, the Father had already promised to the Son the earth as His possession.

(Psa 2:7-8 NIV)  I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my Son ; today I have become your Father. {8} Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.

Now Satan is offering a way to Jesus to get all of this without having to go through the hard road of Calvary. God has great plans for your life (Jer 29:11) but the way to achieve your ambitions has to be the right way. There must be no shortcuts. We may be able to achieve our ambitions quicker by deceit or other unwholesome ways but this type of success never lasts.

If Satan tempted Jesus, the Son of God, whom would he not tempt? That is why we need to constantly guide ourselves against temptation. Jesus taught us to pray this prayer.

(Mat 6:13 NIV)  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

(Mat 26:36-45 NIV)  Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” {37} He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. {38} Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” {39} Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” {40} Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. {41} “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” {42} He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” {43} When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. {44} So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. {45} Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

During trials, Jesus broke away from the group and went to a solitary place to pray. Trials should not make us so frantic that we do not find time to pray. It is prayer that strengthened Jesus during His last hours to complete the difficult task that He came into the world to do. We were told in Luke’s account that His Father sent an angel to strengthen Him.

(Luke 22:43 NIV)  An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.

Jesus, the Son of God, was sorrowful. In fact, His mental anguish was so great that Luke tells us “His sweat was like great drops of blood.” When we go through trials, we are told to look towards the good that is going to come of it. We are told by the Apostle Paul to rejoice in our suffering. That may make us feel guilty when trials cause us to be sorrowful. The incident of Jesus at Gethsemane dispels all doubt that it is wrong to feel sorrowful during trials. There should be a proper balance. Jesus knew full well that He was going to suffer at the end of His ministry but that did not cause Him to be sorrowful at all times. Yet in our trials there will be moments when we as humans succumb to sorrow. Let us not feel guilty for feeling sorrowful but rather do what Jesus did. He brought His sorrows to His Father and asked for strength.

Jesus wished that He need not have to go through the suffering and that the cup would pass from Him. This is despite the fact that He knew that His suffering would buy salvation for mankind. How we often feel this way too? We know that our trials will bring us to a better place after we have learnt our lessons and pass the test. But deep inside us we wish we need not have to go through them at all. We wish God would leave us alone. All this is natural. Jesus went through this experience too but He came out victorious. He realized that He wanted His Father’s will to be done. We too should yield to God our Maker. We cannot choose what trials we want and what we do not want.

The suffering that Jesus went through was more than physical suffering. It was a complete torture – physically, mentally and emotionally. The cross was a mode of punishment designed by cruel people not just to inflict death but to inflict it with the greatest degree of torture and shame to the person crucified. Jesus was not only abused physically, He was abused verbally, stripped, hanged on a cursed tree and crucified between two thieves. When we go through similar sufferings, Jesus understands because He has gone through the same things.

How did Jesus go through this trial? He yielded to the will of His Father. “Not my will but yours be done.” When we go through the trials in our life, we may at times get resentful. Christ was not resentful towards His Father. He yielded to His Father’s will. Jesus prayed that if possible, the suffering would pass from Him. But He wanted His Father’s will to be done and not His own. No one ought to pray unless he is perfectly willing that God should refuse to answer his prayer, if by refusal, the greater good would result from it.

Jesus coveted for the prayers of His disciples when He went through His trials. How often we think we can go through them on our own. The Christian life was never intended to be lived alone. Some of us are ashamed of what we are going through. We feel that sharing our problems will make us look pitiful and weak. But Christ did not hesitate to share His trials with His disciples so that they could pray for Him.

Could the disciples do anything to help Jesus? None. But in moments of trials, a person appreciates the prayers of his friends even when they cannot do any other thing to help. How disappointed Jesus was when He found His disciples sleeping instead of praying with Him. When your friends encounter difficulties, assuring them that you have them in your prayers, if that situation is beyond you to help in other ways, is often a great consolation.

Jesus wanted His disciples to watch and pray with Him because prayer can prevent us from falling into temptation. The temptation of Jesus in this darkest moment is the temptation to give up. When the going gets tough we are often tempted to throw in the towel and we need to pray for strength to withstand that temptation.

When Jesus went through the darkest moments of His life, the people He loved deserted Him. Even Peter, the disciple He handpicked for leadership, denied that he even knew Him. When we go through our trials, Jesus promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. We can always turn to Him.

(Gen 28:15 NIV)  I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”