CONFLICT OF THE KINGS
BY PASTOR GLENN PEASE
Art Linkletter tells of how when he was 10 years old he was offered a job of tempting people to buy ice cream cones. The ice cream stand owner noticed the dramatic way in which he licked an ice cream cone, and so he offered him ten cents an afternoon if he would wonder through the nearby park licking cones. He writes, "I used such a seductive curling action with my tongue that passers-by couldn't resist and the stands business began to soar." He was demonstrating the power of temptation. That is what advertising is all about. It is a lure to motivate you to buy something by creating in you a hunger for it.
Satan specializes in creating hungers for that which is out of God's will, and he is good at it. He created in Adam and Eve a hunger for the forbidden fruit, and thereby, brought about the fall of man. And now ever since the fall he has succeeded in making every person hunger for the forbidden. All, that is, except one. The great exception is the Lord Jesus. He was the one exception who did not sin, but there are no exceptions to temptation. Every man, including Jesus has to face the universal experience of temptation.
If Satan could have succeeded in creating in him a hunger for the forbidden, he would have won his greatest victory, and would have defeated the plan of God for mans salvation. The temptation of Jesus was not only his testing, but the testing of Satan, for his whole destiny rides on whether or not he can succeed. Thus, again we see this seemingly minor incident in the life of our Lord as the hinge on which the door of destiny swings for Jesus, for Satan, and for all mankind. What is going to transpire on this desolate mountain called Quarantania just West of ancient Jericho is going to alter all of history. Either Jesus or Satan will experience what nearby Jericho experienced when the walls of the city came tumbling down. The walls of one of their kingdoms will fall, and lead to their ultimate defeat. Thus, we have hear the conflict of the kings of the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light.
Joshua fit the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down. Now we see Jesus the new Joshua facing the formidable wall of the kingdom of darkness. The only way he can invade that kingdom and set the captives free is by defeating its king. In the temptation of Jesus, who has just been by His baptism anointed the Messiah and King, we see the conflict of the two greatest kings in history. It is a duel that will determine which kingdom will ultimately rule this earth. Jesus said in Mark 3:27, "In fact, no one can enter a strong mans house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house." Jesus could not begin His public ministry of healing and casting out demons and setting people free from Satan's bondage until He first defeated Satan. That is why His temptation comes before His ministry.
Much ado is made about the heavy weight championship of the world boxing match. Millions go into it, but the outcome makes no difference as far as the destiny of the world, but here in the wilderness is an isolated encounter that nobody on earth is even aware of, and yet on its outcome hangs the eternal destiny of all mankind. This morning we want to take a ring-side seat, and examine in detail this conflict of the kings. The first thing we see is-
I. THE TIMING OF THE TEMPTATION.
Notice verse 12 begins with the words at once. The Holy Spirit came upon Jesus in His baptism, and immediately without delay the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert to be tempted. This timing confirms all that we said about the importance of the baptism of Jesus. It was this event that made Jesus the Messiah and the second Adam. He was the representative man who would have to reverse the defeat of the first Adam for man to have a chance. Satan has been champion for centuries, but now another challenger has come to try and take that title away.
No doubt, Jesus faced temptation before this. This is hard to imagine living 30 years without some battles with Satan, but until His baptism and anointing with the Holy Spirit, Jesus was not the official representative of the kingdom of light. As soon as He received these credentials He was ready for the official encounter. The Holy Spirit was now His manager, and the first thing He did after the baptism was to drive Jesus to the scene of battle, where the duel of the ages could take place.
The Holy Spirit was saying that not since Adam I have we had a contender to face Satan with any hope of victory. Now Adam II was ready, and the Holy Spirit after all these centuries of waiting, wasted no more time before He deployed this new weapon of spiritual warfare. Like our atomic weapons, this Adamic weapon was tested in the desolate desert. The second thing we see is-
II. THE TARGET OF TEMPTATION.
Satan was being lured in his defeat in this temptation, but Jesus was the target. He was deliberately set up to be a tempting target for satanic attack. He was driven into the God-forsaken wasteland giving Satan the home court advantage. The conflict would take place on his own turf.
On top of this, the Messiah would fast for 40 days and thereby weaken His resistance. He was made more vulnerable to physical, mental, and spiritual hunger. Jesus was made such a tempting target for Satan, he could not resist the challenge even though he knew this was the Son of God. If he lost, it would be his first failure in history, and would spell the beginning of his doom. But, on the other hand, if he could succeed it would mean he would do what he had always longed to do: Defeat God, and become superior to God. He could win in this conflict the prize he lusted for: undisputed authority over the earth and mankind. It was Satan's dream, and here was the target right in front of him luring him into battle.
