Jesus is a winner

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Matthew 4:1-11

November 21, 2006

I dare you to take a drink!  You are chicken if you don't!  It is a safe bet that most of us in this room heard dares like this growing up.  One thing in common, they were said by people who were trying to coerce us into doing something.  Something we did not want to do, because we knew we shouldn’t do it.  The dare may have come from people we thought were friends, or from people we knew were our enemies, or maybe siblings.

Well, my siblings were prolific at daring.  I am the youngest of five, I have three brothers, and one sister.  My sister is the oldest by 14 years.  Since I am the youngest, I had plenty of opportunity to observe daring going on.  Growing up on a dairy farm gave plenty of opportunity for dares with electric things, mechanical things, and some big animals, Holstein dairy cows.

So I decided at an early age, a dare was out for me.  I did not care what you called me, I figured it took a bigger person to say no, than to go with the crowd.

During High School, my decision did me well.  Shortly after I turned 16, I went to the local A&W Root beer stand for lunch.  There were was a good sized crowd from my High School there.  I was driving my Ford F100 pickup.  It was the same vehicle I used for my dairy work, so I had my trusty cattle prod with me.  Its electric shock was used to impose my will upon a reluctant cow.

During lunch, I watched one of my classmates, Mike, leave the bench where he was sitting, and repeatedly go over to his car.  He would go over with a half empty glass of root beer, and return with it full.  On his last trip back from his car he approached me as I was sitting in my truck and offered me a drink.  I refused the offer.  He yelled out I dare you, its bourbon, you chicken.  With that, I grabbed Mike by his shirt and came up with my cattle prod.  I pressed the on button to make it buzz several times.  Then I placed it on my nose and told Mike I liked to shock myself, and asked if he wanted to try?  He started screaming as I started towards his nose begging me to stop.  I told him I would if he poured out his drink and apologized very loudly.  He screamed out his apology, dumped the bourbon, and stumbled back to his table.  After that, no one in my High School dared to dare me ever again.

So, what does this story of dares have to do with theology?  We are going to look at the most critical three dares in the Bible.  These dares are very important to us, because they center on Jesus Christ and his sinless nature.  Were going to look at how Jesus was dared by Satan, and how Jesus chose to respond.

Our text is Matthew 4:1-11, Satan’s temptation of Jesus.  Mark and Luke also discuss the temptation, but I am going to limit myself to Matthew for the sake of time.

The context of this passage comes after Jesus was baptized by John.  Immediately after the baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus, and God declared his love and pleasure in his son.

Let us look at what the Bible has to tell us about this event.  Please turn with me to Matthew 4.  God’s word says,

4:1 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. 

The location of the tempting was the desert which tradition tells us was near Jericho.  Notice Jesus’ obedience to the Holy Spirit.  While Jesus is God incarnate, he submitted himself and was obedient to the will of God the Father through the Holy Spirit.

By language used to describe the fasting, it means Jesus went without food and water for 40 days.  This was clearly a miraculous event, one that is documented two other times in the Bible, once with Elijah and the other with Moses.  The relationship to Moses is significant in this passage as Jesus’ responses to Satan all came from the Book of Deuteronomy.  This was the period of Israel’s testing in the desert while being led by Moses as God’s law giver.  In Matthew 5, Jesus is a new Moses and a new law giver.  There is a parallel here between the testing of the Nation of Israel in the desert, where they failed.  We will see Jesus passes his testing.  Jesus is a winner.

This is the ultimate confrontation of all confrontations.  Here we have the creator being tempted by the created.  The sinless by the author of sin.  The selfless by the ultimate selfish.  The greatest defender by the greatest accuser.  The Greek word for devil is διαβολος which is a legal term referring to “accuser,” “slanderer,” or “adversary” in a court trial.  This was a trail to prove Jesus as a winner, sinless, selfless, and obedient to his mission and God’s plan.

Now that we have the background established for the temptation, which are Satan’s dares, let’s look at Satan’s first attempt where he dares Jesus to act independently of God the Father and how Jesus responded:

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.’ ”

First, it is important to note, that in Greek, Satan’s “If” statement about Jesus being the Son of God is a first class conditional statement.  In other words, it is not a question; it is a statement that could be worded “Since you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”  Rest assured Satan fully knew that he was dealing with the Son of God.  He dares Jesus to act independently of God by being selfish and feeding himself because he has to be hungry.  Essentially Satan is saying “Don’t wait for God to take care of you, you can do it yourself.”

