Sermon: Soul Searching

Matthew 4:1-11

We are not going to be able to put on  Jesus’ shoes here.  They just don’t fit.  This experience in the wilderness is his.  The temptations, the testing, is for him alone as he prepares to begin his earthly ministry.  Immediately after his baptism, before he begins to preach, before he even forms his community of followers called disciples, he goes through a wilderness struggle.  Is it soul searching? Following the Spirit of God into the deserted place, spending time alone with the wind, the beating sun, the howling of animals and the thoughts in his head, he had to be able to look deep within to determine who this Son of God is really going to be and what this Son of God’s mission is going to be.  The test is to see what he is made of.  How will he respond?  Will he be loyal to God when push comes to shove?

He is faced with temptations to deny God and God’s power and God’s promises given to the people of God.  So we are told that we too must stand strong against the temptations which pop up all around us.  Temptations to cheat, to lie, to steal, to be lazy, to take advantage of someone’s kindness, to work all the time, to be glued to the electronic device of choice, to sleep in on Sunday.

Perhaps this passage is really about the relationship between God and Jesus, a relationship that seems to be just getting off the ground, just taking shape as he is prepared for his mission to proclaim the coming kingdom of God.   How committed will Jesus be?

The temptations are potential barriers between Jesus and God. Barriers which could potentially keep Jesus the Son from following God the Father.  WE are not Jesus.  We sometimes allow those barriers to be so solid that we can’t see through to God on the other side.  Those  barriers can be multiple issues, attitudes, circumstances which we encounter in life.

Story of Job—God allows the testing to happen.

Moses on Mt. Sinai 40 days and 40 nights neither ate bread nor drank water  (referred to several times in Exod. And Deut)  Jesus cites Moses from Deut.  3 t.—don’t live by bread only; don’t test God; fear/respect God and serve God.–  this is how he is going to operate.


Wilderness as a place of struggle in scripture.  His purpose for following the spirit into wilderness—to be tempted/tested.  Israel’s struggle in the wilderness—wandering, doubting, complaining, infighting, mistrusting leaders, turning away from God to worship a golden calf.  God was testing them to see if they would follow instructions re: manna.  They did not.

Devil has goal to mislead Jesus about what it means to be a son of God.  Son of God–  a title, royal title.  Mt. is trying to get across the message—who is he?

This story is about Jesus—not about our temptations.  Not about us.  Points out what kind of a son of God he is.  Jesus is not going to be who we want him to be (like the tester thought).  He remains steadfastly God’s.

No advertising, no user friendly, no persuasion.  Simple invite..  follow me.  You decide.  Matthew’s congregation–  knows Jesus in some ways, but also learning Jesus.  Us too!

Jesus will not misuse his power for personal material gain—to satiate his hunger with food; or for making himself safe and secure, or for amassing clout, esteem–domination, prestige.

Devil misuses scripture…out of context.  Jesus rebuts with scripture, but does not get in an argument.  Flat out refuses.

Passes the test because he relies on God.  So the test is to see whether he will rely on God, remain faithful, loyal, committed as a follower.  Yes he does.


Temptations are inevitable for God’s children.  Materialism, security, prestige.  Pass through it by trusting in God as provider of what is needed.

Because Jesus suffered when he was tempted, he can help Abraham’s descendants when we are tempted.  Heb. 2: 18

Jesus as our high priest has been tempted in every way, just as we are . We can approach throne of grace to help us in time of need…  Heb. 4:15-16

Does this temptation experience make Jesus more accessible, more real, more understanding, more sympathetic?  (or less sympathetic, since he knows there is a way out..)


Start with self.  Power to evaluate, adjust self.  How is the Spirit leading you?

Find, create, join a community.  Disciples called to follow.  What is our call?

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