How could he lose with a man as filled with hunger as Jesus was? He looked like a sitting duck to Satan, and so he went for the bait. Jesus was the target of temptation, but He was also the bait that lured Satan into a conflict where he would meet his Waterloo, and begin to lose his grip on humanity. Adam 1 was a snap to bring down, and he had paradise and all any man could ask for. How can I fail with Adam 2, who is starving in a God-forsaken desert? Such must have been the thinking of Satan as he accepts the challenge for the heavy weight championship of the world to determine who will have the right to decide the destiny of all mankind.
As the target, Jesus had to play the hero's role, and let the bad guy shoot first. I always admired Sheriff Dillon in Gunsmoke, but it always bothered me when he would let the bad guy get off the first shot. The idea is, the good guy never starts the battle. He is not the aggressor, but rather, the defender, and so acts in self-defense. This is the Christian view of warfare. The Christian ought never to start a war, but if he is attacked he has the right of self-defense, and should end the war as soon as possible by victory over the offender. So Jesus plays the role of the hero, and does not attack but repels the arrows of the tempter and defends his stand of loyalty to the plan of God.
As the target, he felt the power of Satan's darts. In His humanity it would be appealing to satisfy His hunger for food, for fame, and for power, by listening to the tempter. If Jesus did not feel any lure to Satan's offers, then there would be little to be impressed about in His victory. If someone comes to me and says leap up to the moon and grabs some green cheese and I'll give you fifty bucks a pound for all you can get, you are not going to be impressed when I tell you I took my stand against stealing and refused the offer. You know that offer could not move me in any way because it asked of me what I could not give. I am not tempted to do the impossible, but only the possible. Temptation is an appeal to do what you could do if you just chose to do it and not worry about whether it is right or wrong.
It is the reality of what Jesus endured that makes Him such a sympathetic intercessor for us. Heb. 2:18 says, "Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted." Remember, when you are tempted, the biggest target Satan ever had was our Lord, but he could not bring Him down. He stood for God, but also for us. Had He yielded we would be sunk. But because He stood, we can also win the battle. As the target, Jesus took the shots, but it was the hunter that was most severely wounded. Jesus had a wounded heel, but He crushed the head of the serpent. The target triumphed over the tempter. The trickster was out-tricked. The third thing we see is
III. THE TEMPERING OF THE TEMPTATION.
Matt.. joins Mark in telling us about the comfort of the angels after His temptation. But Mark only tells us about the detail that throughout it all Jesus had the companionship of wild animals. What a delightful detail. After all, the first Adam had the companionship of the animal kingdom. Why should not the second Adam who was also their creator? The Messiah was to be characterized by two things: (1.) The ministry of angels. (2) The mastery of animals. In the very text which Satan quoted to tempt Jesus we see these two things.
Ps. 91:11-13 says, "For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways: They will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent." The great lion and serpent that Jesus is trampling here is Satan himself, but the text also refers to the Messiah's mastery over the animal kingdom. We get a picture here of a Tarzan-like hero who has the friendship of the animal kingdom even when the forces of evil threaten to overwhelm him. Jesus has no human companionship, but faces Satan alone. Yet he is not alone, for the wild beasts are there.
Why are they there? First of all, it is there natural habitat. They live in the wilderness all the time. Some say that is all these words mean. They merely describe the wilderness of the setting. They dismiss this reference of Mark to animals as of no significance. But others say, it had meaning to Mark or he would not have added it. They see it as a tempering of the temptation. To temper means to moderate and regulate. You tempter by adding something to the mixture to modify it. If something is to sour you add sugar to temper it and bring it back to a balance taste acceptable to the palate. The wild animals became a tempering factor in the temptation.
What is of interest is that God would use the animal kingdom to help His Son bear the burden of temptation. But this has always been an ideal. The truly blessed man has always been one who has been loved by the animal kingdom. Back in Job 5:23 Eliphaz describes the ideal man and says, "The wild animals will be at peace with you." The early Christians picked up on this image of Jesus, and in the Catacombs of Rome they represented Jesus as the Greek Orpheus, who attracted wild animals with the sound of his lyre.
