What are we to make of this: "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil."
See the difficulty here? Oh, it's not with the wilderness. I'm preaching for the next six weeks on the benefits of wilderness living. It's not with the tempting by the devil. That's his mission, his job, his career.
No, the difficulty is the fact that the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. God led his Son to be tempted.
When Jesus taught us to pray, one of the things he said to say was, "lead us not into temptation."
If being led into temptation is a bad thing, one can rightly ponder the fact that Jesus was led (wrongly?) into temptation.
First, let's get all grammatical here. The sentence actually tells us this: Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness PERIOD. Did the Spirit know that the devil would be there. Absolutely. But did the Spirit in the sentence lead into wilderness and make the temptations happen. No.
Secondly, the prayer line completed is this lead us not into temptation BUT ...
We equate, for many wrong reasons, wilderness with bad things. For Jesus, it was a time of reflection and focus. For us, our wildernesses have the same possibility. Will Satan use wilderness experiences to try and get us to fall apart? Absolutely. But concentrate on how Jesus used the time. He was alone (significant). He fasted (very important). He was tempted and tested (how else could God learn what it was like to be tested as a human?)
This morning, make sure you understand what the writer of the book of James certainly did. God does not tempt. James 1: 13-14 reads, "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed."
It's funny to me that in the NLT at least, temptation is a completely New Testament idea. The word doesn't appear in that translation until Jesus is led into the desert.
The Old Testament? Well, clearly temptation existed, but have you ever wondered why the word doesn't appear in the Ten Commandments? I mean, if it's such a hot commodity ...
The point is this, without temptation, we would have a fairly easy path, and the growth I talked about recently wouldn't happen.
Do I want to be tempted? No. Do I want to grow to where I could take whatever God has for me, even to the point of the cross? Yes. I really do. Because I am not there yet.
Today I pray to be allowed the strength to remember to fight temptation at every turn. Today I pray to be allowed the privilege to fight off temptation as did my Lord in the wilderness. Today I pray for all those who will come across temptation and fall to it. And yes, today I pray lead me not into temptation knowing that the greater words are lead me not into temptation but DELIVER ME FROM EVIL. We pray not for easy lives but for faithful ones.