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The Grace Project

Silencing Satan

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I hope you can see that this is a part of Christian theology which cannot be abandoned.  Jesus lives the sinless life and thus, becomes Head of a new sinless race.  The size of Jesus’ task must not be underestimated.  It’s a mistake to think that Jesus did what He did as God.  He did not.  Although He was never less than God, He did what He did as though He were nothing more than a man.  

He must succeed not as God but as God in Man, a position where Adam failed.  Jesus must succeed not simply for us but as us, i.e. He must succeed as a man.  Jesus must be tempted to have the same reactions by the same source which tempted First Adam.  If Last Adam was to be our substitute, He would’ve to live His human life and stay his divine capacities.  Then, assuming that He could live a faultless life, Jesus would’ve to die a sinner’s death.  In addition, we have to go on to believe that with Jesus having done so, the Father would raise Him to everlasting life and restore Him to His rightful place.  Indeed the Apostle Paul tells us that “when He ascended on high, He led a host of captives, and He gave gifts to man.” [Eph. 4:8].

The testing began in earnest and is recorded in chapter 4 of Luke’s gospel.  It’s an account known as The Temptation.  It’s worth to note that in Luke’s account, the temptation takes place directly after Jesus’ baptism.  This is significant because at Jesus’ baptism, the Father interrupts the proceedings, unable to contain His delight in his Son, and says, “You are My beloved Son, with You I am well pleased.” [Luke 3:22]  Just look at that statement.  Three things the Father speaks into Jesus’ spirit – identity, acceptance and approval.  And what’s critical is that at this stage, Jesus has not done anything yet.  The Father accepts His Son simply on the basis of the Son’s identity, not His works.  Identity always proceeds performance.  The Father affirms the Son before He tests Him.
As Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness for his gruesome encounter with the devil, He goes there for us and as us.  Jesus will endure this suffering, as with all His sufferings, not for His sake but for ours [Luke 4:1-12].  Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, has returned from Jordan and is now led by the Spirit into the wilderness where for forty days, He will be tempted by the devil.  He eats nothing at all during those days and when the days are over, He is famished.
The scene before us is rich in typological value, not least of which can be seen from the fact that Jesus was tested for forty days.  Forty is the biblical number of preparation.  It’s perhaps a little mischievous of me to point out that some people suggest the purpose of severe fasting is to strengthen one’s resolve to serve God and enable one to hear God.  However, in this instance at least, it seems that Jesus fasted for precisely the opposite reason, i.e. so that He could weaken His resolve and become susceptible to demonic manipulation.
Do note that it’s the Holy Spirit who leads Jesus into the wilderness.  To us moderns, that’s an incongruous notion.  We’re more likely to think that the Spirit would lead us into ease and prosperity and not into the wilderness.  However, as mentioned earlier, the purpose of Jesus’ ministry is that He is our substitute!  He must, at all points, succeed where we failed.
What would Jesus do?
It’s one thing to allow yourself to be led by the Spirit into the wilderness but, perhaps, quite another to walk by the Spirit when you are in the wilderness.  Would Jesus follow the Spirit without wavering and trust God to supply all His needs or will He relieve His hunger by exercising His power apart from God?  In the court of human need, would Last Adam trust the Father to be His Provider?
Enter satan.  This is an exquisite moment for him.  He has a well rehearsed strategy which never fails.
The devil says to Jesus, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
[Luke 4:3]
This demonic strategy never varies and so, you do well to pay close attention here.  Satan strikes at our point of weakness.  He begins by challenging our identity.  Men and women who are unsure about themselves have very fragile egos and can be provoked into proving themselves.  Notice that satan actually refers to Jesus as the Son of God.  Jesus’ response is to say that man shall not live by bread alone.  This is more than a semantic dispute about Jesus’ identity.  Satan’s authority on earth was not threatened by Jesus’ divinity.  Satan’s authority could only be compromised by Jesus’ humanity.  A man, First Adam, had forfeited his delegated authority.  It would take a man, a real man, to restore it.  So, in this context, Jesus as God is no threat to satan; He can only defeat satan as a man.  Satan’s objective is to force Jesus into exercising His divinity and the moment Jesus does so, the threat to satan is neutralised.  It was Man, not the Son of God, who had forfeited his dominion by allowing satan to steal it from him.  In the Garden of Eden, satan knew that the seed of the woman was to be a man.  Here in the wilderness, satan wants to try to provoke Jesus into forsaking his humanity and rely upon His divinity.  But, in order to be our substitute, Jesus has to lay aside His majesty, not regarding equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but to empty Himself and take on the appearance of a man.
