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Behold: The Self-Control of Jesus


Behold: The Self-Control of Jesus

by Jeremy Maker

Many primary and secondary educators are familiar with the phrase “on task,” which simply means staying focused. They know this phrase well because as they hone their craft of teaching, they seek to master the ability to keep students focused on the given assignment or activity. However, a problem exists: students are human. They are easily distracted. Sometimes they lack self-control. The slightest irregularity in the environment – a thrown paper wad, a cell phone ringing, a student with uncontrollable hiccups – can set off a cascade of events that causes the teacher to feel out of control, and like a domino effect, the classroom spirals toward off-task behavior. Do you remember how easy it was for you or your classmates to be off task? 

Luke 4 records the familiar events of Jesus experiencing and overcoming three temptations. While they are not the only times Jesus was tempted, they are unique in providing transparent details. Let us observe the inspiring scene. 

First, notice that Jesus was tempted (v.2). That means you are not alone. Shout it from the rooftops - the Savior understands the same temptations of which you are embarrassed and ashamed! Hebrews 4:15 makes it clear – “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” When you are in the tempest of temptation, understand you have a living refuge who knows right where you are. 

Second, the roots of these temptations are the same roots for when we are tempted. 1 John 2:16 explains these roots – “all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life[c]—is not from the Father but is from the world.” Jesus went without food for forty days. Imagine the physical body’s reaction to that. He was hungry, and the devil knew just when to come. He said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” In other words, Satan was saying, “You have all the power of heavenly royalty behind you. Why don’t you focus on yourself for a moment and turn these stones into bread? You’re hungry, Jesus.” This is an appeal to the desires of the flesh. 

The second temptation appeals to the desire of the eyes.  The devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms that could just be handed over to Him (v. 5) – with no cross. The path of the cross was not an easy one. Remember the agonizing night in the garden before He was apprehended when “His sweat became like drops of blood” (Luke 22:44), and He prayed the words, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.  Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). While viewing all the kingdoms and hearing the devils vow to relinquish his influence on them, that view from the pinnacle without Golgotha in the background would be very desirable to the eyes.

The third temptation appeals to the pride of life. In his deceiving way, the devil twists Psalm 91 (vv. 11-12) out of context and entices Jesus to demonstrate the pride of power by throwing Himself down and allowing angels to lift Him up (vv. 9–11).  How confusing temptation can be when an out-of-context verse appears to support that temptation. 

The root of these temptations are the same roots for when we are tempted, and the inspiring part is that Jesus was victorious. Jesus endured these and all temptations without sin. He did that for us. The devil wanted Jesus to get off-task, and instead of a classroom in chaos, we would have eternity in chaos. But Jesus never forgot His mission. With every adulteress He set free, every leper He healed, and every Lazarus He raised, Jesus remembered that “these are written (purpose) so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). 

So, how did Jesus maintain His self-control? How was He victorious? That is the next inspiring part of the story. With each of these temptations, Jesus found strength in scripture used in proper context. Like a skilled swordsman, He demonstrated for us how the Word of God is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12).  The control with which Jesus used the Sword of the Spirit is evidence that He practiced regularly when no one else was looking. His self-control and on-task behavior in the middle of fierce temptation were the natural results of those moments of self-discipline when He set all else aside and fed Himself on the Word of God. 

Finally, it is inspiring to know that we can be victorious too. 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises it – “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” The existence of an escape route is comforting. The good news is that we can learn the escape routes in advance by choosing in advance, saturating ourselves in the Presence of His Word, and becoming skillful swordsmen. The escape routes will involve crosses of self-denial and self-control. But they will also include grace, mercy, strength, and a compassionate Savior who is touched by our infirmities. 

In the raucous classroom of life, Jesus stayed on task. He kept His focus. He remembered His mission. And He did this so that He could teach us to do the same and help us as an advocate when we fail. If temptation has overtaken you, remember 1 John 2:1 – “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Jesus has the experience.  Let Him help you get back up, stay on task, and renew your focus.