I said at the end of the last section that Jesus’ words about the thief apply to Satan. Well, Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and we find Satan tempting Jesus with temptations that are common to man. Among these is suicide, and the Lord shows us how we are to respond to it. I won’t spoil it for you, but we should cover the other temptations first before getting to the one most pertinent to our discussion. Let’s dive into Luke 4.
X. Satan, Jesus, and Temptation
Satan tempts Jesus with food
The first thing to notice in the temptations, recorded in both Luke 4 and Matthew 4, is that Satan is the one tempting Jesus. Scripture refers to Satan as the Tempter, particularly in Matthew 4:3 (the additional Temptation account already mentioned here), and Paul refers to Satan as the Tempter in 1 Thessalonians 3:5 after telling the Thessalonians that “Satan hindered” them in their desire to visit the congregation on more than one occasion (1 Thess. 2:18).
What we learn from this is that Satan is the Tempter, the one who tempts believers, not the Lord. James, the half-brother of Jesus, says this clearly in his own letter to the scattered Jewish believers:
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. (James 1:13-15)
So, temptations do not come by way of the Lord; they come by way of Satan. When someone is being tempted with suicidal thoughts, he or she is not being tempted by God; it is not the voice of the Lord speaking, but the voice of Satan. And in those times, we must use the Word of God to combat and drown out the voice of Satan, the word of the Devil. Jesus uses the Word of God to combat Satan, though Satan also quoted Scripture (it’s not surprising that he knows Scripture; after all, he and his fellow fallen angels, what we call “demons,” work overtime to understand Christian culture and lingo.).
In Luke 4:1, we find that Jesus has just come from the Jordan, where He was baptized by John the Baptist (or Baptizer, as the Greek language says), and has fasted 40 days without food. He hasn’t eaten, has been talking to His Father and in prayer, and has been in the Spirit for over a month. And now, the time has come for the fast to end; and, after having been baptized and fasted, Satan now comes to Him at His weakest point.
Some individuals think that temptation comes to those who have been in the faith for a long time, but temptation also comes to those who haven’t been in the faith very long. In other words, you can accept the Lord Jesus today as your personal savior and Lord, then fast temptation and trial by Satan next week, or 3 days from now. There is no timetable for when Satan strikes, but he usually comes to tempt us when we are at our weakest points: when we’re tired, angry, frustrated, sad, depressed, grieving, etc. This is why Satan waits until these times: because it’s easier to win us over when we’re weak. Satan does try to fight believers when they’re at their highest point and strong in faith because he knows he’ll never win. He comes when we’re at our weakest because Satan, contrary to what many think about him, is not someone who wants to work a whole lot. If he can make it as easy as possible to catch someone’s soul, then he’d rather take the easy road. No, to use a statement I’ve heard throughout my life, “Satan does not play fairly.”
Jesus is hungry, so Satan tempts Jesus with food, the first temptation:
3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
Satan starts with the words, “If You are the Son of God,” as if to say that Jesus really isn’t the Son of God but He must prove that He is the Son of God. Why did Jesus need to prove what had already been confirmed by God the Father at His baptism when the Father said, “this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Luke 3:22; Matthew 3:17)? Since God the Father had already confirmed who Jesus was, why did Jesus need to do anything extra to prove who He was? Satan wasn’t very smart with “if you are the Son of God,” because Jesus’ identity had already been established, but Satan isn’t always as smart as we think he is. Sometimes, he does things that make absolutely no sense whatsoever, but if we pay more attention to him than we do Scripture, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, then we’re bound to get caught off-guard and forget the truth. And if we abandon the truth, then he’s got us firmly in his clutches.
Satan tells Jesus to turn stones into bread. After all, Jesus is out in the wilderness and there is no food there. Jesus is the Son of God, and He can do supernatural miracles, so Satan tells Jesus that He could turn the stones into bread to feed his hunger. Satan appeals to His hunger, but the Lord Jesus responds to Satan with the Word of God: “man shall not live by bread alone.”
What does this mean, though? It means that physical food is not the only food that mankind should adopt. Mankind needs more than physical food by which to live his life; he needs spiritual food. As Jesus later says in His ministry,
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?” 34 Jesus *said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.36 Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.37 For in this case the saying is true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.” (John 4:31-38)
Jesus says that “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and accomplish His work,” which shows that Jesus made the mission His focus, His preoccupation.
