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4:1. “ To be tempted by the devil.”
The word "temptation" generally leaves the impression of sinfulness, a kind of an internal attraction for the evil resisted. The weakness of our nature is such that, even when we triumph over the temptation, it fastens upon us. The old Adam, alas, proves in us the miseries of lust. And we, on our part, feel a vague complicity with the enemy. The man tempted in his senses, in his probity, in his patience, feels an evil tendency within him. He subdues it. But he feels it. It is evident our Lord was not so tempted. As related by the Evangelist it is altogether an external thing. It is only an attempt on the part of the devil. It was in no bad sense at all a temptation of the Son of God. For the temptations which come to other men from their bodily desires, or from the evils of the world around them, have had no power over Jesus. They have not even brought the sense of effort to Him in overcoming them.
Yet if life had passed on thus with him to the end, the holiness inseparable from it would have been imperfect in so far as He was to be the Saviour of men.
For men could never have realized the sympathy of one who had thus passed through life. As the Epistle to the Hebrews so well suggests, there was a divine fitness that Jesus, too, should suffer and be tempted, that He might "be able to succor those who are tempted.”
4:4. “ Man shall not live by bread alone.”
Jesus can leave His life and all belonging to it in His Father's hand. In so losing His life, if that must be the issue, He is certain he will save it. If His Father has given Him a work to do, He knows He will be empowered to do it.
4:5. “ Sets him on the pinnacle of the Temple.”
Shall He test the declaration that He is the beloved Son by throwing Himself headlong down from this pinnacle? Was there not a seeming warrant for such a trial of the reality of his Sonship? Had not the Psalmist declared of the chosen one of God that His angels should bear Him
The answer Jesus makes the Tempter shows the suggestion tended to a pretense rather than reality, to distrust rather than reliance.
“ He will give his angels charge over thee.” In this appeal to familiar and sacred words, the subtlety of the Tempter lay in the perversion of their true meaning.
As in all analogous temptations, the words here presented to the soul of Jesus, with their true meaning obscured and preverted, must have been precisely those before most precious. We may think of Jesus as having heretofore fed. on these very words. He had found in them the stay and comfort of his soul. But now these are the words through which He is brought to the test.
To have questioned His Father's care in such an hour of trial would have been to have entertained a spirit of distrust of flis Providence, He commits Himself absolutely to His Father's will.
“ Takes him up to a very high mountain." Milton's well known expansion of this part of the Temptation ( Paradise Regained, Book III), though too obviously the work of a scholar exulting in his scholarship, is yet worth studying as the first serious attempt, to realize in part at least what must thus have been presented to our Lord's mind.
The offer of the Tempter in appearance rests on the actual history of all great conqueror's achievements. The
Herods, the Cæsars, and their like, gain eminence by trampling the laws of God and of men under foot. They all alike accept evil as the Master and bow down at its behest. To become a mighty conqueror of such a kind Christ has but to go beyond the self imposed limits of a true Messiahship and refuse to accept longer the guidance of the Spirit within and the word of His Father without.
“ The devil leaves him." This scene is that of Adam the conqueror.
The first Adam had been thus put to the test. He had been conquered. Nature had revolted against him.
Jesus, the new Adam, is conqueror. Spiritual nature obeys him. The evil angel flees. Good angels become his servants. It is after this victorious trial that physical nature is seen to be submissive to him and he exercises miraculous power.
In his retirement to the wilderness before his public life, the Son of God gives an example that even in the natural order every man ought to follow if he thinks to accomplish here below any great work, any fruitful work, any durable work. In the bosom of solitude man gathers and multiplies all his forces in extraordinary proportions. From an intellectual point of view, he can work out his plans, his thoughts, his needs, every object whatsoever of his meditation. From a practical point of view, he penetrates general causes and particular effects, he measures the extent of means and calculates their disposition. He goes thence thoroughly equipped for action. What then, if he has recourse to prayer and gives heed to, not only his own spirit, but the Spirit of God invoked by him ? A celestial power then descends upon him. Angels become his servants. They remain his never failing allies.
Yet solitude begets three temptations it is necessary to
The first is the temptation to a violent reaction into sensuality, that is to say, a reaction into all the physical appetites from which there has been a temporal abstinence. “ He was hungry. *** Command these stones to become bread.
The second is a temptation to abandon one's self to a presumptuous confidence in one's own powers, and to the hope of mastering even the nature of things. thyself down. *** He will give his angels charge over thee.”
The third temptation is to the ambition to rule other men, to reign over them at any price, even to the extreme of abasing one's self before evil. “ Shows him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them.”
When these three temptations have been overcome, a man can enter into active life. His deeds will be noble, worthy, great, holy.
“ Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
Poverty of spirit is the first and foremost requisite of the kingdom of grace. It is the soul realizing its own need. It is the first step in all true repentance. It is the turning of the spirit of man from self, and all selfish calls, to God as its only satisfactory end, its only peace and eternal completeness.
The blessedness our Lord here speaks of, then, is the blessedness of those who act upon the principle that nothing is absolutely their own. They realize they are receivers before they can give. They are dependent on another's bounty. They are but stewards of a divine King and a loving Father. They give of that which is under their hand, or they withhold it, only in the interest of the divine kingdom.
To such persons and to such persons alone belongs that temper of heart and mind that belongs of right to the Kingdom of Heaven. The eternal realities are theirs both in this life and that which is to come.
5: 347 : 27. The Sermon on the Mount both in external form and internal content is very much like the ancient wisdom Hebrew Poetry. The parallelism is decidedly marked from beginning to the end and some of the best samples of its various kinds are to be culled from this rich storehouse.
It is divided up into six main divisions, and subdivided into threes and multiples of three.
The first main division includes the nine beatitudes and the two stanzas following.
The second main division includes the introductory stanza on the law and the prophets and six references to the law as interpreted by scribe and Pharisee in contradistinction to what he himself will teach.
The third main division includes his thoughts on almsgiving, prayer and fasting.
The fourth main division is on the accumulation of wealth and its motive.
The fifth main division is on the attainment of a right judgment in all things.
The sixth main division is on the entrance to life and how to attain to it.
The first main division is divided into three parts, the nine beatitudes and a strophe and antistrophe on the disciples as the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
In the second main division we have another pair of stanzas as strophe and anti-strophe to each other on the eye and the hand.
The third main division as is often the case in Hebrew poetic arrangement, is the most symmetrical of all.