Chapter 2 - The Crucial Test
Helen Dowd


It was time for Christ's public ministry to begin. But wait! First He must pass a crucial test. He must exhibit to Satan that He was the Son of God. He must confirm to him that the Son of God has power over the devil and his wiles. Satan would have liked nothing better than to have God's plan for the salvation of man to fail. JESUS DID NOT FAIL. HE PASSED THE CRITICAL TEST.

Historical setting:
Time:
About 27 A.D.
Place: In the Wilderness
Persons: Jesus and Satan.
Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13; John 1:29-51

Straight away after His baptism, Jesus vanished from the crowd. The Spirit of God led Him into the wasteland, where He was tempted of the devil. Jesus must demonstrate to Satan--the father of evil--that he could not gain authority over Him, the Son of man-Son of God.

Everything was deathly silent. The murmur and rumble of the crowd that had gathered by the River Jordan during His baptism was all of a sudden gone. Jesus looked around Him. A blast of hot wind laden with sand hit Him in the face. He was bewildered. Where was He? Just moments before, He had been standing in the presence of God, hearing His Father's voice booming out: "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world... This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased... Hear Him."

Jesus lifted His eyes to heaven. But it seemed that the heavens were closed to Him. All He could see in the vast emptiness of the heavenlies were vultures circling around, searching for prey, waiting for the inevitable—a victim of the desert. He called out to His Father, but instead of an answer He felt a presence. But it was not the presence of God. It was the eerie presence of evil. "Oh Father," He cried out, but instead of hearing the comfort of His Father's voice he heard a sneering laugh. Jesus fell on His knees. He knew what His mission on earth was. He knew that His Father had sent Him into the world to die for mankind. But was this the way He was to die? Here? In this wilderness? As God, He knew His purpose. As Man, He felt vulnerable. Doubts assailed Him. Would He be able to complete His mission? Would He fail God? NO! He would not. Despite the desperate loneliness and the feeling that He had been abandoned, Jesus continued to pray. He entreated His Heavenly Father for strength.

As He knelt to pray He could feel the heat beating down on His head. The hot winds blew constantly. He drew His mantle around His head to keep the sand from His nostrils, but the choking sand seeped through His pores. He longed for a drink of cold, clear water, but there was none. Soon the night fell. Perhaps now He would have some respite from the stinging sand and heat. But instead, the night air grabbed Him, piercing through His garments. He shivered. His eyes drooped. Stretching out on the ground He closed His eyes, hoping that sleep would overtake Him, relieving Him of His discomfort. But it didn't happen. Soon he heard the pathetic howls and eerie laughing of hyenas. Or was it that PRESENCE again, that sinister PRESENCE that He had felt before? He called again to His Father in heaven. But the heavens were closed to Him. Oh the emptiness, the solitude, the desperate feeling of loneliness! Even God had deserted Him. Soon pure exhaustion brought on a fitful sleep, but even then He had no peace. In the background He could hear that evil laughter. He felt the sting of the night crawlers and insects that hid by day, coming out in the cold of the night to torture any victims they could find. In the morning He awoke, desperately hungry and thirsty, with no prospects of relief.

"So You're hungry…Ha! Ha! Ha! You, the Son of God, the Bread of Life!" There was that laughing, sneering voice that wasn't a voice, just a PRESENCE, laughing, sneering, yipping, howling. "And You are thirsty...Hee, Hee! You, who call Yourself the Living Water! Look at You, scratching the earth for water, tearing at cactus for droplets. Ha! Ha! Where is Your Heavenly Father now? You are going to fail. You are going to fail."

The air was thick with the EVIL PRESENCE. Jesus, prostrate on the ground, longed for relief. But He would not fail! HE WOULD NOT FAIL! Desperate for the feeling of His Heavenly Father's presence, He lifted His eyes again to the heavens. But the scorched sky stared back at Him. Empty! Empty! Oh, how much longer could He tolerate this torture, this feeling of aloneness, this desperate desertion? The torture went on. Jesus fasted and prayed, prayed and fasted, despite the discomfort of His body and anguish of His soul. He prayed, knowing that the biggest test was yet to come. His archenemy, Satan, the one whose laughter and evil presence never left Him, was waiting in the wings to bombard Him with His wiles. Jesus was weak in body, but strong in Spirit. HE WOULD NOT FAIL. HE WOULD NOT FAIL.

