The Temptations in the Wilderness

Gospel Reading:

New International Version (NIV)

Luke 4

Jesus Is Tested in the Wilderness

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted[a] by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’[b]

5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’[c]

9 The devil led him 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. 10 For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you

to guard you carefully;

11 they will lift you up in their hands,

so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[d]

12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[e]

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


THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Suggested list of hymns and songs

Yield not to temptation

Jump up and down

Any kind of weather

Lord reign in me

Be still

You shall go out

May the Father of love (Northumberland Community)

Where do I go from here. See (music link and scores)

Forty days and forty nights

O Lord and Father of mankind

Lead us heavenly Father lead us

O the love of my Lord is the essence

Father hear the prayer we offer

Be Thou my vision

Introduction to drama

In our bible reading today, we’ll find Jesus at the beginning of his ministry, seeking God’s will alone, for 40 days in the desert. It is here that negative thoughts come rushing in…when Jesus was at his lowest point; when he was tired, hungry, thirsty, hot and cold…he was tempted three times...but even though he was tempted, he kept ‘on the right track’ for God



The forty days of Lent remind us of the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness.

Let me tell you the story of what happened.

(Ask for two volunteers, male and female, one of whom is very young and the other of more mature years. The contrast in size can be very amusing. Give the younger one the choice of whether they want to be Jesus or the Devil. Dress the ‘devil’ up using horns and mask. They are then invited to act out in mime, the story as I tell it, and they are invited to repeat the character’s main words should they wish to. (Another child can act as the Spirit of God, and blow Jesus into the desert. Props; a stone, bread)

The Drama Story: (Narrator speaks)

Jesus was driven by the Spirit of God into the desert. (Spirit blows)

And there the devil tried to tempt him. He handed Jesus a stone, and said to him:-

‘If you really ARE the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’

Jesus turned his back on the devil, shook his head and said, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God!’

The devil said, ‘DRAT!’ (snaps fingers downwards)

So next he took Jesus up to a high place, (use a chair) and pointed and said, ‘All this land, all these towns, all these people I will give to you…if you fall down and worship me!’

Jesus turned his back on the devil and said, ‘It is written , “You shall worship God and God alone!” (points up to heaven)

The devil said ,’DRAT! (snaps fingers downwards)

So instead he took Jesus to the highest part of the temple, (use another chair or part of stage) and he said to him, ‘If you really ARE the Son of God, throw yourself down, and God’s angels will catch you! (points downwards to floor, and cradles arms)

Jesus turned his back on the devil and said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test!’

The devil said, ‘DRAT!’ (snaps fingers downwards) and he left him alone, and angels came to him and ministered to him.

(c) Sheila Hamil

First Address

These same temptations can come to us today, just like those directed at Jesus.

The first temptation…to use gifts in a wrong way, to show off and be proud. To use what God has given for ourselves alone, and not to make anyone else happy.

The second temptation…. to run after power, money, possessions, glory, fame.

The third temptation ….to be destructive, to be reckless, to be rash and impulsive, e.g. ‘Go on do it now!’ ‘Say what you think!’ ‘Do whoever you like!’ Don’t even think, just do it. It doesn’t matter who gets hurt!’

If this is the kind of world we build around ourselves, our world won’t be a very happy place to be.

Like Jesus we must pay attention to God’s word, and do what it says.

Intro: I wonder if Jesus found it hard to be a good, and shine and be a light in the darkness. I wonder if he found it hard to enter a world that seemed to be going crazy, with so much war, and dishonesty and HYPOCRISY. (There’s a big word) means…

Hypocrisy is doing one thing while saying that another should be done. Pretending to be good, when you’re not really! Play acting. It’s lying. Jesus was forever telling the holy people of his day, they were Hypocrites.

Do you think the world is the same today?

I think it would have been a lot worse, had Jesus not come to shine his light and show us the way.

All-Age involvement: Temptation Role Play. . .

