Satan, The Opportunist
Feb 14, 2016
Rev. Michael A. Trask
The text for my message today is the account of the Temptation of Jesus from Luke 4:1-13, I’m going to start by looking at the very last verse which says, “ [the devil] departed from him until an opportune time.” This shows us something very interesting about our adversary. The Devil is an opportunist! He waits and brings his temptations upon us when they will be most effective and the most difficult to resist.
We see him taking opportunity in the life of Jesus in today’s text. The Savior had Just finished a 40-day fast. Like anyone else, His body was calling for food. Satan takes that as his cue to offer him an easy answer for his hunger. “Why don’t you make some bread for yourself out of these stones. You’re hungry aren’t you? You have suffered too much! And don’t forget that you are God, you have control over such things.”
A lot of people wonder why this is even a temptation. Why would it be wrong for Jesus to make a little bread for himself? He would later make water into wine, and he would make lots of bread out of nothing when he fed the 5000. How could this be wrong? Remember who Jesus was? He was the second Adam. His life, lived perfectly, would reverse the imperfection that that original Adam brought about by his life. Adam’s sin, made us all sinners, Jesus’ life would make us righteous in God’s sight. We are not saved merely by the way that Jesus died, but also by the way he lived. We are saved also by his life.
In order for all this too work, in order for him to be the true second Adam, Jesus life among us had to be a real human life… he wasn’t merely a God pretending to be human. He had to be fully human. He had to live exactly as we do. If he got tired he’d have to sleep. If he caught a cold, he’d have to power through it as we do, with all of the snot and all the wheezing. If he skinned his knee, he’d have to wait for it to scab over and heal.
He could not and would not bail himself out by using his Godly powers whenever he got into trouble. For him to make bread for himself when he was hungry would corrupt his purpose of living the perfect life that we have not. And of course, that’s what Satan’s goal was, to corrupt and destroy Jesus’ purpose. And thus the temptation to make bread from stones… when Jesus was very hungry. And since he was fully human, you can rest assured he felt the burn of this temptation when it was offered.
The wrecking of Jesus purpose, seems to be the recurring theme in Satan’s temptations. We see that in the second temptation: After his 40 days of in the wilderness, Jesus was about to begin his public ministry….which he knew would ultimately lead him to sit not he right hand of the father and rule all things. But the way to that position was through his suffering and death on the cross. The cross wasn’t a surprise to him. He knew that he was the Lamb spoken of in Isaiah 53. So at the very beginning of his ministry, which Jesus knew would lead him to the cross, Satan would take the opportunity to offer him an easy way to the throne. In not so many words he said, “You don’t have to do all that cross stuff! You don’t have to suffer and die for people! I can give you all the glory without you having to do any of the work! All yo have to do is is worship me.”
And this wasn’t the only time that Satan would hit him with this sort of thing. He would take opportunity to come at Jesus with this offer in several ways. When he fed the 5000, the crowd was adoringly rushing him saying “Jesus we love you! Be our King right here right now.” At that moment he had the political clout to start an earthly empire…if he would just do as they asked. But Jesus ran away from them to a deserted place to pray. Satan used success of Jesus in the eyes of the world as his opportune time to tempt him away from the cross.
And then there was Peter. Jesus told him, “Son of man is going to be captured and beaten and crucified!” And Peter exclaimed “We’re never going to let that happen to you!” To which Jesus replied, “Get away from me Satan!” Satan saw opportunity in Peters’ friendship and loyalty. He used Jesus friend to temp him off the path.
Even when he was on the cross, there was opportunity for Satan to do his thing. The crowd that mocked him said “If you’re the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Surely this sentence was inspired by Spirit from hell. Jesus pierced hands and feet throwing with excruciating pain, if so willed it, he could have made it stop right then and there, but he wouldn’t because he loved you and he loved me and all the people of the earth.
Do you see what’s happening here? Satan is taking every opportunity to steer Jesus away from his death on a cross. He obviously thinks the death of Christ is important, and surely it is. Just as he tried to steer Christ away from it, he works to steer you away from it. He does everything he can to stop you from saying “Dear God, I have sinned, forgive me, for the the sake of your Son who died for me!” Instead, he encourages you look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are great, or some such nonsense.
So what’s the opportune time for us. It’s often in our weaker moments isn’t it? When we are isolated, when we are alone and nobody is there to hold us accountable; when we are depressed over how things are going, when we feel under-appreciated, unloved, disrespected. It is then that he digs away at us.
