Satan's empty bag of tricks

Luke 4:13-20

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me."

4 13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him [Jesus] until an opportune time.

14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. 15 He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
   because he has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
   and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19   to proclaim the year of the Lord"s favor."

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.

Week 2 (January)

Satan had temporarily reached the bottom of his bag of tricks. Every avenue of attack he'd tried on Jesus had been thwarted. His demonic attempts to foil divine plans had been frustrated.

Jesus had turned aside every temptation. The lure to satisfy natural bodily desires by wrong means? Resisted.

The appeal of doing the dramatic even though that meant altering the divine plan? Rejected.

The temptation to take the shortcut, to manipulate the divine will? Cold-shouldered.

Powerful temptations flooding in one after another.

Satan, of course, had had lots of practice. He had successfully trapped Adam and Eve in Eden, Moses at Horeb, and David on his rooftop terrace. The Amalekite spoils had been used to bring down Saul. The Old Testament is filled with the accounts of those Satan had successfully broken.

Now he brought all of that cunning and experience to bear on Jesus. But Jesus stood his ground.

And suddenly, Satan was out of ideas. There was nothing else he could think of to do with this 30-year-old carpenter from Nazareth. In the scorching dryness of the wilderness, Hell had exhausted itself.

So Satan left. Temporarily to be sure, but he was gone. And although he did return, perhaps often, to tempt Jesus, the Gospels tell us that Jesus was always victorious.

The writer of the Hebrews sums up what all this can mean for us: Our high priest tasted all, and in a way that every one of us can identify with.

Jesus can identify with me, the PK (preacher's kid), and He can identify with my friend Ron Williams, who came to Christ from a "pagan" environment.

Roman Catholics often pray to deceased persons believing that these "saints" have special access to God. These saints supposedly form a kind of bridge between God and humanity. They can identify with their fellow human beings and yet they have an "in" with God because they were extra good or holy people on earth.

That idea is a travesty on Luke's powerful account of Christ in the wilderness! This "one go-between for God and human beings" tasted all.1 Therefore I don't need a back-door approach to God. Christ, the God-man, can identify with me, and I with Him.

Sometimes we say of each other: "Well, you don't understand. You've never gone through anything like this." With Jesus, there need be no fear of misunderstanding.

And in the face of temptation, I can't really improve on the defense Jesus used in the wilderness. To achieve victory over Satan, Jesus quoted scripture. And what a power the Word of God demonstrated!

During a period of religious intolerance in Florence, Italy, four hundred years ago, some Bibles were confiscated by the authorities. To keep these Bibles from trickling out into circulation before being destroyed, they were locked in an empty prison cell to await a bonfire.

What a graphic testimony of that Book's power! The authorities were so respectful of its power that they locked it up in jail!

This same power is available to us. And Christ stands ready through His Holy Spirit to give us all the aid necessary so that Satan will arrive at the bottom of his bag of tricks and come up empty-handed against us... and we'll still be there standing erect. Bloodied from the battle perhaps, but unbowed.

11 Timothy 2:5, New International Reader's Version

I wrote this meditation while Barbara and I were serving as missionaries in Italy. It originally appeared in the Standard, a weekly take-home curriculum piece for the Faith Connections adult Sunday school curriculum published by The Foundry.

    -- Howard Culbertson,

Discussion questions

  1. How did Jesus resist the temptations of Satan in the wilderness? What can we learn from His example as it is decribed in Luke 4:13-20k?
  2. Why can the idea of praying to deceased persons as intermediaries between God and man be considered a travesty?
  3. How does the power of the Word of God, as demonstrated by Jesus quoting scripture in the face of temptation, apply to our lives today?
  4. In what ways can we rely on Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit to aid us in resisting the temptations of Satan and standing firm in our faith, even in the midst of challenges and trials?

You might also like these

Other devotional articles:    Year-long series in Standard     Reflections with illustrations from ham radio     Are you ready for Christmas?    Come Ye Apart     Devotions about pastors

Rookie Notebook: Our first nine months as missionaries in Italy    10/40 Window map and explanation     Seeking God's will?     African martyr's commitment     Mission trip fundraising     Ten ways to ruin your mission trip    Nazarene Missions International resources