Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. [Luke 4:1-2a (NLT)]
We must not count temptation a strange thing. “The disciple is not greater than his master, nor the servant than his lord.” If Satan came to Christ, he will also come to Christians. [J.C. Ryle]
One of my favorite trails is an old tram road through a maple-cypress swamp. After a short walk on a crushed shell path and a boardwalk, we come to a slightly raised grassy trail originally used for logging. It is on this narrow path, with water on both sides of it, that we frequently encounter an alligator sunning himself on the trail! Since it’s a swamp, we should expect gators, snakes, raccoons, otters, and birds but seeing an alligator directly in our path is disconcerting. More alarming, however, was when I stepped out of the car at another park and found an alligator sunning himself just a few feet away from my feet! A gator in the swamp should be expected but one in the picnic area is an unpleasant surprise (as are the alligators that occasionally move into the lake by our home or rest amid the flowers at the botanic garden).
Following his baptism, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. Had He been led to a pagan temple or the 1st century equivalent of a bar or gentleman’s club, Satan’s presence could be expected but you’d think the wilderness would be a temptation-free zone. Perhaps that’s why the Spirit specifically led Him there to be tempted—it’s a vivid reminder that we don’t have to be where we don’t belong or doing what we shouldn’t be doing to have Satan come looking for us. Going where the Spirit leads is no guarantee that Satan won’t try to follow. Like alligators, he’s no respecter of boundaries and will show up where least expected.
In various mythologies, evil supernatural beings like vampires can’t enter your house unless they’re invited inside. Make no mistake about it, Satan doesn’t wait for an invitation and he’ll show up when and where we least expect him. Eve didn’t ask that serpent into the garden nor did the naïve woman expect the evil one to lie. But, he lied to her, he lied to Jesus, and he’ll lie to us.
Here in Florida, we don’t have to be walking in a swamp to encounter danger; wherever there’s brackish or fresh water, alligators should be expected. Whether or not we see them, they’re there. The same can be said for Satan—he’s lurking somewhere near and we don’t have to be in the equivalent of a swamp. Satan and alligators are opportunistic and both will quickly lunge at prey should the opportunity arise. The gator’s preferred method of hunting, however, is to patiently stalk his prey, silently sneak up, and then attack. Satan works much the same way. We must walk cautiously whether in a swamp or a garden because no place is truly safe. When we happen upon a gator, we keep our distance, turn around, and go the other way. When we encounter Satan, with the power of the Holy Spirit, like Jesus, we’ll stand our ground, rest on the Word of God, and send him packing.
As the most dangerous winds may enter at little openings, so the devil never enters more dangerously than by little unobserved incidents, which seem to be nothing, yet insensibly open the heart to great temptations. [John Wesley]