Swordfight in the Desert

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The Gospel of Jesus – Swordfight in the Desert

Matthew 4:1-11


A three-year-old entered the kitchen when his mother was busy elsewhere in the house. She had told him not to get into the cookies.  But in her absence he pulled a kitchen chair over to the counter and climbed up on it. Then he took the lid off the cookie jar and had just gotten a cookie into his mouth when his mother entered the room and demanded to know what he was doing. The three-year-old looked at her with big, innocent eyes and said, "I just climbed up here to smell the cookies, and my tooth got caught on one of them."  The Force of temptation is strong with this one!


We know from the Old Testament that sacrifices had to be spotless in order to be acceptable by God. So at the very beginning of His ministry, Jesus is required to face the strongest temptations the devil could bring against Him. We can see this from v.1, where we see that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. The language of Mk. 1:12 is even stronger, “Immediately the Spirit driveth Him into the wilderness.” Why did the Holy Spirit insist that Jesus go into the wilderness? It was for the express purpose of being tested by the devil.


Ill.--As the Union Pacific Railroad was being constructed, an elaborate trestle bridge was built across a large canyon in the West. Wanting to test the bridge, the builder loaded a train with enough extra cars and equipment to double its normal payload. The train was then driven to the middle of the bridge, where it stayed an entire day. One worker asked, “Are you trying to break this bridge?”

“No,” the builder replied, “I’m trying to prove that the bridge won’t break.” In the same way, the temptations Jesus faced weren’t designed by God to see if Christ would sin, but to prove that He wouldn’t.


Matthew’s main purpose for this account was to affirm yet again that Jesus Christ is the sinless Son of God, the promised Messiah. But I believe this text also has a practical application. For our benefit, Jesus exposed Satan and his tactics. He then defeated Satan. Because of His victory, we know how we can have victory over the tempter as well.


All too often we suffer defeat from temptation, and the devil gets a victory. Did you yield to temptation this week?  How about last night? How about this morning? Well God wants you to be able to share in the victory of Christ over temptation.


Now beginning in v.3 Satan assails the Son of God with 3 powerful temptations. In vv. 3-4 we see:



The devil’s main purpose was to overthrow the Messiah at the outset. He knew that Jesus had come to bring salvation, and he knew that if he could get Jesus to sin, that would ruin the whole plan of salvation.


Satan waited until the conditions were right before he began his onslaught of temptation. The Judean wilderness stretches between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.  It is an area of yellow sand, crumbling limestone, and contorted strata. It glows and shimmers with heat like a vast furnace. The conditions of the wilderness made the deprivation of hunger even greater. Christ also faced loneliness and isolation. So after spending 40 days in such a place, it is something of an understatement when Matthew says that Jesus “hungered.” We say we are hungry all the time.  Some of you get hangry!  We use the word ‘starving.’  But are we?

Jesus was famished, and physically stretched to the limit. This became the devil’s best opportunity to strike.


And when you are hungry, the opportunity is certainly present for temptation. For example, you may be tempted to satisfy your needs in ways that God has prohibited. Yes we need food, but we do not meet the need for food by stealing. Yes we need food, but we should not abuse God’s provision with gluttony.


There are many other circumstances when we are more prone to temptation. Satan may tempt you at a time of sickness. He may tempt you in a time of spiritual weakness. After you have missed church, or after you have gone without praying and reading your Bible, you will be vulnerable to the temptations of Satan. Another prime time for temptation is when you feel prideful and self-confident.

(1 Cor. 10:12).


Temptation Is Tailored to the Individual – Satan’s basis for temptation was unique to Jesus because Jesus was a unique person. Notice in v.3 that Satan said to Jesus, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Just weeks before at the baptism of Jesus, God the Father had confirmed that Jesus was the Son of God. So Satan uses that as the springboard of this temptation. “The Son of God, hungry? How ridiculous! And if you are a Son, then God is supposed to be your Father. He must not care about you. You have to take matters into your own hands!” He was tempting Christ to act independently of the Holy Spirit who had led Him into the wilderness. He was seeking to destroy the Son’s confidence in his Father’s will and power to sustain him. Satan is always trying to get people to doubt the love and care of God.


