Quite likely the form of the tempter's words suggests the upper current of Jesus' thought. |If thou be the Son of God
.| Jesus was likely absorbed with His peculiar relation to His Father, with all that that involved. The tempter cunningly seeks to sweep Him off of His feet by working on His mood. It is ever a favorite method with the tempter to rush
a man. A flush of feeling, the mood of an intense emotion tipped over the balance with a quick motion of his, has swept many a man off his feet. But Jesus held steady. There was no unholy heat of ambition to disturb the calm working of His mind.
Why |if|? Did Satan doubt it? Is he asking proof? He gets it. Jesus did not need to prove His divinity except by continuing to be divine. He proved best that He was Son of God by being true to His Sonship. He naturally acted the part. We prove best that we are right by being right, not by accepting captious, critical propositions. The stars shine. We know they are stars by their shine. Satan would have Jesus use His divinity in an undivine way. He was cunning. But Jesus was keener than the tempter was cunning.
|Get a loaf out of this stone. Don't go hungry. Be practical and sensible.| The cold cruelty of Satan! He makes no effort to relieve the hunger. The hunger asked for bread and he gave it a stone. That is the best he has. He is a bit short on bread. He would use the physical need to break down the moral purpose. He has ever been doing just that. Sometimes he induces a man to break down his strength in religious activity. And then he takes advantage of his weakened condition. Even religious activity should be refused save at the leading of God's Spirit. It will not do simply to do good. The only safe thing is to do God's will, to be tied fast to the tether of the Spirit's leading.
Jesus could have made a loaf out of the stone. He did that sort of thing afterwards. It was not wrong to do it, since, under other circumstances, He did it. But it is wrong to do anything, even a good thing, at the devil's suggestion. He would shun the counsel of the ungodly. The tempter attacks first the neediest point, the hunger, and in so far the weakest, the likeliest to yield. Yet it was the strongest, too, for Jesus could make bread. The strongest point may become the weakest because of the very temptation the possession of strength gives to use it improperly. Strength used properly remains strength; used improperly it becomes weakness. The strong points always need guarding, that the balance be not tipped over and lost. Strength is never greater than when used rightly; never greater than when refused to the improper use. The essence of sin is in the improper use of a proper thing.
The first step toward victory over temptation is to recognize it. Jesus' quick, quiet reply here touches the human heart at once, and touches it at its neediest and most sensitive point, the need of sympathy, of a fellow feeling. He said, |Man shall not live.| The tempter said, |God.| Jesus promptly said, |Man.| He came to be man, the Son of man, and the Brother of man. He took His place as a man that day in the Jordan water. He will not be budged from man's side. He will stay on the man level in full touch with His fellows at every step of the way.
He was giving to every man, everywhere in the world, under stress of every temptation; with every rope tugging at its fastenings, and threatening every moment to slip its hold, and the man be lost in the storm, to every man the right, the enormous staying power to say, |Jesus -- a man -- such a one as I -- was here, and as a man resisted -- and won. He is at my side. I'll lean on Him and resist too, -- and win too -- in the strength of His winning.|
Jesus says here, |My life, my food, the supplying of my needs is in the hands of my Father. When He gives the word, I'll do: not before. I'll starve if He wishes it, but I'll not mistrust Him; nor do anything save as He leads and suggests. I'll not act at your suggestion, nor anybody's else but His. Starving doesn't begin to bother me like failing to trust would do. But I haven't the faintest idea of starving with such a Father.|
|Not by bread alone, but by every word ... of God.| Not by a loaf, but by a word. When a man is where God would have him, he can afford to wait patiently till God gives the word. A man is never unsteadier on his feet than when he has gone where he was not led. |I go at my Father's word.| |I wait for my Father's word.| Jesus' study of the parchment rolls in Nazareth was standing Him in good stead now. Through many a prayerful hour over that Word had come the trained ear, the waiting spirit, the doing of things only at the Father's initiative. He could make bread, but He wouldn't, unless the Father gave the word. It was not simply that He would not act at the tempter's suggestion, but He would not act at all except at the Father's word. And to this Jesus remained true, whether the request for evidence came from the tempter direct, or from sneering Pharisee at the temple's cleansing, or from unbelieving brothers.
Life comes not through what a man can make, but through the Father's controlling presence: not through our effort, but through the Father's power transmitted through the pipe line of our ready obedience.
|Just to let thy Father do
As He will.
Just to know that He is true,
And be still.
Just to follow hour by hour
As He leadeth.
Just to draw the moment's power
As it needeth.
Just to trust Him. This is all.
Then the day will surely be
Peaceful, whatsoe'er befall,
Bright and blessed, calm and free.|
Jesus held every activity, every power subject to the Father's bidding. Not only obedient, but nothing else. Waiting the Father's send-off at every turn: this is the message from Jesus that first tug, and first victory. Jesus had held true in the realm of the body, in His relationship to Himself.