Jesus says the same thing to followers that He says to Satan in the Temptation event:
26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” 28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” 30 So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” (John 6:26-32)
Jesus tells those who’ve followed Him because they ate from His hand earlier to focus not on physical food but spiritual food. Their focus should not be food for the belly, but that spiritual food that will lead to eternal life. Jesus used “food” to talk about eternal life and the things of God: in the same way that they worked for their bread to feed their stomachs, Jesus told them to work for the food that would lead to eternal life. In other words, they are to learn Jesus’ teachings, feast on His Words and the Word of God, and to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, then see all other necessities added (Matthew 6:33).
Paul refers to “spiritual food” that the Israelites ate in the wilderness:
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.
6 Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and stood up to play.” 8 Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. 9 Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. 10 Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:1-13)
The “spiritual food” Paul discusses here is the word of the Lord that the Israelites received in the wilderness. They not only drank of Christ, the spiritual rock, but they had the word of the Lord, the words of God given to them by Moses, but instead of believing, they rejected it and did not have faith.
The Lord doesn’t complete the verse He quotes in Luke 4. He says, “Man shall not live by bread alone,” but that’s not all of the verse. The verse itself comes from Deuteronomy 8:3:
3 He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:3)
The “fed you with manna” statement is a clear reference to the Israelites in the wilderness. Moses says that the Lord fed them with manna, a food they did not know, in order to show them that physical food is not all the food they need. As we can see, the Israelites indeed complained about the food they had and longed for the food they had while in slavery in Egypt:
Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. 2 The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord and the fire died out. 3 So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them.
4 The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat?5 We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,6 but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”
7 Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. 8 The people would go about and gather it and grind it between two millstones or beat it in the mortar, and boil it in the pot and make cakes with it; and its taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil. 9 When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would fall with it. (Numbers 11:1-9)
The Israelites were fed up (pun intended) with the manna the Lord would send from heaven and wanted the old food they had in bondage: fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. That was better food to them than the manna the Lord sent. And yet, the Lord says in Deuteronomy 8:3 that He sent them manna, food that didn’t taste all that good, to remind them that they needed the Lord and His Word more than they needed physical food to feed their bellies.
Jesus tells Satan in the temptation of food that He should not live by physical food alone, which shows that He is the New Israel that does not fall for the same temptations Israel does. Whereas Israel complains in the wilderness because their stomachs were hungry, the Lord Jesus resists the urge and quotes the Word of God.
The next temptation in Luke 4 pertains to Satan worship:
5 And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7 Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”
The Devil, Satan, then took Jesus to all the kingdoms of the world. The text says that he showed all the kingdoms of the world “in a moment of time,” which means that Jesus was shown all the kingdoms of the world at a glance. Satan tells Jesus that he would give it all to Him “if You worship before me.” Now, if we take a step back to digest this temptation, there are some interesting things to ponder. First, it’s interesting that Satan even offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world. Of course, Scripture says that Satan is “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), but Jesus Himself is called a “Prince” (Acts 5:31) and the “Prince of life” (Acts 3:15), along with the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), which makes one wonder why Satan would even try to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. There are a few passages of Scripture that show us Satan’s rule over the world, that the present world is Satan’s domain:
19 We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. (1 John 5:19)
31 Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” 33 But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. (John 12:31-33)
In John 12, Jesus talks of His death, and places it alongside the statement that “the ruler of this world will be cast out.” In other words, His death and resurrection would defeat Satan, the ruler of this world. This statement seems to mimic Jesus’ words in Luke 10 about Satan “falling from heaven like lightning.”
30 I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; 31 but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here. (John 14:30-31)
Jesus says that “the ruler of the world is coming,” referring to His being turned over to Satan and crucified. Jesus also says that “he has nothing in Me,” referring to the fact that the ruler of the world has no ties to Jesus. Satan has no ties to Jesus, is not like Jesus.
7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. (John 16:7-11)
Jesus describes “the Helper” here, referring to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will convict the world of judgment, “because the ruler of this world has been judged.” In other words, the Spirit’s coming would judge and condemn the ruler of this world, Satan, because the Holy Spirit, being holy and righteous, would show Satan for who he really is. The ruler of this world, as has been the case with previous passages, refers to Satan because he is the one who tempts, influences the commission of sin, and is worthy of judgment.