So Satan tempted Him to use His power to produce instant food. That is something we are quite used to today. [microwave/drive-thru] And in the case of Jesus, He could turn desert stones into bread. After all, John had said that God could turn stones into sons of Abraham, and if Jesus is God’s Son, then surely He could turn stones into bread, a lesser miracle.


Later He would demonstrate that He could change water into wine, and multiply a few loaves and fishes and feed thousands. Oh, He had the power. So why not use it? He had the power to secure instant relief.


So, the bait is deceptively wound over a barbed hook.  How will Jesus respond?


Temptation Can Be Resisted by Scripture –Jesus appealed to Scripture in all 3 temptations. That is the weapon Satan fears more than anything else in this world.  This was a fight and Jesus pulls out the two edged Sword!

Ephes. 6:11-17

    Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. [12] For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. [13] Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. [17] And take the…sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.


And all His quotations that day were from Deuteronomy 6 and 8. Could it be that the Lord’s meditation that morning had been in this portion of God’s Word?


Now the primary application is that we also should learn the Word of God, and use Scripture to resist temptation. The devil hates Scripture. So you need to know and memorize the Word of God.

Psalm 119:11

    Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.


Jesus quotes from Deut. 8:3

    …that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord.


As a Son Jesus was obeying the Father by being in the wilderness, and as a

Father, God will provide the food He needed. Jesus would trust in the provision of God just the same way we have to trust in the provision of God. God had provided food for His prophet Elijah (I Kings 19:5-7).  Jesus later promised in Matthew 6:33

    But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.


So He will wait for the Father’s provision.  Christ has won round 1.


Now Satan tries his next temptation, and in vv. 5-6 we see:



Satan took Jesus to the temple mount.  From that high point, Satan proceeded to tempt Jesus.


v. 6  This may have been a follow-up to the response of Jesus to the first

temptation. Satan was saying something like: “So, you trust your Father? Well let’s see how much you trust Him. If you will not work a miracle for yourself, then let God work one for you. And since you seem to know Scripture, let me give you one,” and he proceeded to quote from Psalm

91:11-12, which he alleges will give Him promise of safety. However, Satan misquoted the Scripture.

[And that he does often.  He has his own version of the Bible.  He did the same to Adam and Eve, twisting God’s words…and people still do it today.  Are there bad versions of the Bible?  How about this one of Pete Buttigieg?  “Thou shalt not kill?”  Well, that only applies to babies after they have been born and taken a breath.  Homosexuality-a sin?  Those passages were written by ignorant people ages ago!]


For the Lord to do this would be presumptuous, not trusting. Furthermore, Satan was tempting Christ to prove the reality of God’s love and care. We are not supposed to ask for proof or put God to the test. 


We are often tempted to demand a visible proof of God’s presence and care. For example, someone may say, “God, if you don’t heal me, I won’t believe in you.” [Give me a job / make that girl like me]  That is not faith, but is putting God to the test.  [As a kid I once asked God if He loved me to strike me with lightning.  When He didn’t, I told my dad, who said, Son, the fact that He didn’t is because He loves you!]


Satan was hoping that he would leap and God would not honor Jesus’ distrust, and the Messiah would fall upon the rocks below and die. That would end God’s plan of salvation.


Jesus’ Response - The Lord knew His Bible better than to be taken in by Satan’s alternate version, imitation sword.  


v. 7          Jesus again pulls out the sword and strikes a blow!


There are 2 problems with testing God:


        A. If you have to have a miracle in order to believe what God has already said, then you lack true faith. True faith does not put God to the test. Jesus quotes Deut. 6:16

    Ye shall not tempt the Lord your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.


That incident is found in Ex. 17:1-7. There they complained against Moses and God because there was no water. They demanded water and said, “Is the LORD among us or not? If He is, then prove it by giving us water.”


True faith does not demand signs from heaven or miracles, but simply believes the Word of God.


Now the second thing that was wrong with Satan’s temptation was the fact that it was contrary to the following principle:


        B. True faith Is Based on the Word of God - If God had commanded Jesus to cast Himself down, to do it would have been right. As He had not, to do it was not faith, but self-will.