Confession: (I recall a time when I was tempted)

One little elastic band was all it took for me to succumb to temptation. One paltry little band of rubber, that would help me keep my long flowing locks in order, No-one would miss it! Surely, it wasn't all that important to anyone in that house, but it meant a great deal to me. I needed it.

I was hiding under my friend's table at the time, playing hide-and-seek. No-one would see me taking it, but it’s strange, I had a sense that what I was doing was wrong, even at that early age.

Whoever had mislaid it, could not even have noticed losing it, or it wouldn't be under the table where I was crawling. Also I had a handy pocket, where I could hide it, and no-one would know it was there.

And so, at a very young age, I ventured on to the slippery slide of that theft. The experience of this theft has remained in my memory all my life.

I remember coming out from under that table all wide eyed and guilty, hoping no-one would see the see the shame written all over my face.

What I did was wrong, but I could justify my actions and give many reasons as to why that band actually was better off in my hands than in anyone else's. I mean it was their fault after all, not looking after it, leaving it there uncared for in the first place.

Had it been a five pound note or a jewelled necklace, I would have handed it over, and said 'Look what I've found under your table'. I'm sure I would, because I was a good girl; after all I went to Sunday school and church.

But one little rubber band got the better of me, I NEEDED IT! I mean, come on?

NOW: I’m going to ask for some volunteers: Two teams of three people, various ages, (including children) one group are the little devils, the others the little angels. Anyone can speak out or they can elect a main speaker! The Narrator sits on a chair between the two groups.


I have here my elastic band, the little devils on one shoulder persuading me to take it, and the little angels helping me to see what I really should do.

DRAMA: The elastic band

Opening words . . . ’ WOW JUST LOOK AT THAT ELASTIC BAND! Groups now ad lib and give voice to the above scene of temptations. . .e.g.

Devils: ‘No-one will miss this little elastic band!

Angels: “But surely it’s wrong to take anything that doesn’t belong to you! “ etc., they continue to argue!

Ask everyone, ‘Which passage from scripture could have helped me fight off that temptation, and helped me to do the right thing?’

‘You shalt not steal!’ (Exodus 20.15)

Put to death what belongs to your earthly nature...greed etc, which is idolatry… (Colossians 3.5)

But we have to read our bibles to understand what it says, don’t we?

(3 role play challenges follow this one)

Role Play proper

Exercise 1 Using one’s power or gifts unwisely, selfishly, wrongly.

Set the scene

You are an artist, there’s no doubt about the talent you possess in drawing all kinds of things e.g. colourful animals, people, still life, cartoons, lettering. In fact you have a special pen in your pocket right now, which is a permanent writer. So whatever you happen to draw with this pen, will be almost impossible to remove without a lot of effort. It’s then that you see a nice freshly painted wall, it would be ideal for you to practice on, and no-one is around…


Role play follows

Ask everyone? ‘Which passage of scripture might help this artist to use skills wisely?’

* ‘Whatever gift, then use it for the common good! Romans 12. 6-8

But we have to read our bibles to know what it says, don’t we?

Exercise 2 Covetousness

Set the scene

You run a really good household, and you are a jolly good mother and wife, however, today you are feeling very low, as your next door neighbour has just shown you her brand new kitchen with its non slam mechanism drawers, rotating units, waste disposal unit and thermostatic taps. It is the epitome of visual inspiration! What are you thinking right now?


Role play follows here

Which passage of scripture might help this mother make her mind up?

‘Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have’ (Hebrews 13.5)

‘…our desire is not that others should be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality!’ (2 Corinthians 8.13)

But we have to read our bibles to know what it says, don’t we?

Exercise 3 Taking big risks…

Set the scene

Little Nemo is looking out at a vast deep ocean for the first time. His school friends dare him to swim out to a boat not all that far away. He is scared, cos his dad has told him never to do anything as dangerous as this.


Role play follows here

Which passage of scripture might help this mother make him mind up?