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
Satan is called “the god of this world” here in 2 Corinthians 4, which means that Satan controls this world. It’s not shocking to see Satan offer the kingdoms of the world because he owns them; what is shocking, however, is that he would offer them to Jesus.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:1-4)
“He who is in you” refers to Jesus, who tells the disciples that “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). John says that Jesus within is greater than Satan in the world (God is stronger than Satan).
All of this evidence suggests that Satan is the ruler of this world, which explains why he says to Jesus that “it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish” (Luke 4:6). As we can see from this passage, Satan has the riches of this world. Satan will give them to those who bow down and worship him. Satanic worship is how some people find themselves wealthy in this world. They see others who work honest, good jobs, and struggle to make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck. And some individuals watching that see how hard it is — and decide to work illegally or in dangerous careers just to make a large enough paycheck.
Satan told Jesus that, when you worship him, “it shall all be yours.” Here, Satan wanted self-worship. He wanted to be worshipped and exalted, and he offers this temptation to Jesus who is in the flesh due to the incarnation.
This is how Satan comes to believers and unbelievers alike. He wants to be worshipped, which takes us back to just how Satan fell from heaven and was expelled from glory in the first place. He fought with Michael the archangel and the other angels in heaven and pulled one-third of the angels with him (as I covered in Revelation 12) because he believed that he could be exalted as God. He wanted to be God then; it wasn’t enough for him to be the captain of the angelic hosts. He wanted to be Lord of Hosts, which belonged to God and God alone. And Satan used this same strategy with Adam and Eve back in Genesis. When the serpent approached Adam and Eve, what did he say to them? He told them that the moment in which they eat the fruit, they would be “as gods, knowing good and evil.” He tempted them to sin against God by throwing Godhood, divinity, equality with God, in their faces. Godhood was Satan’s temptation, and he has used it with mankind ever since. Here in Luke 4, Satan has been trying to get Jesus to prove that He is God, which is tantamount to the same thing (attain to Godhood to prove yourself). Here, though, he wants to get Jesus to worship him.
Now, why would he want to get Jesus to do that? Well, Satan is aware that Jesus has come to free mankind from sin and death, that Jesus is the pleasing sacrifice to reconcile mankind back to God; if Jesus worships Satan, then Jesus forfeits His role as Savior of the world — and Satan wins. Remember the verses above where Jesus says that the ruler of this world is judged, that judgment has come for the ruler of this world, that Jesus is greater than the one in the world? These statements would never have been true if Jesus threw away His identity as the Son of God for Satan. Satan had a plan to crucify Jesus, and he had been trying to get Jesus since His birth (Herod wanted to kill Jesus, after all; the vision of Revelation 12). Jesus would have thrown off obedience to the Father, loyalty to His Father, and submission to the Father if He had worshipped Satan. And mankind would have never had the atonement by which their sins would be forgiven. As Hebrews says, without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus later refers to Peter as “Satan” when He tells of His coming death and Peter says “God forbid,” as though it shouldn’t happen as the Scriptures said (Matthew 16:21-23).
Jesus responds appropriately to this temptation as well: “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” Jesus’ quote from Scripture is taken from Deuteronomy 6:13 and 10:20.
10 “Then it shall come about when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, 12 then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.13 You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. 14 You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you, 15 for the Lord your God in the midst of you is a jealous God; otherwise the anger of the Lord your God will be kindled against you, and He will wipe you off the face of the earth. (Deuteronomy 6:10-15)
Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:13 in response to Satan’s request that he be worshipped. In other words, Jesus made it clear that the Word of God says to worship God, not Satan. Satan couldn’t contest Scripture because he knew what it said. Make no mistake: if you quote Scripture when faced with temptation, Satan has no choice but to flee because he knows the Word of God, too. Jesus comes at Satan with Scripture, nothing else. And the Israelites would’ve done well to obey the Word of the Lord when it came to serving other gods. They turned aside to other nations and worshipped other gods, which led to the wrath of God on the nation and placed them into captivity to the nations around them.
Last but not least, and most pertinent to our discussion, is the third temptation. Last but not least, Satan gives one last valiant effort to distract Jesus from His mission:
9 And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; 10 for it is written,
‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,’
‘On their hands they will bear You up,
So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”
12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Luke 4:9-12)
This third temptation from the Tempter himself, Satan, concerns an issue we’ve been discussing at length here in our examination of Satan: that is, suicide. Satan tells Jesus “throw yourself down from here,” meaning that Jesus should throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. In other words, Satan wanted Jesus to commit suicide.
