Jentezen Franklin - Jesus Greatest Temptation
I've often heard, and even your Bible is labeled when you talk about temptation, the great temptation, it's often labeled in the word as being in Matthew 4, when Jesus was in the wilderness. You remember that story, He's beginning his ministry, He was just baptized in the Jordan River. He's led of the Spirit to the wilderness. While He's there, after fasting 40 days and 40 nights, stop. No food for 40 days and 40 nights, not in your house, sleeping in your bed.
I've gone on a few fasts, you've gone on some fasts, but we're talking total food fast. 40 days in the wilderness, particularly the area, those of you who've been to Israel, we've been to that area. You've seen it, down near the Dead Sea. It's barren, it's dry, it's extremely hot, humid. Under those harsh conditions, Jesus fasted and prayed, and at the end of the 40 days, what is called the great temptation, when the Devil shows up in himself, I want to say in the flesh, but he wasn't in the flesh, 'cause he's a spirit. Just like God is a Spirit. And he shows up and he begins to try to tempt Jesus.
He says, "If you're the Son of God, turn these stones into bread". And then he takes Him to the pinnacle of the temple, the temple being 240 feet high, this particular corner that he took Him to. And he said, "Jump," for the scripture said, this is Satan talking, for the scripture says that: "If You would jump, that He'll give His angels charge to keep You," and he added these words: "At all times". Blessed at any time, that's not in the original quote.
See, the Devil knows the Bible, and he will take scriptures and add to 'em or take away from 'em to make you feel justified in anything you want to do. And he said: "At any time". Well, the original text that he's quoting this, Jesus is quoting a scripture from Psalms, and it doesn't say at any time, but that's how the enemy does. That's just a little footnote, and then, this is interesting, then he showed Him all of the kingdoms of the world, Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, and I love what it said: "Taking Him high, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world," look at that: "In a moment".
In other words, the best that Satan has got to offer took one minute to show. But the Bible says of our Heavenly Father: "Of His Kingdom there shall be no end". It's going to take all eternity for us to see the greatness of His Kingdom, but the best the Devil has got can be shown in one moment. Then Jesus resisted the temptation to bow down to the Devil. As a matter of fact, as great as that temptation was, nowhere, we know that the angels came and ministered to Him after that, just like they did in the Garden of Gethesmane, after the temptation, an angel came and ministered to them.
But notice that nowhere did Jesus, when He was facing the Devil in the wilderness, say, "Father, if it's possible, this temptation is so severe, let this cup pass from Me". He never prayed to get out of it, because it was so hard. I'm proposing to you that the temptations in the wilderness was not the greatest temptation that Jesus ever faced. But I believe the greatest temptation that Jesus had was in the text that I read from Matthew 26. He knew that within hours, He would hang naked on a cross, the passerbyers would mock, they would clear their throats, and they would cover Him with their spittle. He knew that the blood would be pouring from His face, and it would be pumping through the holes of His hands, His feet, His side, the scars on His back would be bleeding, He knew what horror was coming within hours, when the guards came to arrest Him in the Garden of Gethesmane.
The Bible said in Hebrews 12:2 that: "For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross, thinking nothing of the shame". "Thinking nothing of the shame". In Gibbons' historical account, the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, he says that a legion in a Roman army was 6.500 soldiers. This is a historian who studied the time of Christ when He lived, and he said a legion of soldiers would be 6.500 soldiers. And when the guards came to arrest Jesus, and Simon Peter cut off a man's ear, and Jesus rebuked him, healed the ear, and then He made this profound statement, and He said: "Don't you know that I could pray to my father right here, right now".
He knew what was about to begin. And in that moment, listen now, when he had greatest justification to back out, the times that we are most vulnerable to temptation, is when we can justify it the best. That, the enemy will send temptation and offer, and dangle that temptation when we, in our own minds, can justify it the easiest. And He said, "Do you not understand that I could right now call for 12 legions of angels," which is 78.000 angels at My instant disposal: "All I have to do is ask the Father".
Now, either He was lying or He wasn't, and He wasn't lying. I could stop this right now, I could say, "Angels, come now", and they would come, and one angel killed 185.000 people in Hezekiah's day, and I'm going to tell you, there's no telling what 78.000 of the most mighty angels in Heaven could do. The single greatest trial was in the Garden, when He had great drops of blood, when His sweat turned to blood, and He said: "If it's possible, Father, let this cup pass from Me," and the Father said, "You can get out of this justifiably. As a matter of fact, I offer You 12 legions of angels to step out of this, and not do it".