But we can also be tempted in what we consider to be our stronger moments: when the adulations come rolling in, and we are successful and lauded and we begin to believe we can do no wrong. Success can be the opportune time for testing. A surprising number of Lottery jack pot winners destroy their lives after winning.
Wise Solomon once prayed: “Lord Give me neither poverty nor riches… That I not be rich and forget about the Lord, That I not be poor and steal and profane the name of the Lord.” (Prov. 30:8-9).
So no matter what your situation may be, Satan, the opportunist watches and waits to find a hole in in the wall of your fortress so that he might begin to worm his way in. It might start with a little moral compromise in a time of uncertainty. Though it stings your conscience a bit, you say just this one time…. it’s the only way, and you do something unethical. Next time it’s easier, the time after that it’s almost automatic. What started a s a little hole in your wall through which only a mouse could pass, is now a great gap through which a hoard of barbarians might enter as they ransack your life.
So far we’ve covered two of Satan’s temptations aimed at jesus. He attacked Jesus’ incarnation…which attacked his purpose to represent us in life he then attacked the way of the cross…his purpose to represent us in death. There was one last thing to attack: Jesus’ relationship to his Father. By this time Jesus had resisted him so firmly, that Satan starts kind of ridiculous. They went to the top of the temple and he said “throw yourself down”
And then he quotes scripture completely out of context: “God will send his angels to guard you so you don’t strike your foot against a stone.” That’s talking about taking journey along the path and tripping over rocks; not about Jumping off high places and having your feet land on rocks. This is just plain stupid. Welcome to the world of Satan his temptation are temptation to stupidity….. to try to see the limits of God’s patience.
He wants Jesus to say, “God do you really care? Then Care about this!!!!” He wants us all to say the same thing. And a lot of people do. They destroy their lives by doing really stupid things, and then as they suffer the consequences, they angrily cry “Why is God punishing me!”
Now I’ve lived int he world, and I have come to understand that if you jump off a cliff you it will hurt when you hit bottom. I’ve also learned from friends in high school and college, If you get deep into drugs you will negatively alter your life and relationships in life. If you cheat on your spouse you might just wreck your marriage. These are all self destructive things. Do you sew what’s happening with these temptations? Satan wants to take the creatures of God and reduce them down to stupid imbeciles. A large chunk of humanity now blames God for their own bad choices.
Jesus answered this crazy temptation by saying, “Do not put God to the Test” That was a scripture quote. That’s what Jesus used every single time Satan fired off a temptation. He attacked the lies of the evil one with the the truth of God’s word. And that’s how we fight him too. The reading from Romans for today had a most intriguing beginning. “the Word is near you, it is in your mouth and in your heart.” (Romans 10:8) I like that that. It’s in your heart. It permeates your heart. It’s at the ready when you need it.
This is why we focus on the word; this is why we regularly hear it and study it. Because it begins to permeate our lives so that we are ready to defend ourselves. When we are confronted with the lies of the evil one, not only can we offer a ready retort, but the word of God which has permeated our lives leads us to the point where we don’t even want to do what the evil one is suggesting. This is already working in your lives in so many ways we don’t even realize it. The word has permeated our lives and leads us to respond in right fashion. And it feels great.
There is nothing that Jesus had going into the wilderness that you and I don’t also have. He had the word and we also have the word. But might argue, well he knew the word a lot better than we do. I agree. But that doesn’t mean that we should be all the more into the word? If Satan is going to take every opportunity to abuse us, shouldn’t we take every opportunity to be strengthened? Actually, God commands us to be people of the word. We have the truth. the Devil can’t stand the truth.
Jesus was baptized, You are baptized. God put his name on you in your baptism. By your baptism you are linked up to Christ and his Cross. Suppose you fail. Suppose you give into temptation, through your baptism you have opportunity appeal to God forgiveness, and God will restore you and forgive you for the sake of Christ. Forgiveness is how were are able to keep on going. We may fail. But not all is lost. There is no reason to despair.
Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit, you have been anointed by the Holy Spirit. The fact that you believe in Jesus gives testimony to that. He has led you to Christ and now he will guide us into all truth. He uses the word. He is the active force behind the word that makes is permeate and penetrate our hearts so that it becomes in tune with God.
Satan’s goal for Jesus was to take him off the path of being the world’s Savior. His goal for you is to take every opportunity to lead you off the path of following the world’s Savior. He didn’t succeed in his efforts against Jesus. And he doesn’t have to succeed in his efforts against you. You have been given everything you need to stand firm. So Stand firm. Hear the word, read the word, inwardly digest the word so that it permeates your life. And the Holy Spirit will strengthen you against the evil opportunist and you will win.