This temptation tells us that first, Satan tempted Jesus with suicide. For those who believe that believers, Christians, followers of Christ cannot be tempted with suicide or suicidal thoughts, take a good look at this temptation. If Jesus could be tempted with suicide, with the thought of jumping from the top of the temple to the ground below, then Christians, followers of Jesus, can be tempted with suicide. It can happen. Christians have been known to commit suicide, too, not just unbelievers. I have known Christians personally, who have been as passionate about Jesus and the gospel as any Christian, take their lives for various reasons. The reason why suicide is often not discussed in the Body of Christ is because believers assume that suicide is committed by only unbelievers. That is an unfounded assumption.
So, suicide is not a sin committed by those who don’t know the Lord or don’t have a relationship with Jesus. It’s a sin also committed by some devoted believers within the Body of Christ. And if suicide can affect some of us, it affects all of us and all of us could potentially face the temptation to commit suicide. The third temptation is important for all of us to examine because, even now, someone in the Body of Christ is considering suicide as an option to get out of what seems to be an impossible life situation. Don’t think that, as a follower of Jesus, that you are immune to suicide or suicidal thoughts — or that someone you know and love could not commit suicide.
Now, back to the temptation. Satan tells Jesus to jump off the temple because “it is written,” with Satan quoting Scripture. Again, this is a point that shouldn’t be skirted over: Satan reads Scripture as much as any Christian. He knows the Word of God as well as any Christian, so don’t be alarmed if Satan comes to you and attempts to “reinterpret” the Word of God to get you to sin. He can do this because he’s a master of it. He’s read it as much as any Bible student, any college student or seminarian. The reason why Satan says “it is written” is because he knows what is written in Scripture. What this means, and what Christians must remember, is that Satan has read the Bible as much as we read it, if not more. The statement “know thine enemy” is one that Satan keeps at the forefront of his strategy. He is able to trap us at times and score a victory when we sin because he has become acquainted with our ways, habits, strengths, and flaws.
Satan tells Jesus to throw Himself off the temple, quoting the words of Psalm 91:11:
You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
6 Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
7 A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
8 You will only look on with your eyes
And see the recompense of the wicked.
9 For you have made the Lord, my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
10 No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.
11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways.
12 They will bear you up in their hands,
That you do not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread upon the lion and cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you will trample down. (Psalm 91:5-13)
Notice that the context of Psalm 91:11 is that the person who has made the Lord their refuge and has put their trust in Him will have no evil befall them, will be saved from evil. Satan quotes verse 11, intentionally leaving out the verses prior about making the Lord one’s refuge. Satan tells Jesus “if you are the Son of God,” making it seem as though Jesus needed to prove He was the Son of God and test the Lord. But the subject of Psalm 91 pertains to one who has hope in God, one who has faith in God. The issue with Satan’s request, then, is that if someone really does have faith in the Lord, then he or she need not do something this drastic in order to see if God will intervene and save him or her. Jesus is God, so He didn’t need to do anything to see if the angels would come to His aid and protect Him. After all, Jesus says that the angels would come to His aid when He’s betrayed by Judas and arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane:
53 Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?” (Matthew 26:53-54)
Jesus shows at His arrest that He is the Son of God and that He can call at least 72,000 angels to His side to get out of the Crucifixion (12 legions of angels, with 6,000 angels comprising a legion). Here at the temptation, though, Jesus is starting His ministry. What Satan wanted Him to do was doubt who He was, and attempt to prove who He was by killing Himself. If Jesus killed Himself, then the plan of God would not have unfolded the way it was meant to be (“how then will the Scriptures be fulfilled?” Jesus asks at His garden arrest). Jesus would have died without going to the Cross, which means that humanity would still be lost in sin. Jesus was not meant to die from suicide out of a selfish act; He was meant to die on the Cross to show God’s love for the world.
This is where we see what Satan aims to achieve with suicide. With Jesus, Satan wanted to distract Him from the mission, His purpose, by having Him take His own life out of unbelief that God was with Him and unbelief in who He was. And Satan tempts believers with suicide for the same reasons: to get us to forget who we are in Christ, to forget His love for us, to forget that He is with us and that His presence is there even when we find ourselves in troublesome circumstances. There are some I’ve talked to that have contemplated suicide but not gone through with it, and they’ve said that the trick of Satan is to make you forget that God is with you. The moment you start to think that God has abandoned you and that you’re insignificant, Satan tempts you to “end it all” in order to capture your soul.