The greatest temptation that Jesus ever faced, I believe, was in that moment. When He knew, "I don't have to do this. I've never committed a sin. Nobody would blame Me if I don't do this, but I know My Father wants me to do this, and even though I could justify not doing this, I could come up with plenty of reasons why I would be justified in not resisting this temptation, I'm going to not do it, even though I could justify, because I know that it's a temptation from the enemy".
Our greatest, most deepest temptations come when you feel the most justified. When there's no justification for the temptation, when you know it's absolute black and white and you know exactly that you don't have any justification in doing it, that's one thing, but I believe the greatest temptations the enemy brings in my life and your life is when we can justify doing wrong. It's quiet, but that's good, I'm going somewhere. I'll bring it home, right where you live, in just a minute. But when you could be so justified, listen, when others would pat you on the back and say, "Well done, you did the right thing," but deep in your heart, you know you didn't. When other says, "I don't blame you," when others say, "It's about time you did something. You deserve to do something in that situation". Those are the moments of the greatest temptation. That's when we must be our most careful.
Let me show you what I'm talking about. "Abraham, take your son, your only son, Isaac. Put the wood on his back". 17-years-old, for three days, he carried enough wood to build a massive altar, and a big fire. He carried it on his back. He goes to the top of the mountain and God says, "Kill the boy". Now, he could've justified in that moment, "Wait a minute. You have already said in Your Word to the Moabites that they were cursed for killing their own children, for causing their children to pass through the fire. I know you're not into human sacrifice, therefore I don't have to do this", but he knew that he knew God told him to do it. And he could've justified not doing it, and nobody would've argued with him.
It was a beautiful picture of Jesus hanging on the cross, and dealing with the temptation, and the divinity loved the humanity, the Spirit loved the flesh, and the Father loved His Son, just like Abraham raised the knife, loving his son. He didn't know all of that. He didn't know what God was going to do, but he had to trust God. And the greatest justification of not obeying God is, the greatest temptation is when we have justification that we could say, "I shouldn't believe Him, I shouldn't trust Him. Look at where He's led me to". But that's when you are being tested the greatest. The angels stopped his hand and said, "Now I know that you were willing to do it. You passed the test".
One angel stopped Abraham from killing his son, but 72.000 couldn't stop the Father from allowing His Son to die, for you and for me. I've thought about Joseph. If anybody deserved to get back at somebody and could justify being mad and bitter and unforgiving to somebody, it was Joseph. I mean, you remember the story when his brothers come back. They they come to Egypt and they're in a famine, and they stagger in. They're famished, they're starving to death. They don't know it's Joseph. He's disguised himself, and he calls for them, and when the brothers hear that the mighty assistant king of Egypt, has called them before his throne, this is what the Bible said, one of the boys spoke up and he heard him. Joseph heard him.
One of the brother said, "God is getting us back for what we did to our brother 20 years ago. This is the vengeance of God", and the Bible said, watch, watch, that Joseph got up off of the throne, and walked behind the curtain, and wept bitterly. He was weeping, why was he weeping? I believe the closest that he came, the greatest temptation was when he would've been most justified in paying those brothers back, in giving them what they did to him, just like with you.
The times that you're being tested the most is when you can justify being ugly to somebody. You can justify giving it to 'em as good as they gave it to you. You could justify feeling sorry for yourself and being down and out and hopeless and helpless, because of all the stuff. You could justify being a victim the rest of your life and nobody would blame you. That is the time when you're in the greatest temptation. And if you pass the test, God is going to bless you in ways you never thought of or dreamed of. I promise you, it's just a test. Our greatest temptations, our greatest trials come when we've been provoked the most, when we feel justified in our actions.
David's greatest temptation was not Bathsheba, naked on a roof, taking a bath. That was his greatest weakness, that was his greatest failure, but that was not his greatest temptation. His greatest temptation was when king Saul, who had made his life a living hell, king Saul, the man that he had fought wars for, the man that he had fought a giant for, the man that he had risked his life for, that same man took a javelin and became jealous and tried to kill him, and chased him like a dog, like an animal, until he was homeless, living in a cave, and one day, while Saul was chasing him, he says, "I'm going in this cave," to one of his assistants, and his whole army, he says, "Wait here, I'm going to go in here, and relieve myself".
And he goes in the cave and in the most vulnerable position, guess who's in the shadows of the cave, hiding? David, Abishai, and Joab, two mighty men. One of them killed 800 and the other one killed a giant that had six fingers and six toes. They were both mighty men, not to speak of how mighty David was, he killed Goliath. And the Bible said that Abishai and Joab started whispering in David's ear, listen to the justification. "Kill him. This is the prophecy. God", listen to 'em, "God has", read the story, "God has delivered your enemy into your hand. Kill him, while he's doing his business. Kill him".