Children obey your parents, for this is right. (Ephesians 6) or

Honour your father and your mother, that all may go well with you and you may enjoy long life on earth. (Deuteronomy 5.16)

But we have to read our bibles to know what it says, don’t we?

We so much need the help of Jesus, to remind us of what God has said will bring us life and joy!

He must be our king, the Lord of our lives, if a king commands us, we must do as he asks.)

Children’s activity:

Hand out a long thin piece of card and small packs of coloured pencils, and see if the children can draw a series of pictures/ or cartoon drawings which tell the story of one of the following:

1 The Temptations in the Wilderness.(Jesus and the devil)

2 A temptation that I once faced.

Second Address. (Why not make a card or cardboard signpost? As a visual aid)

I have a question for you

Question: You are travelling along a country road, when you come to a junction. The signpost is lying on the ground, someone has pulled it out and thrown it down, and you don’t know which of the four roads ahead to take. What can you do to know without a shadow of doubt, which road to take?

Answer: Put the signpost back into the ground, with the place you have just come from in the correct position! Then the others will be in the right place too.

In our gospel reading today. . .

  1. Jesus knew where he had come from….he had been sent to the world from God the Father.

  2. There was a road ahead that he had to take, in order to save God’s people from their sin and their sickness.

  3. The temptations in the desert were diversions, just like those three wrong roads, that the devil wanted him to take. One was to put HIS will before GOD’S and his gifts to wrong use. One would give him great POWER and prestige. One was to make him take RISKS and TEST GOD.

  4. But because Jesus knew where he had come from, he knew what he had to do, he knew the right road he must take. He also knew at the end of it, he would face pain and suffering.

All temptations are ingenious, tailor made for each one of us, giving immediate benefits, with no regard for the long term consequences.

All temptations seem to zoom in on our own particular weaknesses. Jesus was human as well as divine, so he was no exception! He was tempted in every way that we are today, only he did not sin.

I want to tell you a story today, which is very like the one about Jesus temptations in the wilderness. (It’s about modern man & woman in that same wilderness) Let us see if we can see ourselves there?

I want to show you that today’s temptations are very like the ones that were put to Jesus himself!

Short illustration

Once upon a time modern man (or woman, when I say he, I mean ‘or she’) went straight from a time of real faith and trust in God, right slap bang, into a tunnel of misery and despair. He began to have real doubts, he couldn’t eat very well, couldn’t sleep. His mind was confused, and his body not at full strength.

It was then at his most vulnerable strange thoughts came to his mind.

If you are a committed Christian, then how could you….

If you were a good son, you would…

If you are a good parent , then you certainly would…

If you care about your work as much as you say then don’t you think you…

If your marriage was really a success wouldn’t you…

‘BESIDES’ the thoughts continued…’you are talented, use your gifts to benefit yourself, not others …make money, become successful, well known, get recognition for all you do! Have a bit of praise and glory! Think of the fame! You’ll be a celebrity!

“No” said the man, “I may fall short in many things, I may sometimes think myself a little too important, but I aim to press on, and win the prize for which Christ Jesus called me heavenwards!” (Phil 3.14)

Then he suddenly found himself caught up in a dream. It was filled with all things splendid and luxurious.

He saw a magnificent house, so much better than his own, and a brand new top of the range car, decked out with the all the latest creative technology. He saw vintage wines, and happy hour bars, a banquet of sumptuous food, with all he could eat at a fixed price. He saw many promotions ahead, and much higher salaries. He saw vast lands to purchase, and oil to possess, and gold and diamonds and wealth in abundance, brand new weaponry, a nuclear arsenal all in pursuit of power and greed… …. but at the back of his mind he knew that this could only be achieved at great distress to other people

“No” man said, of course it’s natural and right to want to be loved and respected, to desire happiness, adventure, security and excitement, but these can all be achieved by seeking God’s kingdom first, and his right way of living. Happiness is not achieved with material things” (Matthew 6.33)

Then he was whisked away to a high point, so he could see far into the realms of his own imagination…and there he saw a large web of intrigue and great risk.