Satan quotes Psalm 91:12, too, that says that the angels would “bear you up” on their hands, so that one’s foot would not hit a stone — meaning that Satan was telling Jesus that if He jumped, the angels would immediately come to His aid and His foot wouldn’t even hit the stones. Jesus responds with words from Deuteronomy 6:16:
16 “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah. (Deuteronomy 6:16)
The original context of Jesus’ response to Satan adds a few words that Jesus does not quote: “as you tested Him at Massah.” What happened at Massah, exactly? The answer is found in Exodus 17:
Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink.2 Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” 3 But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me.” 5 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us, or not?” (Exodus 17:1-7)
Massah was the place where the Israelites tested the Lord because they wondered whether or not the Lord was among them, whether or not His presence was with them. They had no need to wonder about His presence, though, since He had been a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21; Nehemiah 9:12, 19), had given them manna from heaven, did not let their clothes and shoes wear out for 40 years, etc. The Lord had been with Israel, as they had witnessed His presence at the Red Sea when the Lord opened the Sea and drowned Pharaoh’s army. And here in the wilderness, because there was no water, they complained and asked “Is the Lord among us, or not?” Despite the Lord’s presence with them in everything, they questioned the Lord at Massah because there was no water available.
Jesus, at this temptation with Satan, passes the test. He, being the New Israel, does the exact opposite of what Israel does in the wilderness: He doesn’t tempt the Lord God and quotes Scripture to ward off Satan. Satan tells Jesus to throw Himself off the temple to provoke God to show up with His angels, but Jesus knew who He was and knew that God was with Him. Satan waited for the wrong time to test Jesus, considering that He had been with the Spirit and fasting for 40 days. Who would have been more aware of God’s presence than Jesus, who had been with the Lord for 40 days? Satan assumed that Jesus would be easy pickings after those 40 days, but Jesus was strong in who He was as well as His awareness of God’s presence.
What happens in suicide is that individuals considering the act tell themselves that the situation is impossible. The Israelites in the wilderness told themselves that the Lord had brought them in the wilderness so that they would die. After all the Lord had done for them, they still lacked faith in Him – and Christians who find themselves in difficult situations can get to a place where they tell themselves that the Lord has abandoned them, forgotten them, and doesn’t care about them. Satan tempts Christians enough as it is, but he takes special pride in helping Christians further spiral into depression and despair.
What the Lord did with Satan was use the Word of God on him. Remember the first temptation, to turn stones into bread? Jesus said that living by physical food wasn’t enough. And in the third temptation, He shows that physical food alone isn’t enough. What Christians need for times of temptation where suicidal thoughts and thoughts of abandonment and depression come is the Word of God. The Lord has already told us in the Word that He would always be with us:
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” 6 so that we confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.
What will man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)
The Word says that the Lord Himself has promised to never leave us, so we have His words to be our guide. Since the Lord talks to us through His Word, and He has promised to always be with us, then we shouldn’t doubt God’s presence, even in situations where it all seems hopeless.
God has also told us that we will have tribulation in this life but that He will bring it to an end someday:
32 Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32-33)
The Lord Jesus tells us in John 16 that we will have tribulation in the world. We will have hardship and face obstacles, and we don’t all face the same ones or share the same circumstances. Yet, regardless of the circumstances we face, the Lord says that we can be encouraged because He has already overcome the world through His death and resurrection. Because Jesus lives, life itself is worth living. As a song I’ve heard all my life says (lyrics recorded here):
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
Life is worth the living just because He lives.
Life is worth living because the Lord lives, because He is with us here on earth and He has promised to prepare a place for us and return for us to take us to that place (John 14:2-3).
The Lord Jesus did not leave us comfortless: He also says that He will send the Holy Spirit to be a helper, to teach and guide the disciples into all truth:
16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. 20 In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”22 Judas (not Iscariot) *said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.
25 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:16-27)
The Lord says in John 14 that not only does He send the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, but that He also gives us His peace. “Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” Jesus says, reminding us that no matter how deep or dark the road ahead may be, the Lord Jesus has said that He is with us, the Holy Spirit is with us, and the Lord has given us His peace to comfort us so that we don’t live in fear or keep trouble in our hearts.
