Fresh off the battlefield, Jesus returned to Galilee. Forty days He had been locked in a struggle with Satan in the wilderness called Jeshimmon, meaning “devastation.” One author described the wilderness as the hills compared to dust heaps; the limestone blistered and peeling; the rocks bare and jagged and the heat like a red hot furnace. He came out of the temptation struggle victorious and with an incredible amount of holy power! Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, ready to proclaim salvation.
Jesus’ fame already had spread throughout the region as He taught in synagogues and meeting places to everyone’s excitement, pleasure and acclamation. The hometown Celebrity was coming home, and the people of Nazareth were in for a surprise.
There are three valuable lessons we can learn from this passage centering on the victorious Jesus!
Each of Us Will Struggle with Temptation
William Barclay reminds us that the story of the temptation must have come from the lips of Jesus to His disciples. This intimate detail gives insight into the relationship between the Master and the disciples…men who had meshed together in such an open, caring relationship. Maybe He was preparing them—and in essence, all of us—for the fact that if the Master could be tempted, they and we would face the devil’s snares.
The basis of all temptation is to take evil and make it right or to take the right and twist it into evil. The truth of the matter is God is God, right is right, and wrong is wrong. Our generation is really no different than its predecessors. The devil has been tempting humankind to exchange truth for lies since Adam and Eve.
The spiritual challenges we face include materialism, pride, self-centeredness, anger, bitterness, sexual lust, envy and many others. Satan tempts us when we are physically and emotionally exhausted, when we neglect our time with God in prayer and the Word, when we pull away from the community of believers, and/or put ourselves in compromising situations.
So, how do we conquer our temptations and live victorious Christian lives?
Each of Us Has Access to the Power of the Holy Spirit
Jesus met Satan in the power of the Spirit. He returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. His message was proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit in our lives. Without Him we are powerless against Satan’s barrage of tricks to trip us in our living.
Speaking to a large audience, D.L. Moody held up a glass and asked, “How can I get the air out of this glass?” One man shouted, “Suck it out with a pump!” Moody replied, “That would create a vacuum and shatter the glass.” After numerous other suggestions, Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass. “There,” he said, “all the air is now removed.” He then went on to explain that victory in the Christian life is not accomplished by “sucking out a sin here and there,” but by being filled with the Holy Spirit. (Today in the Word, September, 1991, p. 30).
So, to be filled by the Holy Spirit means He comes into our lives to:
1. Convince us of our need of a Savior.
2. Convict us of our sin.
3. Cleanse us of carnality.
4. Inspire us to do our best.
5. Encourage us along the journey.
6. Enlighten us with spiritual wisdom.
Each Person Has the Responsibility to Proclaim Christ
As disciples of Christ, we should be following His example by proclaiming His Word to our world. The text tells us to whom the message should be given.
To Proclaim Good News to the Poor: The ancients thought salvation was primarily for those who could afford it. Remember when Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man making it to heaven—and the disciples were in shock at this comment? It does not negate rich people getting to heaven—it is just not as easy. Often they are more self-reliant and do not see the need of a Savior, while the poor know they need help.
To Proclaim Freedom to the Prisoners: I recently visited a prison inmate, who described his confinement. Each moment of the day, he was under the surveillance of a monitor that caught his every move. He was released to go outside a limited amount of time during the week. His day time saw only a small amount of work-related events, while the majority of time was spent in a small cell with a bunk, toilet and sink. He expressed his fear inside the prison as he already had been threatened and bullied by some of the other prisoners.
In a spiritual sense, Satan imprisons us all in a sinful life. Christ has come to set us free! (Gal. 5:1; Rom. 8:2).
To Proclaim Sight to the Blind: Satan has blinded us to the righteousness, holiness, goodness and salvation from God. We are blinded by self-will, self-determination, self-desire. As God convicts us of our sinfulness and we begin to see the light of God, something dynamic happens. Our blinded spiritual eyes are opened, and the light of God helps us see the important things of life (Isa. 50:10).
To Proclaim Freedom to the Oppressed: We live in a cruel and unjust world that has lost control. The oppression of people by other people saddens the heart, but the saddest of all are those whom Satan oppresses and does his best to destroy spiritually. Jesus took the cruelty of the cross unjustly to release us from our sin!
Our victory is in Jesus. There is no other who can bring victorious living to us! Friend, have you been set free by the blood of Christ?
Derl G. Keefer, administrative pastor, Center Park United Methodist Church, Three Rivers, Michigan.