During the last three and a half years of his time on Earth, Jesus was given access to God’s power to a greater extent than any other human being before him.
He could heal sicknesses and injuries, disabilities and mental illnesses.
He could produce enormous quantities of food from nothing.
He could even raise dead people back to life.
He had overwhelming compassion for the suffering of men, women and children he came into contact with, and was always willing to help them.
Yet there were times when Jesus refused to use the power he’d been given.
He used it for two reasons: to show love and care to people who trusted him and to provide evidence that he was uniquely qualified to communicate a message on God’s behalf.
He never used it to make his own life easier.
The New Testament records of his life give us examples of when he was tempted to do that.
When he first received God’s power he spent a considerable amount of time alone praying and ritually fasting (going without food) to prepare himself for what lay ahead.
Matthew’s record of Jesus’ life describes it like this:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:1-11)
During this time Jesus was tempted in three ways.
First, to use God’s power to produce some food to satisfy his hunger.
Second, to use God’s power to perform an undeniable public miracle so that everyone would have to believe in him.
Third, to use God’s power to overcome the military and political powers of the known world and set himself up as a ruler in God’s name.
Jesus refused to do any of those things. Why? Because they were primarily temptations to make his own life easier.
Providing himself with food would have satisfied his body’s cravings but reduced the effectiveness of his ritual preparation.
Performing a huge public miracle would have convinced the people he was sent by God but that didn’t mean the people would have listened to what he actually said or changed their hearts accordingly.
Overcoming the world powers would have got rid of a lot of evil and suffering in the world but it would also have destroyed any hope for us of an even better world to come in the future, since that required Jesus to die as a sacrifice first.
Jesus always kept his focus on those two things: first, preparing people’s hearts and minds for the new world to come; and second, showing them an example of love and care and self-sacrifice so that they would be inspired to change.
As Christians today we don’t have access to the sort of power Jesus did, but we have all been given other things by God, whether money or ability or time or energy or relationships. We are all able to apply these to the same priorities in life that Jesus did.
First, doing anything we can to teach people about the new world to come and what life with Jesus will be like.
Second, doing anything we can to show the same sort of love and self-sacrifice that Jesus did.
We won’t achieve those things nearly to the same extent that he did and there will be many times when even the best of us fail, but if we admit our mistakes and try to change for the better then God will forgive us because of Jesus’ sacrificial death.