SATAN’S EFFORT TO SPLIT THE TRINITY
By: Frank G. Tunstall, D. Min.
“Jesus, being “full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River and was led by the Spirit into the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry” (Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1-2).
Satan’s goal after Jesus’ baptism was to penetrate the relationship between Jesus, His Father, and the Holy Spirit, and create a split in the Trinity. Satan’s strategy was to attack first at the point of Jesus’ hunger that showed His true humanity, the very compelling desire of His stomach for food. The devil said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3-4). The insinuation was Jesus’ Father was heartless for providing no bread for Him for forty days. So, Jesus, you don’t need to wait on your Father any longer. You have the power. “Tell this stone to become bread.”
Hungry though Jesus was, He answered Satan, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3). Acute hunger did not break the bond in the Trinity and create a split.
This second temptation appealed to what Satan hoped would be lust in Jesus’ eyes, thus creating a desire outside of the Father’s plan for Him.
“The devil then led Jesus up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So, if you worship me, it will all be yours’” (Luke 4:5-7; Deuteronomy 6:16). Any one of these would have created the split.
- Could the Son of man be motivated to look at that offer and take a short cut that would give His allegiance to the devil, and avoid the cross?
- Would Jesus blend ambition with impatience, and reach out for a quicker universal reign?
- Would the Lord forego the guidance and timing of His Father and the Holy Spirit?
- Would Jesus give trust and worship to the very devil He saw fall from heaven like lightning? (Luke 10:18).
Jesus answered the devil, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only'” (Luke 4:8; Deuteronomy 6:13).
Clearly, the devil’s offer in this second temptation was built on a lie. Satan did not have the power to give all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus. How many people through the centuries have fallen for that brazen untruth. The Prophet Daniel said, “The Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Daniel 4:17, KJV). Interestingly, Jesus did not get into an argument with the devil. Positively quoting the Word of God was all that was necessary to vanquish the fiend who for millennia had been the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10).
For the third temptation, the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem “and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone'” (Luke 4:9-11; Psalm 91:11-12).
The temptation here was an effort to appeal to pride. Jesus, you do not have to wait on your Father to tell you everything to do. Take pride in your own sharp mind and your own power. You can jump and have no fear of falling. Your Father will command His angels to catch you.
But that would have been presumption – testing God.
“Jesus answered Satan, ‘It is said: Do not put the Lord your God to the test'” (Luke 4:12; Exodus 17:2; Deuteronomy 6:13, 16; 8:3, 16).
No question about it. God will provide and protect when it is His command. But God is to be trusted and believed, not tempted and experimented with.
In the wilderness temptation, Jesus proved Himself to be the last Adam, a life-giving Spirit, who was tempted like we are, but without sin. (Hebrews 4:15; I Corinthians 15:45).The bond in the Trinity had held.
Dear reader, do not miss that the temptations Satan used against Jesus in the wilderness are the same temptations he employed against Adam and Eve in Eden, and he uses them to this day:
- The lust of the flesh (the tree was good for food – why would God not give them His most special tree that had such pleasing aroma and was obviously so tasty – the tree of life?
- The lust of the eyes (the tree was also pleasant to their vision – why would God withhold such beauty from them); and
- The pride of life (the tree would make them even wiser – they would become god’s themselves, and certainly wiser than what had been God’s plan for them).
- The first Adam failed the test, and the results for mankind have been devastating ever since (see Genesis 3).
Satan also used these same temptations against the people of Israel in the wilderness; Moses recognized them for what they are and the damage they cause (Exodus 17:2; Deuteronomy 8:3; 6:16; 6:13). As for Moses, he saw the invisible, and did not buckle. This certainly opens a whole new window on the relationship of Moses as the friend of God who persevered by seeing Him who is invisible (Hebrews 11:27).
Our Messiah triumphed. There would never be the need for a third Adam. It meant the bond between Jesus, His Father, and the Holy Spirit held firmly. The path was open for Jesus, the Messiah slain from the foundation of the world, to become in human history the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (Revelation 13:8; John 1:29, 36).
We should not forget, however, that Satan left Jesus only for a season (Luke 4:13).
Jesus’ return home to Nazareth to share the good news.
When the temptation ended, angels came and fed Jesus (Matthew 4:11). The angel food gave Him such strength He headed back “to Galilee in the power of the Spirit,” and news about Him began to spread (Luke 4:14). Angels had fed Elijah too, and the tired and distraught prophet was refreshed in his energy to complete his walk to Mt. Sinai (1 Kings 19:7-8). With Jesus, he had the energy to make the long journey to Galilee and on to Nazareth, probably more than 70 miles, and except for the angel food, He had not eaten for forty days. That was a miracle all its own.
When He arrived in Nazareth, He went to the synagogue, picked up the scroll, and made the big announcement:
“The Spirit of the Lord [the Holy Spirit] is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”[Jesus] “closed the book, gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, ‘This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears’” (Luke 4:18-21; Isaiah 61:1-2, KJV).
David’s greater Son and Israel’s Messiah was on the scene and moving into action.
Jesus, however, did not get a hero’s welcome as Nazareth’s favorite son. Instead raw rejection awaited Him. The Lord knew it was coming; His eyes were open. Temptation, pain, contradiction, and suffering awaited Him at Nazareth, and hounded His trail at the bend in every road ahead.
Jesus said to His hometown folk:
“Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country.’” And he said, ‘Verily I say unto you, ‘No prophet is accepted in his home town….’” (Luke 4:23-24, KJV).
Jesus won a great victory in the wilderness. Then He went to His hometown to let them be the first to get the big news. Jesus also made Isaiah’s prophecy His own in His hometown synagogue, but His own people coldly rejected Him. However, Jesus knew foreigners would open their hearts to Him, and widows and lepers would be some of His earliest followers.
“All they in the synagogue were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he, passing through the midst of them, went his way (Luke 4:28-30, KJV).
The Road to Calvary
Messiah’s long march to Calvary had begun, but Jesus was not alone. He had been filled with the Holy Spirit without measure. The bond had held in the wilderness and continued to hold in His home town. But the worst suffering was still ahead. Would it create a crack in the Godhead?
The devil hounded Jesus all the way to Golgotha, trying to force Him to make a mistake, any mistake, even a tiny one. The path was paved with the sharp briars of hate that ultimately evolved into the crown of thorns that so dishonored His divine royalty. Yes, to save the world required Jesus’ death on a bloody, brutal cross.
Please don’t miss it, dear reader. Satan was at Golgotha too, pushing evil people to mock and gloat: “He saved others, but He can’t save Himself. If you’re the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:42; Mark 15:30; Luke 23:35)
In history’s most brutal injustice, Satan appealed to Jesus’ flesh. If there was any evil in Jesus’ body, the cross would surely bring it out. He appealed to Jesus’ eyes to see if there was any thought in Jesus’ heart wishing He had taken a shortcut. Satan also appealed to the pride of life at Calvary: Jesus you don’t have to take this. If you’re the Son of God, COME DOWN!
I have wondered when did the devil know he had lost for good? It is my opinion Satan recognized it when it became evident the cross could not be made painful enough to make Jesus stop His sacrifice as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8).
The mocking and gloating finally stopped. Then, one of the two thieves cried out to Jesus for mercy. The commanding centurion also “praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man’” (Luke 23:47). I think the devil dropped his head in hopeless defeat and walked away.
The unity in the Trinity held at Calvary too, without even a crack, and it meant Jesus’ resurrection was a certainty.
It is finished, the battle is over.
It is finished, there’ll be no more war.
It is finished, the end of the conflict.
It is finished, and Jesus is Lord.
By Gloria Gaither