Turning stones into bread Matthew 4:4

We know the stories of Jesus’s birth. We know relatively little of how that baby grew up, except for one record in Luke’s gospel. Luke 2 40 … the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him. We know about the boy Jesus in the Temple, in His Father’s House, growing up and learning what it meant for him to be the Son of God. At the beginning of our sermons in Mark’s gospel we learned about Jesus being baptised by John in the Jordan. That was a new beginning, an empowering for mission, Jesus identifying with God’s chosen people, in a dramatic public witness as the Holy Spirit descended upon him as a dove and God’s voice spoke, “This is my son whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” After 30 years of preparation, Jesus was almost ready to begin his ministry. Only one more thing was needed.

To be completely ready to seek and save the lost and to give his life as a ransom for many, Jesus needed to be tested. The word which is sometimes translated as temptation or “time of trial” also means testing. And the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness so that his faith and obedience could be tested. 1500 years earlier the newborn nation of Israel had been tested. They had been baptised passing through the Red Sea and then they had spent 40 years in the wilderness learning what it really meant to be the people of God. And Israel had failed the test – they had failed to learn to trust and obey God as they should. Now Jesus would face 40 days discovering what it really means to be the Son of God.

Matthew 4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.

The problem with most sermons on the Temptations of Christ are that they ignore one thing. These tests or temptations were unique to Jesus – He was the Christ, the Holy One, God’s Chosen, the Messiah, God the Son. Most preachers leap to tell us about what this narrative has to say to us without first considering what it tells us about Jesus Himself. They were the Temptations which the Son of God faced – and that is very important. Jesus was finding out in personal experience what it means to be a human being who is also the Son of God, God the Son, Immanuel,

Jesus must have told his disciples about those experiences – so they are certainly relevant to us as well as to Him. Through his life Christ shared all of our experiences, and these tests or temptations are examples of the tests we all go through as WE discover what it is to be a son or daughter of the Living God. But we need to remember they were first and foremost Christ’s temptations.

Matthew 4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. . 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

Tempted. Put to the test. The time of trial. There were 40 days of testing. The three temptations recorded in detail were not the only tests – these were the culmination – the greatest temptations – the greatest tests.

Note that Jesus was led by Spirit into the wilderness. This was God’s initiative, not the devil’s. Jesus was put to the test – and what is being tested is his relationship with God. Tested not to see if he would sin but tested to prove that he wouldn’t! They were tests to see if Jesus really trusted God. Sin would be a break in that relationship with the Father. Would Jesus stay faithful to His Father’s will – or could he be tempted into doing things the devil’s way instead of doing things God’s way.

We usually think of temptation or testing as a bad thing. But in God’s purposes times of testing are good for us – so we should be grateful for them.
James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything

“Trials” here is just the same root word as where is says Jesus was “tempted” by the devil. God led Jesus to be tested and God will allow our faith to be tested as well. That is an essential part of the process of becoming “mature and complete, not lacking anything” in our faith.

Time in the wilderness is good! Time out “on retreat” to meet with God is good. Jesus’s 40 days in the wilderness were an echo of Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness between their escape from Egypt and entering into the Promised Land which we read about in Deuteronomy chapters 6-8. Jesus may well have been meditating on those chapters as he fasted and prayed in the wilderness.

. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

No surprise there! 40 HOURS without food and most of us are hungry! 40 days without food and He was literally starving! When everything is going well and all our needs are met it is easy to believe in God. When things go wrong, when we are hungry or thirsty or tired or ill or overworked or stressed or depressed it gets harder to trust that God is in control and everything is alright.

3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

“If you are the son of God .. ” Actually the text can equally mean, “Since you are the Son of God .. ” and that makes more sense here. The temptation was not for Jesus to prove he WAS the Son of God by performing the simple miracle of turning stones to bread. The test was more subtle. “Since you are the Son of God, you shouldn’t be hungry. You are the Son of God, the Divine Word through whom everything was created, who sustains everything. You’re the Son of God – YOU shouldn’t be hungry!”

It is so easy for us to assume that because Jesus was the Son of God his life on earth was somehow easier than our lives, or at least easier than the lives of people around Him. Somebody asked me just last week, “Was Jesus ever sick?” Did he ever get the flu? Or a tummy ache? We have no evidence either way – just the argument from silence that we do not have a record of a time when Jesus became sick. But he was certainly hungry, here in the wilderness. And at Jacob’s well where he met the woman of Samaria, we are told that Jesus was thirsty.