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Forty days had passed and Satan came out of the shadows. He stood before Jesus. He had Him just where he wanted Him. He was weak in body, vulnerable for temptation. No food was in sight, no relief. God, His Father, had not shown His presence. It was time to give Jesus the decisive test. It was time to make Him fail of His mission. Satan would gain victory over his Enemy. He sneered in the face of God's Son.

"Ha! So You call Yourself the Son of God!" Satan stood inches from Jesus, staring Him in the face. "Well, if that is so, prove it. You are hungry. Why should You be? See those stones? Make them bread? Eat to Your heart's content." Satan spit on the ground, defying God.

Calmly Jesus replied: "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'" Jesus turned His head away, continually praying to His Father in Heaven for strength. HE WOULD NOT FAIL. HE WOULD NOT FAIL.

Seeing that he had not won the first test, Satan said to Jesus, "Well, now, it's one thing to be hungry. Hunger passes. But come with me. I want to show you something. He led Him up to a high mountain. "Look at this," Satan began. "See all those kingdoms down there? With my supernatural power I can project all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. Well, I am now offering You the best offer I have. Power! You can have authority over all these kingdoms. I can turn over the power to whomever I want, and right at this moment, I am offering them to YOU. What better offer can You have? Your Father seemingly has forsaken You. Evidently You have lost Your own supernatural powers. If You hadn't, You could have made yourself a meal down there in the desert. So now, give up Your mission of trying to save wicked mankind. They won't appreciate it anyway. They belong to me. And so do all these kingdoms. So here You are. All You have to do is worship me, pay allegiance to me.

"Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'" Jesus stepped back from Satan, looking once again to His Father in Heaven. HE WOULD NOT FAIL. HE WOULD NOT FAIL.

Satan was becoming exasperated. How could anyone turn down this great offer of owning all the kingdoms in the world, even if they weren't really his to give? Well, he would try once again to throw Jesus off the track. He turned to Jesus and said, "Okay, I have somewhere else to take You. Come with me." He led Jesus to Jerusalem, taking Him up to the peak of the temple. And he said to Him, "So now, here You are, right at Your own temple, the place where people come to worship God. Here is a chance to prove to the city—to the world—that You are the Son of God. Throw Yourself down, for it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over You.' You see? I know the Scriptures. Here is another one: 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'"

Somehow feeling stronger in spirit now, Jesus looked Satan in the eye and said, "It has been said, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God. " HE WOULD NOT FAIL. HE WOULD NOT FAIL.

And Jesus DID NOT FAIL.

"You may have passed these tests," sneered Satan, "but wait until the ultimate test, the one both You and I know is coming. Then we shall see who has the power. You just wait and see."

Without saying another word Satan left Jesus' side, but he would be back! Oh yes, he would be back! He would save further testing until later. He had not given up yet. He knew that soon Jesus would have to face the worst days of His earthly life. And Satan would be there, waiting again in the wings for his opportunity to make Jesus fail in His mission to save mankind from sin. He had been waiting since the beginning of time for an opportunity to crush God's plan of salvation. And he could not forget God's promise to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: Genesis 3:15 – "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel."

Exhausted, Jesus dropped to the earth and closed His eyes. When He opened them, He was again in the wilderness, but everything was different. Instead of Satan staring Him in the face, laughing at him with his eerie, yapping laugh, a beautiful, white angel stood before Him. He was lifting a glass of cool water to Jesus' lips. He was feeding Him heavenly food.

Immediately Jesus' strength was renewed. He once again felt the presence of His Heavenly Father. HE DID NOT FAIL. HE DID NOT FAIL. It was time for Him to begin His earthly ministry. It was time to show mankind His never failing love. It was time for Him to walk among the people, for whom He came to earth to save.

He headed back to Galilee.

John 1:29 – "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 'Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'"

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© Helen Dowd

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