Look at how Jesus responded, he flew back with God’s word quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3 about Israel’s testing in the desert when God provided them manna, real food is God’s Word.  It is God’s word that Jesus uses to win the point, and on this one Satan is the looser.

Having lost at getting Jesus to act independently of God the Father, Satan goes for the second dare.  This time he tries to get Jesus to act by improper dependence upon God. 

Matthew states:

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ”  7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”

By some means, Satan takes Jesus to the temple.  The exact spot is not given, but the likely place is on the wall above the valley.  Josephus tells us that from the top of the wall to the ground below was about 450 feet.  Since Jesus responded to Satan’s first dare with scripture, Satan quotes part of Psalm 91 but leaves out the words “in all Your ways.”  The “in all Your ways” refers God’s protection when we are acting in obedience to God.

Jesus fires back again from Deuteronomy, this time from 6:16 that we are not to test God.  If Jesus were to have thrown himself off the temple, he would have been testing God.  Intentionally doing something to put your self in harms way to see if God will rescue you is not what Psalm 91 tells us to do.  So on the second dare it is God’s word that Jesus uses to win the point, and on this point Satan is the looser.

Having lost at getting Jesus to act on improper dependence of God the Father, Satan goes for the third dare.  This time he tries to get Jesus to shortcut God’s plan for the Messiah by acting impatiently.

Matthew states:

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” 11 Then the devil left him,

Matthew does not tell us how Satan did it, but what matters is that Satan some how took Jesus to a mountain and displayed all the kingdoms of the world.  2 Corinthians tells us that Satan is temporarily “the god of this age,” so yes; he could have given them all to Jesus, if Jesus would bow down.  Satan was trying to circumvent Jesus going to the cross, because Satan knows if Jesus stays sinless and makes it to the cross, he is going to loose.

So again, Jesus responds with the word of God, that we are to worship only God and serve him.  He also tells Satan to leave, and Jesus demonstrates his authority over Satan, because Satan leaves.

Yes, our Jesus is a winner.  Jesus was faithful to his mission.  Jesus was obedient to God.  But how did he remain obedient?  Jesus knew the word of God.  Jesus knew how to use the word of God.  Jesus proved himself to be the faithful Son of God.  Because Jesus won, Matthew tells us in the last part of verse 11:

angels came and attended him.

God was pleased with his son.  Why was God pleased?  Because Jesus was faithful to his God given mission.  Jesus withstood Satan’s dares.  Satan dared Jesus to act independently of God, and Jesus refused to do so, and used God’s word for the reason why.  Jesus is a winner and Satan is a looser.

Satan dared Jesus to act in improper dependence of God, and Jesus refused to do so, and used God’s word for the reason why.  Jesus is a winner and Satan is a looser.

Satan dared Jesus to act impatiently in God’s plan, and Jesus refused to do so, and used God’s word for the reason why.  Jesus is a winner and Satan is a looser.

So knowing that Jesus proved himself the winner, what does that mean to us today?  It means Jesus is worthy of being our savior, he was tempted, and he did not fall.  Jesus modeled how we should fight temptation.  We should know God’s word.  We should apply God’s word.  We should live God’s word.  Jesus is a winner.

Knowing what we know now, lets go back to the beginning and my story where Mike dared me to take a drink.  Do you think I could have responded to Mike’s dare in a better way?  Could I have done something that would be in line with God’s plan and God’s way?  Yes, I could have done better.  Instead of threatening Mike with my cattle prod, I could have responded like Jesus with God’s word.  I could have said to Mike, “pay unto Caesar what is Caesars” in other words, obey the law and do not drink under age.  I could have also said, “Do not be drunk with wine,” so Mike don’t get drunk.  Had I done that, the Holy Spirit would have had God’s words to use on Mike later on in his life, and maybe those words would help to change his eternal destiny.  Maybe Mike would know, Jesus is a winner.

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