Introduction (Lent 2017 Devotional #1)

Where high the heavenly temple stands,
The house of God not made with hands,
A great high priest our nature wears,
The guardian of mankind appears.

Thanks to those who have signed up for this new devotional on the “Desert Temptations” of Jesus. Eventually, this devotional will be composed of forty meditations around the many temptations of our Savior and the shield of faith he held in battle against the devil. I hope to publish these writings as a book or ebook next year.

Many very mature Christians speak as if there was no battle for Jesus—as if Jesus, when arriving on Earth, had already slain the devil with the sword of his mouth, and swept him away by the awfulness of his deity. This is neither the position of the Church Fathers, nor of the Bible. Anselm of Canterbury wrote:

“In order to make atonement, it is necessary that the same being should be perfect God and perfect man. For he cannot and ought not to do it, unless he be very God and very man.”

The desert temptations prove that Jesus was not just some kind of a holy spirit sent to teach, but that he was fully human in addition to all his other attributes. He was the God-man, sent to make us right with God.

The Book of Hebrews, which was written against legalistic backsliding, is the New Testament book that brings out the conflict of Christ most clearly. Using military language, the author calls Jesus our Captain and our Forerunner, and reminds his audience that they have not yet struggled against sin to the point of bloodshed (Heb. 12:4). The battle with temptation and sin is costly, even for the mature Christian.

The key verse for this devotional is Hebrews 4:15:

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Christ was tempted “in every respect as we are.” It would be a mistake to minimize this statement. Jesus could not have atoned for sin had he not been sinless.

Jesus was tempted in body—the devil tempted him to make bread, an obvious solution to his hunger. He was tempted in his spirit—a single act of insincere worship meant to bring the Messiah the glory that he deserved. He was tempted in his mind, too. Playing on his weakness and exhaustion, the devil continued to tempt Jesus to test how much God truly cared for him.

The Bible is surprising in the variety of the experiences that it mentions of Jesus. The Divine Library is like a room that, when we enter, is larger on the inside, and keeps expanding to our vision. We will take some diversions from Luke 4 to see the other temptations that were laid on Jesus.

The temptations are summarized, but not exhausted, by the trial in the wilderness. Even forty days is not enough to truly enter into the topic; the life of Jesus is the study of a lifetime, and will be a cause of gratitude for all eternity.

Jesus, you have faced every kind of temptation and conquered, in order that you could atone for us and empower us to do the same. Lead us this Lent to understand that you, as very God and very man, faced and defeated every trial of mankind.

Amen.

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