It would have been so easy for Jesus the Son of God to turn stones into bread. But that wasn’t what being Son of God was about! Jesus could have been guaranteed a comfortable life, even a life of luxury if He had chosen. And that was the temptation here – always to be comfortable. But that would be the devil’s way, not God’s way!

This test was not about what form the ministry of Jesus would take – none of the temptations were. The issue was not whether Jesus would use miracles to prove who he was, first to himself and then to the watching world. The issue was whether as the Son of God, Jesus should have a comfortable easy life, or whether he should ever be hungry or thirsty or tired or suffer in any way?

And this is a temptation which Christians as children of God can face. Bread is even more important in countries where drought or famine regularly strike. For us, man should not live on bread alone – there is the assumption it should also have butter and Tiptree’s finest jam on it!! But it is a temptation for all of us to think that if we are Christians we will never be hungry or thirsty – never be sick, never be exhausted, never run out of money. The challenge is to trust God when things seem to be going wrong – when all our needs are NOT being met! To trust God when things get so tough that the tough have long since given up and gone home.

We face that same test time and again. Whenever life gets hard. Whenever we get really hungry or thirsty or weary or sick or discouraged. The devil comes along and says, that proves you aren’t really a Christian, you aren’t really God’s child. God would never let one of his children suffer like this. Give it all up. If God was really your Father he would send a miracle and give you a nice comfortable easy life.

The testing of God’s Son. Jesus had to experience suffering and pain and discomfort – because we all do. And Jesus had to learn to trust God even when there was no easy way out, no miracle, because that was what he would have to do on the cross. We have to learn the same. To trust God in the hard times as well as the easy times. Even when the miracle doesn’t come.

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Jesus was quoting from Deuteronomy 8. It is not unreasonable to think that there in the desert fasting and praying Jesus was spending his time meditating on Scripture and on the book of Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 8 Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. 2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD

Whenever the going got tough for the Israelites in the desert they would complain. Whenever they thought they wouldn’t have enough food or water, or became sick, instead of trusting God they all just grumbled. Instead of being grateful for God’s miraculous salvation from slavery in Egypt, they complained. Instead of fixing their hearts on God’s wonderful promises of the Land he was taking them to, they just grumbled.

For the Israelites the time in the wilderness was a time of humbling and a time of testing in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
God sometimes chooses to test us, to see what is in our hearts, to see whether or not we will keep His commands and trust Him when life gets hard. Because in this materialistic age WE ALSO need to learn man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD

Israel in the wilderness took 40 years to learn to depend on God. There in the wilderness of temptation Jesus was learning to trust in his Father even when life became uncomfortable and even hard. And we need to learn to trust and obey in the same way.

There are more important things even than having enough to eat and drink. Good jobs, big houses, new cars, nice holidays and the latest mobile phones.
All around us people are satisfied by possessions. Those verses in the hymn “Lord of the Years” sums up our world so well.
Lord, for our land in this our generation,
Spirits oppressed by pleasure, wealth and care:
Lord, for our world where men disown and doubt You,
Loveless in strength, and comfortless in pain,
Hungry and helpless, lost indeed without You:
Lord of the world, we pray that Christ may reign.

This land of spirits oppressed by pleasure, wealth and care: this world where men disown and doubt God, need to learn the truth that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD
Calvin rightly said that every Christian must let go of the things of this world, or he will forever be held by them. We Christians need constantly to be reminded that material comforts are worth nothing compared to having a relationship with the Living God. Being a child of God does not guarantee us an easy life!

This is a particularly important message in today’s world. Around the world today the fastest growing churches are not the Roman Catholics, or the Baptists, or the Pentecostals. The fastest growing churches, not only in Africa and the far east but even in Britain, are the Prosperity churches. The churches which teach that if we have faith in God and if we give generously to the church, then God will honour that faith and sacrifice and bless us in return with material wealth, prosperity and physical health and healing.

This is the temptation Jesus faced – to believe that God will pour blessings upon us and guarantee us an easy life if only we have faith (and incidentally also give generously to the church.) And it is the temptation which the Prosperity churches are falling into. The health wealth and prosperity gospel is not a gospel at all – it is a temptation and a lie from the devil! The problem is, it is very popular. And the demands which some such churches make on their followers means that they have lots of money which most ordinary churches do not have, and they use that money to publicise their false gospel on so-called God TV, Christian Radio and the internet. Listen carefully and you will find that so many of the programmes are actually promoting the idea that if you have enough faith and you give enough to God then God is sure to bless you in return. The idea of a comfortable successful life of health wealth and prosperity is very appealing. But God never promised that to Jesus the Son of God. And God does not promise that to any of his children.

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”


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