The First Temptation
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
Jesus answered, "It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "
If you are the Son of God
from George Whitefield’s sermon, “The Temptation of Christ”
The Tempter . . . when he saw him hungering, and in such distressing circumstances, came to him . . . And what does he tempt him to? To nothing less, than to doubt of his being the Son of God.” “If thou be the Son of God.” What! Put an if to this, Satan, after the glorious Jesus had been proved to be God's son, and repeatedly too in such a glorious manner? Surely, thou thyself couldst not but see the heavens opened, and the Spirit descending; surely, thou didst hear the voice that came to him from heaven, immediately after his baptism, saying, “This is my beloved Son:” And dost thou now say unto him, “If thou be the Son of God.” Yes; but Satan knew, and believed he was full well; but he wanted to make our Lord to doubt of it. And why? Because he was in such a melancholy situation. As though he had said, “If God was thy father, he would never suffer thee to starve to death in a howling wilderness, among wild beasts. Surely, the voice thou lately didst hear, was only a delusion. If thou wast the Son of God, especially his beloved Son, in whom he was so pleased, thou wouldst be taken more care of by him.”
The Central Temptation
Jesus has just been baptized by John, and he has heard the words “this is my Son, whom I love.” Directly afterward, he is driven out by God into the desert in order to be tempted by Satan. And when Satan appears to him at the end of 40 days of hunger, heat, darkness, danger, and thirst what is it that Satan tempts him with? A quick reading of the text would give us the answer ‘he tempts Jesus to eat.’ But this is not the case. The first thing Satan tempts Jesus with is to doubt that he is God’s beloved Son.
In the book of Revelation, Satan is called “the Accuser.” That book gives us this picture:
“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Christ.
For the Accuser of our brothers,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.” (Rev. 12:10)
From Job (probably the Bible’s oldest book) to Revelation (likely the last biblical book written), Satan’s occupation in heaven is to accuse God’s people. He seeks to drive a wedge into the relationship between our Father and his children. He tries to do this by reminding God of how sinful we are. And he tries to do this by telling us that God could not possibly care for woeful sinners such as ourselves.
By questioning Christ’s Sonship, Satan is hoping that Jesus will doubt his relationship with the Father. And if this is Satan’s tactic with Christ, how much more is it his tactic with us? Satan would like for us to lie, cheat and steal. But how much more would he love us to doubt that we are the beloved children of our Father?
Satan’s central message to you is this: “you are not the beloved child of God; instead you are a hateful, nasty, filthy, unlovable beast.”
Lent is not a season in which we listen to the voice of the devil. So, let’s cast aside his voice. Let’s go to the Lord in prayer, fasting, and study and ask him to remind us, deep within, of this single reality. You and I are the children of God. We are his beloved. We are accepted by Him, and with us He is well pleased.