What we see is that the first Adam fell, and this led to a deterioration of the relationship of man and animals. Now the second Adam comes to defeat mans greatest foe and reverse the effects of the fall, and in so doing restore this lost relationship of man and animals. One of the first signs that Jesus was the victorious Messiah was the friendly relationship he had with the wild animals. When His victory is complete, all the redeemed will live in fellowship with this kingdom which is now often fearful. We read in Isa. 11:6, "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together and a little child will lead them." Jesus would feel an enormous encouragement by the presence of these animals, and they would help Him keep His eye on the final goal, and not be side tracked by the alluring shortcuts offered by Satan.
The first Adam let the animal kingdom down, and they lost paradise too because of his fall. But the second Adam opened the door for the animal kingdom to again have a permanent paradise, and perpetual peace with mankind. Little details that often seem insignificant can mean a lot, that is the case with this detail of Mark.
Every major redemptive event in God's plan for man includes the animal kingdom. The story of Noah's ark is the classic. But there is also the exodus out of Egypt where animals were also delivered. The saving of the people of Ninevah was also the saving of their animals, and Jonah ends with God expressing His compassion on their cattle. God is the greatest animal lover in the universe, and animals will be a part of the new heaven and the new earth. There destiny was also at stake in this conflict of the kings.
Because Jesus won this conflict, part of Christian history has been great saints with the spirit of Christ, who lived at peace with the wild animals. St. Francis of Assi, in the middle ages, and in more modern times, Sadu Sundar Singh of India. He would often have his devotions in the middle of the night by the edge of the jungle. Witnesses have been paralyzed with fear as a leopard or other wild beasts would appear to be ready to leap upon him. But they would come near to him and he would caress their head and walked calmly back to the house. This is not a recommended practice for Christians until the total victory of Christ, but some have this gift as Jesus did of living at peace with the wild animals. All men will have this gift in the eternal kingdom because Jesus won this battle of the kings. The fourth thing we want to see is-
IV. THE THEOLOGY OF THE TEMPTATION.
James 1:13 states it clearly, "God cannot be tempted by evil." This means that Jesus as the Son of God was not tempted, for His deity was not subject to temptation. He could only be tempted because He was also man. This means that as a man, like the first Adam, He was capable of temptation, and thus, capable of sin. As deity He was not. This was the only combination that could make the temptation both authentic and also victorious for Christ. He had what the first Adam did not have: A link with God so close that His humanity could not do what His deity would not approve.
We do not know to what degree Jesus was feeling the lure to use His power to achieve self glory. We do not know if He seriously gave it some thought to bow to Satan and rule the world that way. But for it to be a real temptation He had to at least consider its pleasures in contrast to the pain of the cross which He knew was in His future. Whatever the degree of the struggle, He came to a point of surrender to God's will in each temptation. The key to victory over all temptation is the surrender of the will to the will of God. "Not my will but thine be done." That is what Paul meant by dying to self. When you seek first the kingdom of God you defeat the devil.
The next thing we want to note here is that Satan never changes his strategy. He has never had to before because it has always been effective. He said to the hungry Messiah some such thoughts as these: You are hungry and God has not provided for that need. You have a right to meet that need any way you can. Satan's basic temptation is to think of loyalty to God as only legitimate when He meets our every need. If He does not come through, get your need met regardless of the means. He let you down, so forsake Him.
This was the constant temptation of Job, and the world is full of Christians who have suffered loss, rejection, and sorrows of all kinds, and they are now mad at God and living in rebellion because they fell for this line that loyalty is to last only as long as you are content that it is paying off. This is the kind of self-centeredness that is destroying marriages also. I will love you as long as I feel you are meeting my every need. Let me down and I'm done with you. People do it to God, to mates, and to all of their relationships. Loyalty is so watered down in our world that people do not stay committed to anyone or anything that does not meet their needs.
This is Satan's greatest weapon to cause men to fall or to keep them falling, but he finally met his match in a starving man whose prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread," was not answered for over a month, but who yet could say to the option offered by Satan, "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." In other words, "I will starve before I will forsake my commitment to God's word." That is loyalty par excellence, and by loyalty Jesus defeated Satan. Most, if not all sin is yielding to the temptation to be disloyal to some person or some principle.
