“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were over, he was hungry. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ And Jesus answered, ‘It is written, man shall not live by bread alone.’” (Luke 4:1-4)
If I were asked to imagine a showdown between Jesus and the devil, I could easily conjure up images of fierce cosmic battles between the forces of good and evil. The apocalyptic images of Revelation pop into my mind. Yet Luke records a showdown between these two beings that reads much differently than an action-packed comic book. The confrontation is a simple back and forth about the Bible. To the devil’s temptations to showcase his power, satiate his hunger, and rule the world, Jesus simply responds with scripture that showed how God’s Will was different than the devil’s.
Think about it: to temptations from the father of lies himself, the most evil being in God’s creation, Jesus very simply reached back into his knowledge of the scriptures, thought of passages that addressed the temptation, and then acted like those scriptures were true! There are no visions, no voices from heaven, no on the spot revelations about what to do—Jesus just used the written word penned hundreds of years before as a lamp to his feet (Psa 119:105). There are no miracle contests where Jesus shows how much more powerful than the devil he is—just an impromptu Bible study. Jesus does not even come up with words of his own to answer the tempter—he uses the words of long dead prophets of God.
Jesus is teaching us about how to handle temptation. He consciously abstained from working miracles or even coming up with words of his own. Instead, he did something every last disciple should be capable of. He knew his Bible, called to remembrance relevant scriptures in temptation, and then actually lived out what it said. When tempted, Jesus used the weapon that God had already given, the sword of the spirit (Eph 6:17). Jesus used scripture as the final, argument-ending authority, and so should we.
Learning to resist the temptations of the devil is within our grasp—Jesus shows us the way. First, know your Bible through regular personal reading and coming to Bible class. Next, develop the facility with your Bible to be able call to memory passages that speak to your circumstances. This is easier than you think if Bible reading becomes a regular habit. Finally, grow in your faith to the point that God’s Will holds greater appeal than the temporary temptation. Jesus shows that fighting the tempter is a simple matter drawing the right sword.