Suppose you drive 90 miles per hour up the street, running through every stop sign, and you say, “I have faith that God will protect me.” And then you crash and kill yourself and others.  Could it be said you died in faith?  I would say you died putting God to the test. Such faith is not true faith because it was contrary to the Word of God, which says we are to obey the laws of the government. Do not do foolish things and demand that God deliver you from the result of foolish actions. Sometimes in His mercy & grace He will, but you can’t expect it or demand it.

After all, the Bible says, “You reap what you sow.”


So round 2 is over. Jesus has won another victory over Satan & his temptation. Now the devil stakes everything in one final, desperate attempt to achieve his purpose. And in this final temptation we will see that:



v.8   Satan begins this temptation by showing Christ all the kingdoms of the world…which would have required supernatural power, which he has. Furthermore, Luke adds that he did this “in a moment.”


He was saying, “All of it can be yours–Satan boasted that he has control over the kingdoms of the world. That was a half-truth, but it was a great lie also. Satan has temporary control now [the god of this world / holds title deed for now according to Revelation], but he could not grant permanent control. Remember that anything the devil can offer you is only temporary. It will not bring any lasting satisfaction.


Now Satan’s offer was tempting in at least 2 respects:

        A. Satan Appealed to Personal Ambition - How appealing it would be to many of us to be king of the world.

        B. Satan Appealed to Instant Gratification - Satan knew that according to Psa. 2:8, the Son is promised a kingdom.

Psalm 2:8

    Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen [nations] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.


The devil knew Jesus was promised the kingdom, but he offered Jesus a shortcut to His kingdom. For Jesus that kingdom would be received only

after a 3 1/2 year ministry and after suffering and dying on a cross. Satan tempts Him to accept a kingdom now. All He would have to do is bow down and worship Satan just once (aorist tense). All he wanted was just one brief bend of the knee. Then He could enjoy all the glory and power now, and without enduring any suffering.


Oh, how Satan effectively uses that kind of temptation today. Satan is always offering instant gratification. The Bible admits there is temporary pleasure in sin. Too many are like Esau, who traded the value of his birthright for the temporary pleasure of a bowl of soup. Youth seem vulnerable to this temptation. For example, Satan will say, “Why wait until marriage to experience the pleasure of sexual intimacy. I will give it to you now. And many young people fall for it!


But we need to follow the example of Christ. He maintained loyalty to God, and endured the cross and suffering, for He knew that beyond the cross was a crown of glory.

Hebrews 12:2

    Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.


Satan has always wanted to take the place of God. He wants people to worship and honor him.


v.10         The final round of the conflict is over. Jesus was victorious over the most powerful temptations Satan could throw at Him. And v.11 shows the result of Christ’s supremacy over him. Matthew says, “Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.” And the good news is that 1 John 4:4 indicates we can have that same supremacy.

1 John 4:4

    Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

James 4:7

    Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.


If you are a Christian, Satan has no authority over you. You can’t say, “The devil made me do it.”

1 Cor. 10:13

    There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

2 Peter 2:9

    The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:


You’re a child of God, not a slave of the devil. Remember that.


And notice that after the conflict came glad refreshment. [v. 11]

When the angels came, they probably brought bodily nourishment. Perhaps they cooked Him some heavenly hash, and some angel food cake!


Christians:  The Devil attacked Jesus the same ways he will attack you--physically, then mentally, and finally, spiritually.  The lure of the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lies of the devil tempt us.


Against the world, the weapon is FAITH:

1 John 5:4

    For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

        The more you love Jesus, the less appeal the world will have. 

Ill.--when a hawk is attacked by crows, he does not make a counterattack, but soars higher and higher in ever widening circles until his tormentors leave him alone.  Rise above in faith!


Against the flesh, the weapon is FLIGHT.

2 Tim. 2:22

    Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.


Against the devil, the weapon is FIGHT! So carry your Sword, not just to church, but in your heart!

Write a comment


  • lewis lawson (Saturday, February 13 21 02:27 pm EST)

    sure enjoy your sermon outlines

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