In stark and brilliant contrast to His counterpart, First Adam (who remained silent), Jesus’ rebuke is emphatic.  Jesus answers satan, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”  Jesus’ response would’ve sent a seismic shockwave through the demonic realm.  Satan is dumbfounded.  Surely, having not eaten for forty days, Jesus would’ve leapt at the chance of satisfying His own needs.
Both satan and Jesus know full well that Jesus could’ve turned the stones into bread in an instant; after all, Jesus’ first miracle was to turn water into wine.  But it’s integral to the understanding of this event that if Jesus is to become our new Federal Head, He must resist the urge to rely upon His divinity and thereby, succeed only by recourse to His humanity.
Foiled in his first attempt, satan strikes again.  The first attempt was subtle.  It’s time to play hardball.  Satan knows what Jesus wants – He has come to take back the authority which Man has forfeited to satan in the Garden of Eden.  Satan proposes a demonic exchange.  A diabolical trade.  He makes Jesus a proposal which would give both of them what they want.  The devil understands the transaction very one dimensionally.  Satan wants more than anything to be worshipped and he knows that God wants his parcel of land called the Earth and the authority for which he had duped Adam.  The devil proposes a straight trade –
“And the devil took Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to Him, ‘To 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.’”
[Luke 4:5-7]
It’s important to understand Jesus’ ministry in terms of repossession.  Jesus came to evict the rogue landlord and to repossess the land which He would reassign to the church to cultivate, replenish and take care of.  Jesus does not dispute that satan has the authority over Earth or that it’s within satan’s gift to make Him such an offer.  Yet, Jesus will never ever consent to his price.  Jesus will never worship satan.  He would die first (or rather, die instead).  Nothing has changed.  Satan has been deposed from his place in heaven because he has desired worship for himself.  This is something all of us should always remember.  We are not made to receive worship.  We are made to give it.  I’m convinced that this is why people in the field of the arts and sports are constantly teetering on the edge of grave danger.  Can you imagine the implication of God worshipping the devil?  That doesn’t bear thinking about anymore than the idea of you and I worshipping him.
If the first attack was on Jesus’ identity, so is this second assault; only this time, the devil tries to get Jesus to behave in a way inconsistent with His identity.  The Son of God could never ever be in a subordinate relationship with the devil.  This is a classic demonic strategy.  The devil tempts us to give up what we know to be true about ourselves so as to gain some advantage.  This time, Jesus counters error with truth and responds by using the Word, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall youserve.’” [Luke 4:8]
Down but certainly not out, the undeterred enemy continues his assault for the third time.  Amazingly, in this instant, he chooses to try and combat the Lord by using the knowledge of the Word.  Once again, the attack is designed to goad Jesus into proving Himself, i.e. targeting His identity – 
And [the devil] took Him to Jerusalem and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You, to guard you’ and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, lest You strike Your foot against a stone.’”
[Luke 4:9-11]
The location of the temptation here, viz. Jerusalem, is all important as it’s the same location which will be the theatre where Jesus’ passion will be played out.  This final temptation is the most audacious.  Satan draws on Psalm 91:12.  Ought we not be cautioned by this account where we see that the devil easily manipulates the Scriptures.  What satan said was true; indeed it’s biblical Scripture but it’s a perversion of the spirit of the Scriptures.  How ironic for satan to be quoting from a Psalm which, in the verse immediate after his quotation, also says, “You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent You will trample underfoot” and in verse 3, “[God] will deliver You from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence.”  And yet, once again, Jesus’ response is emphatic, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” [Luke 4:12]  Jesus has triumphed and what’s most important is that He has triumphed as a man over satan.
When the devil has finished every test in the fight fest, he departs from Jesus until an opportune time.  The bloodied but unbowed devil will indeed return and in so doing, will become the unwitting accomplice in engineering his own downfall.  It is he who will incite the religious world to kill Jesus and by doing so, will sign his own death warrant.
Jesus’ victory is our victory.  He has succeeded not simply as one of us but for all of us and consequently, we come to see the significance of identification