The first Adam fell because he chose a self-centered goal rather than to be loyal to God. The second Adam did not fall because he gave up self-centered goals and remained loyal to God. The only good general is a loyal general. The only good soldier is a loyal soldier. The only good Messiah is a loyal Messiah. That is why Jesus had to face this testing of temptation. From God's point of view it was a test of loyalty. When the heat was on would Jesus go for the easy way out, or be loyal to the plan that meant the hard way of the cross? The first Adam took the easy road even though it plunged the human race into a state of fallenness. The second Adam faced the same choice and took the high but harder road. Because he did, he won this battle of the kings. The fifth thing we see is-
V. THE TEACHING OF THE TEMPTATION.
The bottom line for us to carry away from this event which Jesus won for God, for Himself, and for us, is that temptation is not sinful. The tragedy is Satan often wins the victory in the lives of people by persuading them that their awful thoughts make them guilty already, and therefore, they are sunk and just as well choose the way of darkness.
Do not be ignorant of Satan's devices. You can be filled with thoughts of evil and not be guilty of sin. You are not guilty until you choose to own these thoughts and will that they will become acts. Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher, tells of his experience out walking one day: "All of the sudden it seemed as if the very flood gates of hell had been opened, my head became a perfect pandemonium, ten thousand evil spirits seemed to be holding carnival with my brain and I held my mouth lest I should give utterance to the words of blasphemy that they were pouring into my ears. That temptation passed away, but, ere many days it was renewed, and when I was in prayer, or when I was reading the Bible, those blasphemous thoughts would pour in upon me..."
Greatly troubled, young Spurgeon turned to his grandfather. He told him he felt he could not be a child of God because of his awful thoughts. "Nonsense, Charles," said the godly grandfather. "Those thoughts are not your thoughts. They are the devils brats. Don't own them as yours. Give them neither house room nor heart room!" Spurgeon was greatly comforted by this counsel. We all need to be aware of this. The most wicked and blasphemous thoughts are possible in the most godly minds. But they are only temptations and not sins until you choose to make them your own, which nobody needs to do.
If a Christian falls it is because they choose to fall. They are like the young man who was told by his father not to swim in the canal. When he came home he had wet hair and dad asked him where he had been. When he said that he went swimming the canal, dad said, "I thought I told you not to." The son said, "but I couldn't resist the temptation dad." "Why did you take your swimming suit with you?" The son responded, "So I'd be prepared in case I was tempted." He violated the key law to victory over temptation by making provision to fall when it came. Paul says in Rom. 13:14, "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." If you prepare to say yes, then yes will be your response for you have planned to fall. We need to be prepared instead to say no.
You are starting, my boy, on life's journey
Along the grand highway of life.
You will meet with a thousand temptations
Each city with evil is rife.
This world is a stage of excitement
There's danger wherever you go,
But if you are tempted in weakness
Have courage, my boy, to say, "No."
Encourage alone lies your safety,
When you the long journey begin.
Your trust in a Heavenly Father
Will keep you unspotted from sin.
Temptations will go on increasing
As streams from a rivulet flow,
But if you'd be true to your manhood,
Have courage, my boy, to say, "No."
A seven year old boy was sitting on a fence looking at his neighbors apple tree. The owner came out and called to him, "Johnny are you trying to steal one of my apples?" "No," he shouted back, "I'm trying not to." Just say no is easy to say, but it is never easy to do. Temptation is real and hard to fight, but Jesus made it possible for us to win, and say, "Get thee behind me Satan, for you are no longer my master and king. I love a greater king who has defeated you, and I'll choose what pleases Him, as He chose what pleased His father."
Many of you may remember the atomic submarine called The Thresher. It could battle its way through the ice of the North Pole. It was made of special steel, but it could not take the pressure of the depths of the sea. It sank and was crushed like a paper model. Yet all around it swam fish that had no thick armor. They were made of just normal skin, flesh, and bones. How could they survive those depths that crushed the solid steel of that huge submarine? They had an enter atmosphere that off set the external pressure.
The Christian needs to put on the whole armor of God to with stand the attacks of Satan. But even more important is the internal atmosphere which off sets the pressure of the world, the flesh, and the devil. These forces are ever trying to force us into their mold, and our only hope of escape from their crushing presence is to be, as Paul says, "Transformed by the renewing of our minds." We have to have the Word of God in our hearts, as Jesus did. We have to have right thinking about our loyalties and goals to off set the temptation to take Satan's route. We need the inner presence of the Spirit to keep out the pressure that can crush us. We need the same filling of the Spirit that our Lord needed to be victorious in this conflict of the kings.