Skip to content
Mar 1 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

February 28, 2021



And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “o you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” and Jesus answered him, “It is written,
‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
and him only shall you serve.'”
And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, through yourself down from here, for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”
And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Luke 4:1-13

Intro: There were a few events in Jesus life, that were unique

His baptism, the temptations, transfiguration, and his crucifixion and resurrection
– each of these events happened one time only
• everything else happened repeatedly
◦ his travels, his teaching, the miracles, his bouts with pious critics, etc.
• but the one-time events are significant not only for their uniqueness
◦ they were also turning points in his life and ministry
– every time we return to the temptations, we can find something new
• the story is so rich, it offers many possible interpretations
• one of my favorite ways to read it is from its supernatural perspective
◦ God’s Spirit was with Jesus in the wilderness, and the devil was there too
◦ this was a confrontation of cosmic proportions

Another perspective, is to look at this event as a classic hero story
– taking this view, we observe character development
• this, in fact, is something that interested Luke in regard to Jesus’
childhood: And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him (Lk. 2:40)
adolescence: And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man (Lk. 2:52)
• Jesus’ baptism could then be seen as his rite-of-passage
◦ that is immediately followed by his ordeal (trial by fire)
◦ these events prepared our hero for his ministry – his destiny
– before undertaking his world-changing mission,
• Jesus had to be tested – he had to prove himself
◦ and the devil makes the perfect foil
(the foil is a character whose contrasts brings out hero’s positive traits)
◦ the devil’s objective was to compromise Jesus
(as he did in two other renown temptation stories: Adam and Eve and Job)

The conflict is primarily a war of words

We could say this is one of the devil’s specialties
– he feeds doubt, he seduces, and he threatens
• when Jesus was baptized, God owned him as beloved son
◦ that then is what the devil targets, If you are the Son of God . . .
• Jesus did not fall into that trap
◦ he did not try to explain why he would not turn a stone into bread
◦ nor did he enter a debate with the devil
◦ he used the Scriptures to establish the boundary of his actions
– later in this chapter, Jesus dispatched a demon with a simple command (v. 35)
• why not do the same thing with the devil?
◦ in fact, he will (Begone, Satan –Mt. 4:10),
◦ but not until he had first resisted each assault
It is written . . . It is written . . . It is said
(In Matthew’s telling of this story, he quotes Jesus as saying It is written before each of the three quotes. Luke, however, switches to said for the third quote. Perhaps he made the switch so that Jesus would not be using the same words the devil had just spoken. Or maybe the point is that the Scriptures were not only written, but were spoken, and are in that sense every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD, De. 8:3)
• this use of scripture would not have worked if Jesus did not live these words
• they reveal why he rejected the devil’s offers
◦ his motives and goals were not what the devil assumed
◦ his motive and goal was to please his Father and do his will

The lesson for us is not we can ward off Satan by throwing Bible verses at him
– rather, we take shelter in God by knowing and living in his word
• the Scriptures continue to be featured in this chapter
• in his hometown, Jesus read from the Scriptures
Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing (see Lk. 4:16-21)
◦ and when he drove home his point,
◦ he quoted two stories from the Old Testament
– our protection, as well as direction, is in God’s Word
• not just the Word from which we can quote verses
• but the Word personified – the Word made flesh

This brings us to my final talk on the sacred writings

It’s not the last insight I could share ( we could go on and on)
– but this is going to be my last talk on this topic
• the question has been, “How do we read sacred writings?”
• Today’s answer: We read them through the story of Jesus
◦ specifically: the four Gospels
– we do not read the Old Testament same way it was read in Jesus’ day
• Jesus taught his disciples a new way to read the sacred writings
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Lk. 24:27)
◦ this provided them a lens through which they saw the contents of the Old Testament in a new light
• it was Jesus, in his own life and self, that changed the Scriptures’ meaning
◦ prior to Jesus, the Hebrew Scriptures led up to him
◦ after Jesus, the New Testament epistles amplify his life and teaching

Jesus himself is the lens through which we read the sacred writings
– and the Gospels provide us the best access to Jesus

My all-time favorite teacher taught English classes

The way he taught caused us to learn without knowing we were learning
– I have never forgotten his definition of “personification”
• “The incarnation of an abstraction”
• for example, “Love changes everything it touches”
◦ love is personified as if it had a will of its own and could touch things
– in the New Testament, God’s Word is personified–it is incarnated in Jesus
Jonathan Pennington, “Scholars have noted that Judaism and its daughter Christianity are unique relative to Greco-Roman and other ancient religious practice in that they are religions in which a Holy Scripture became the central focus. This is not to say that Judaism and Christianity [have done this] in the same way. . . . Christianity became about a person, while Judaism remained Torah-[centered].”
• we read the sacred writings in and through this person
• the incarnated Word of God opens to us the written Word of God

In the church’s infancy, no one knew what to name the baby

Jesus’ disciples still considered themselves to be religious Jews
– some people considered them a new sect and others a cult
• sometimes their new identity was vaguely referred to as the way
J. Pennington, “Along these lines, we must recall that members of this sect began to be called Nazarenes at times and Christians at other [times] precisely because they were followers of a particular man understood to be from Nazareth and who bore the title of the Christ. The sect was understood to be a religion based on a person, not just a set of beliefs, philosophies, purity regulations, and so on.” “. . . we see that the stories about what Jesus said and did . . . must have been at the core of all Christian experience.”
• how important is this statement?
– many Christians base their entire theology on Jesus crucifixion and resurrection
• this has a lot to do with the Reformation and the emphasis that was placed on Paul’s letters
◦ everything is boiled down to “justification by faith” and “saved by grace”
• but the lived-experience of Christian faith rests on the entire life of Jesus
◦ Paul preached before he wrote,
◦ and what he preached was the person of Jesus
• the epistles work out specific issues and questions regarding Christian belief and practice
◦ but the essence of our beliefs and the devotion of our faith is Jesus himself
J. Pennington, “. . . Christians understand their entire faith to stand or fall based on this one man.”
◦ the apostle’s preaching in the book of Acts confirms this observation

When we read sacred writings through Jesus, two things happen

Actually, a lot more happens, but here I mention only two things:
First: The Spirit develops your identity as a Christian
J. Pennington, “. . . the stories about Jesus’s life and teachings were always central to Christian identity . . . .”
– the way it works in the gospels goes like this:
• in coming to know Jesus, people discovered themselves
• Jesus reveals himself to us, and in him we find our true selves
(see Mt. 16:13-20)

Second: The Spirit develops our identity as a community
– Jesus talked about people who would gather in his name
• he promised to be there with them
– this is the spiritual community that grew out of the Gospels
• it was founded on, and formed by the stories of Jesus
• the spiritual community then interprets those stories
◦ and gives them a life in the world

Conclusion: Will you consider reading sacred writings every day?

I do not mean study the Bible every day;
it’s okay to study the Bible occasionally
I do not mean read the Bible every day to anchor yourself in God;
God holds you to himself and will not let you go
I do not mean read the Bible every day to become better person;
lots of Christians read the Bible every day without any obvious benefit
But read the Bible every day
to hear what God is saying to you
He hears our prayers all the time,
but we need to hear his side of the conversation
That is the miracle of the sacred writings,
and the value they bring to us
The One who has spoken
continues to speak to us through the sacred writings
And when we listen,
it is the voice of Jesus that we hear

Leave a comment