Don't you know that was his greatest temptation, because all of Heaven was watching. And he remembered that old dusty scripture that he had put down in him somewhere, from the Old Testament, that said: "Touch not my anointed". "Vengeance is Mine, sayeth the Lord, and I will repay". But I could do it and be justified. I could do it and everybody would clap, and we would have a big party by tonight in Jerusalem. But God said, "Don't touch it. I am the One," two things belong to God, folks. The tithe and vengeance. Both of 'em, He said, "The tithe is Mine, and vengeance is Mine". And in both places, He says, "I will repay," by the way. Press down, shaken together, running over.
If you'll let the Lord fight your battles that you feel justified in giving it as good as they gave you, if you'll let the Lord, He'll give it back, pressed down, shaken, He knows how to get vengeance. He could've killed that man with one swing of the sword and the crown would've been on his head, but David said, "No. No," there's a verse that said: "Touch not my anointed". I can't get it out of my brain, God said, "Don't do it".
God, ladies and gentlemen, checks our heart, our mind, our soul, our spirit. He watches our attitudes. You can fool people, you can disguise bad attitudes and spirits of anger and bitterness with all kinds of spiritual cloaks and all kinds of big sayings, and you know, even quoting scriptures and all kinds, but when you know, God know, God gets down to the needy greedy of our soul. When you could be justified the most, "Well, my wife ain't treating me right. If she is the woman she's supposed to be, I wouldn't be tempted by the girl at the office". No, if you were the man you were supposed to be, it doesn't matter how she treats you. You can't go blaming everything, and here's my point, when you feel justified the most, that's when you're being given your greatest temptation.
"Well, I've been single and I waited and I waited and I waited and I waited, and I feel justified even though he's not saved. She's a heathen". "I gave and nothing good happened, I didn't get a miracle in the mail, so I'm done with tithing". I'm justified, or, "I'm going through hell and I've always been faithful to God, and it feels like the bottom has dropped down. I don't think I'm going to go to church and raise my hands and praise the Lord anymore," and there are some who would tell you, "I don't blame you, honey".
Your greatest temptation will come with your greatest justification, but what you don't see is that the greater the temptation and the greater the justification, if you pass that test, the greater the manifestation of what God will do in your life. I dare you right now to lift your hands and say, "I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise will continually be in my mouth. I'm going to pass this test". I'm almost done. I'm almost done. I'm almost done. You can justify about anything.
Preacher friend of mine, you know him, old preacher. He was with five or six young preachers, they were going on a trip overseas. Actually, they were coming home and they had been away from their wives for about seven days, all of 'em, all these young preachers. Don't matter as much with the old preachers, but the young preachers. Let's keep moving. Thank God. But they said, this is, he said, "Honestly, the most striking, beautiful woman, dressed in an outfit that was extremely tight, walked right on the airplane".
And here's these six young preachers and this old preacher, and here she comes, right down the aisle, number three, or whatever it was on the airplane. All these preachers. Now, I'm going to tell you, I don't care how holy you are, we're not deaf, dumb, and blind. We can see. You know what this old preacher said? He's so wise, I love him. You know what he said? Right as she was walking by and all those guys are just, "Oh my God", he said, "Good job, Jesus". Now, you ought to remember that next time you're tempted to, just take a peek and say, "Good job, Jesus". And turn your face and get your Bible out. Get your Bible out. Ain't going to lie, good job, Jesus. That was worth coming for, just that, right there.
You can justify all kinds of crazy stuff. You can justify getting a divorce, you can justify being bitter and mad and never speaking to people again. You can justify crazy stuff, that don't mean it's right. Your greatest temptations will come when you feel you have the greatest justification. Does this make sense to anybody? You better check yourself. I said you better check yourself.
So what are you justified in right now? What do you feel like you have justification for, right now? And yet, you keep hearing that gnawing little voice of the Holy Spirit, saying, "That's not right". You better listen to that voice. You better forgive, you better release, you better love, you better write it off, you better say, "Vengeance is Mine". You better let it go. You better quit justifying being perpetually depressed and hopeless and defeated.
I don't care what's happened to you, there's nothing that's happened to you that God can't make work out for you, if you'll put it in His hands. Stand to your feet all over the room, and let's praise God, take a praise break, and for the next 30 seconds, lift your hands and open your mouth, and praise God. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. I'd rather please God, I'd rather have Jesus than all the wealth and all the riches, but I'm going to tell you something, God is no man's debtor, and if you give up anything to please Him, He's going to bless you.