There lying available and free, were substances to enhance his life and take his mind off all his worries, with a quick fix here and a quick sniff there.

He saw intoxicating liquids to soothe him and drown his troubles and take away his stress, with a little sip here and a wee drop there..

He was shown ways of obtaining things ‘accidentally’ acquired and not quite above board, with a little dip here, and a pocketful there…a little bet here and a big flutter there.. a little compromise of standards here and a little bit of dishonesty there.

Then he was stirred in his emotions, and could visualize such excitement and variety being added to his life . . . with a little fling here and a little flirt there.

And he was reassured that all would be well, he would never become ensnared. All could be done in secret, and he would never ever be discovered, and no-one at all would ever be hurt!

“No” said the man, “ I must be controlled and alert because the devil is like a prowling lion, looking for someone to eat up! I must resist him. ” (1 Peter 5.8)

When all these visions had past, he was left feeling exhausted, and for a while was left in peace.

Real questions for us all this morning. Hold up your card signpost.

  1. We already know where we have come from, but where are we going? Do we know?

  2. Is there something specific that God is calling us to do? Some new road ahead that we are being asked to take?

  3. Has God already asked something of us, and have we let that vision fall by the wayside?

  4. Are we seeking God’s will in our lives? Are we seeking His will in prayer?

  5. Which wrong roads are tempting us at present? Can we be restored to the right road ahead?

It is not wrong to be tempted. To be tempted is not to sin.

But if we dwell upon a particular temptation or entertain it, it can lead us into sin.

An old Chinese proverb says:- (9)

“We cannot avoid birds flying round in our heads- but we need not let them make a nest in our hair.”

If we DO sin, we must repent.

Repent is not a negative word. It means a turn about to go in the right direction.

Third Address

I know of a painting called 'Checkmate' The artist painted a chessboard depicting a game in progress. Seated at one side of the board, is a young man with a look of desperation on his face. Across from him there sits Satan, leering sadistically.

The game is over and Satan has won. The young man had been checkmated!

According to the story, a certain man returned to the museum day after day. He would stand for hours before that painting studying it in great detail.

Finally, one day, he let out a shout.

'It's NOT checkmate! It's NOT checkmate!

Soon a crowd gathered to see what the commotion was all about. Excitedly he told them,

'I'm a chessmaster. I've studied this painting for days now, and if the young man moves this piece to that square, he escapes checkmate!

So, one day you realise that you too find yourself in checkmate. You have been sorely tempted, and you have succumbed to that elastic band in your life, and you feel trapped.

Your life's a mess as a result!

With cunning cruelty the devil suggest that God has given up on you, washed his hands of you, that he wants nothing more to do with you.

From where you sit it looks like checkmate for sure!

Left to our own devices, it is over. But it doesn't have to be.

The eternal chess master-Jesus Christ- can turn the situation around, He will make a way of escape for us if we will call upon him. It gives him great pleasure to spoil the enemy's plans.

For this purpose the Son of God came into the world, that He might destroy the works of the devil' (I John 3:8)

Jesus IS the way, he is the truth. He is life, abundant life. He is the signpost! He is the way or the road! He is the best way to live a full life!

Let us picture ourselves in this next song, at those cross roads, picking up that signpost on the ground, putting it back into place.

Let us consider what our wrong roads are, whatever they be, and turn to face in the right direction; repenting, turning around until we’re back on the road God wants us to take.

Song from or Youtube link to download

Where do I go from here? What will I do with my life?

What will be asked of me? For I fear tomorrow

I am the way,(I am searching) I am the truth, (Searching for the truth)

I am the life(Where are you?) Turn to me

Yes I am brave in a crowd, yet I am crying out loud

Deep down inside I'm alone, and I fear tomorrow (Chorus)

Can you be speaking to me? How can this possibly be?

I am beginning to see, You in my tomorrow….

You are the way, ( Come and rest in me) You are the truth,( Now you've found me) You are the life, (Put your trust in me) and I come to you.

Prayers to follow