In times of despair, we need to go to the Word of God to find comfort in the Scriptures. As Paul says it best in Romans:
4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
The Scriptures contain accounts of those who have persevered in the faith and have been encouraged by the presence of God in their despair, and these accounts are what we should cling to, what we should look to when we are in despair and can’t seem to see a way out of our troubles. The Scriptures teach encouragement and perseverance, and perseverance is what it takes to run the Christian race and finish the course that has been set before us. We’ve discussed a theology of life, but all of the discussion on the temptation event and Romans 15:4 is setting the pace for a theology of death that we are soon to embark on at the conclusion of this section.
Here at the conclusion of this section on the temptations, I can say confidently that the Lord gives us a model by which to resist Satan when he comes to test us. Right after fasting for 40 days and being in the Spirit, Satan came to tempt Jesus. Know that Satan often strikes after believers have had a high experience with the Lord or when a believer is at his or her weakest point. The Lord Jesus was right about Satan coming to “steal, kill, and destroy.” That’s his role, and he is always on his job. He knows Scripture, reads it as much as anyone else if not more, and knows what our weaknesses are and tries to exploit them to his benefit. What we must do when Satan comes to tempt us is to cling to the Word of God, tell Satan what Scripture says, tell him how much we love the Lord and that we will love the Lord and serve him alone.
And for those who are tempted with suicidal thoughts, these individuals should be reminded in the Word that the Lord has promised to always be with us, to never leave nor forsake us, and that since it is impossible for God to lie, He cannot make a promise that He will not keep. God never makes empty promises. As the prophet Samuel told Saul in his judgment:
the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.” (1 Samuel 15:29)
Other verses attest to the fact that God never lies because it’s impossible for Him to lie:
Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, 2 in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, 3 but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior, (Titus 1:1-3)
God cannot lie. If He says that He will never leave us nor forsake us, then we can trust that He will never leave us nor abandon us and that He can be trusted.
13 For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” 15 And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. 16 For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. 17 In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, (Hebrews 6:13-19)
It is impossible for God to lie; He made a promise to Abraham and fulfilled the promise. God desired to show Abraham that He hadn’t changed His purpose and gave Him an oath so that, since He cannot lie, we would “have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18). Since the Lord fulfilled the promise He made to Abraham, we can have hope and be encouraged that the Lord will fulfill the promise of eternal life. We have taken refuge in Christ, we have made the Lord our strong tower, our hiding place, and we can rest in His care, knowing that He will take care of us and, while not removing our circumstances, will see us through them.
I’ll share a poem that has been given to me down through the years, a poem that I pray becomes a dear source of encouragement for you and those you know and love:
One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”
As can be seen from the poem, the person saw one set of footprints and assumed that God had deserted him. What he didn’t know was that God hadn’t deserted him, but carried him, through his hardships and trials. That is the same thing the Lord does for us. Satan’s job is to get us to believe that God has deserted us: “If God was with you, then He’d do this and that.” But the Lord has already proven He’s with us: He so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that we could have eternal life (John 3:16), He took our sins upon Himself so that we could become righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21), He has given us the Holy Spirit as our Counselor, and Jesus is our Advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1-2). Not only has He given us these things, but He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46); He is our shepherd who gives us everything we need (see Psalm 23), and He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
Additionally, the Lord has revealed Himself in both nature and Scripture. Psalm 19 tells us that “the heavens declare the glory of God,” and the Law of the Lord is pure, reviving the soul. You may ask, “How can I know that God is with me?” As I type this, the sun is shining outside my door and it’s 9:25AM in the morning. The fact that the sun is shining is God’s way of blessing the just as well as the unjust, the believing as well as the unbelieving (Matthew 5:45), and the rains that water the earth are a sign of His presence, too. And if He didn’t spare sending Jesus to die for us, then what good thing will He withhold from His children?
Romans 8 is a good reminder that despite our suffering, the Lord is with us, that nothing can separate us from the love of God if we believe in Jesus, that God is there no matter what, and that our suffering is only for a short while because the Lord is working all events in our lives (both good and bad) together for our good. I highly encourage you to read it now.
After you’ve read it, let’s go to the part 9: Peter and Judas, A Comparison
An Introduction to the History of Satan
1. Satan as Dragon and Angel
2. Satan as Serpent and Tempter
3. Satan in Zechariah and Isaiah
4. Satan and Judas
5. Judas and the Doctrine of Apostasy
6. Judas and Suicide
7. Theology of Life and Death
8. Satan, Jesus, and Temptation
9. Peter and Judas, A Comparison
10. Satan in Jesus’ Ministry