Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, Part 2
Nov 20, 2013
Luke 4 tells us of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. In our first part, I showed how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies in the law regarding the two goats in Leviticus 16. He was first dedicated to God through baptism, even as the first goat was “for Yahweh.” Next, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness “for Azazel,” the goat-god, to be tempted of the devil.
Toward the end of forty days in the wilderness, Luke 4:2 tells us, Jesus “became hungry.” When fasting for long periods of time, people lose their feeling of hunger after a few days. When they become hungry again, it indicates that they have run out of fat (food storage) and the body is now beginning to feed upon live tissue. This is the point where actual starvation begins.
Of course, during long fasts, people experience that “empty” feeling. The most difficult challenge of fasting, however, is overcoming the desire for food. Food just looks good. The desire is mostly emotional, and overcoming that desire is the spiritual purpose and value in fasting. In that way, fasting puts down the flesh, denying its lust for food for a greater purpose.
When I went on my first fast (just 24 hours) back in my Bible College days, I learned that when a person can deny himself food when he is hungry, he can discipline himself to do just about anything.
Fasting also compresses time. It speeds up the healing process by bringing the body to its “healing crisis” in a shorter amount of time. Jesus accomplished in forty days what took Israel forty years to accomplish. Forty days of fasting is worth forty years of normal testing in the wilderness.
When we pray and fast for someone, it is a form of intercession. We identify with that other person in his/her need, whether spiritual or physical. Then we overcome on their behalf, for we are one body.
God’s Chosen Fast
As a Greek doctor, Luke understood the effect of fasting on the body. As a theologian and companion of the Apostle Paul, he understood the spiritual effects and the prophetic purpose of fasting as well.
Jesus was baptized on the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, the biblical day of fasting, in order to fulfill the law of the two goats in Leviticus 16. But whereas all others fasted for one day, Jesus fasted forty days. Likewise, His fast was done according to the principles set forth by the prophet in Isaiah 58, where he sets forth the type of fast that is acceptable to God.
Whereas Israel failed every divine test during their forty years in the wilderness, Jesus overcame on their behalf. Whereas Israel’s failure created a breach between them and God, Jesus’ success made Him “the repairer of the breach” (Isaiah 58:12). Jesus’ fast looked back in history to Israel’s forty-year failure in the wilderness, but also looked forward to the Church’s forty-Jubilee failure in their own wilderness that was yet to come. Jesus’ success covered both churches and guaranteed the success of God’s New Covenant vow to change our hearts and thus bring us into the inheritance of the Promised Land.
The true fast that God has chosen is described in Isaiah 58:6, 7,
6 Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
The fast on the Day of Atonement, then, was not a mere ritual that God expected men to perform in order to please Him. Its purpose was to set other people free from whatever yoke of bondage that they were experiencing. In other words, the purpose of the Day of Atonement (fasting) was to declare a Jubilee over others.
The Day of Atonement, as described in Leviticus 23:29 and 32, tells Israel to “humble” themselves on that day. This was a common Hebrew euphemism for fasting, and it shows the primary purpose of fasting. It was a day of repentance.
When the twelve spies came back from spying out the land of Canaan for forty days, they gave their report on the fiftieth Jubilee from Adam. They were supposed to give a good report and blow the trumpet of the Jubilee. It was to be the day of rejoicing, but they lacked the faith to enter into the inheritance. Hence, they turned the Jubilee into a Day of Atonement, from rejoicing to mourning, humbling, and repenting for their lack of faith and for refusing to receive the promises of God.
So Isaiah 48 says that God’s chosen fast (i.e., the Day of Atonement) was to prepare their hearts for the Jubilee that would set men free and break every yoke of bondage.
In the big prophetic picture, Israel and Judah were put under the iron yoke for their lawlessness, according to the law of tribulation in Deuteronomy 28:48. Israel was placed under the iron yoke of Assyria. Judah received the iron yoke of Babylon, followed by the wooden yoke of Persia, Greece, and Rome. In 70 A.D. Judah attempted to cast off its wooden yoke without repenting of their sin, and so their wooden yoke was changed to an iron yoke.
The yoke of the iron kingdom (Rome) took secondary forms in later years. Daniel spoke of the “little horn” of religious Rome which would arise out of the ashes of the Roman Empire. John divided the “little horn” into two phases, or two beasts in Revelation 13. The beast from the sea was given 1,260 years from 529/533 A.D. to 1789/1793, when the second financial beast began to arise from the earth. Together, these two beasts have imposed the yoke upon all nations for 1480 years (2009-2013).
We ourselves were called to declare the Jubilee in 1996 during the course of the Jubilee Prayer Campaign that ran from 1993-2006. In declaring the Jubilee, we complied with the requirement of God’s chosen fast described in Isaiah 58, for we declared our intent to break every yoke of bondage as the Holy Spirit is poured out upon all flesh.
Luke combines the best of Greek philosophy with Hebrew law. The Greeks were concerned with the pursuit of wisdom; the Hebrews with the pursuit of God’s law. Thus, Greek was the language of philosophy, whereas Hebrew was the language of law. Whatever inventions or concerns are developed in a culture, words are coined in those languages to describe them. The Greek “love of wisdom” (i.e., philosophy) resulted in the development of a philosophical language. Likewise, the Hebrew focus upon God’s law resulted in the development of words that had legal implications in a court of law.
Luke was the New Testament bridge between the two cultures and the two languages. This is seen clearly in Luke 4 in his use of the word “and,” a peculiar feature of the Hebrew style of writing.
1 AND Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit…
2 … AND He ate nothing during those days; AND when they had ended, He became hungry.
3 AND the devil said to Him…
4 AND Jesus answered Him…
5 AND he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world…
6 AND the devil said to Him…
In verse 1 we read that Jesus “returned from the Jordan.” My friend Mark tells me that the Greek word translated “returned” is hupostrepho. It is a compound word. Hupo is “undergirding a foundation.” Strepho is “a revolutionary turn and change in direction.” Mark writes, “Hupostrepho implies that He returned from Jordan with a new passion and mission.”
Luke says that Jesus was then led by the Spirit into the wilderness. The Holy Spirit is thus the “man who stands in readiness” (Leviticus 16:21) prophesied in the law in order for Him to be tempted by the devil. “Tempted” is from the Greek word peirazo, “to experience in order to bring a piercing through—that is, a breakthrough.” It is not mere temptation as we think of it today. It is better translated “testing,” because it is a test of quality or character to see if something can be done. It is also used of assaying metals. Thus, peirazo has to do with the proof of Christ’s character, and when thus proven tangibly, He makes a breakthrough into the ministry work that lay ahead.
It is not that God needs such proof, for He knows the hearts of men. It is rather that men need tangible proof to confirm what they believe or suspect to be true, either of themselves or of others.
Luke also uses the Greek term diabolos, “devil,” which means “slanderer, false accuser.” It is a compound word, where dia means “through the operation of; penetration,” and ballo, which means “to throw a rock repetitiously.” In other words, the devil is a continual accuser whose job it is to stone us with guilt.
Luke later uses the term satan, “adversary,” which is a Hebrew word derived from the Aramaic. The Hebrew word satan means “to plot, build a plot, scheme as an adversary.” Thus, Luke appeals to both Greek and Hebrew readers, beginning with diabolos in Luke 4:2 but ending with satan in Luke 22:31.
This is part 2 of a mini-series titled "Jesus' temptation in the wilderness." To view all parts, click the link below.
This is part 12 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones