Sunday, December 17

How to According to Jesus: The Temptations

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THE TEMPTATIONS

Mark 1: 12-13 

And immediately the spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. And he was there in the desert forty days, tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

Matthew 4: 1-11 ;

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward he was hungry. So when the tempter came to him, he said, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”

But Jesus answered and said, It is written, people do not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Then the devil took Jesus up to the holy city and set him on a pinnacle of the temple. And he said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down because it is written, God shall send angels to protect you — to lift you up with their own hands so you will never so much as dash your foot against a stone. Jesus answered, It is written again. You shall not tempt the Lord your God.

Again the devil took him up to an exceeding high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. And he said,  All these things I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me. But Jesus said,  Away with you, Satan! For it is written you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve. Then the devil left Jesus and angels came and ministered to him.

Luke 4: 1-14 

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where, for forty days, he was tempted by the devil. In all that time he ate nothing and afterward he was hungry.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone be made bread.” Jesus answered, It is written people shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

Then the devil took Jesus up on a mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And he said to Jesus, All this power I will give you, and all this glory, for all this has been given to me and is mine to give to whomever I please. Therefore if you will worship me, it will be yours. But Jesus answered, Get behind me Satan, because it is written you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.

Then the devil brought Jesus to Jerusalem and set him on a pinnacle of the temple and said to him, If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here. Because it is written, God will give his angels charge over you and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you should dash your foot against a stone. And Jesus answered Satan, It is said, you shall not tempt the Lord your God.

And when the devil had ended all these temptations, he left Jesus for a season.  And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. And his fame spread through all the surrounding region.

WHAT IS THIS?

As Matthew and Luke tell us (in essentially the same words), it is the initial confrontation between Jesus and Satan. It’s a face-off between the world’s values and Jesus’s values. Between reliance on material things and things of the spirit. Between triumph by means of dramatic miracles and triumph by means of servanthood and obedience. Between the worship of what is evil and false and the worship of God alone.

WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT JESUS?

That Jesus is not averse to defeating Scripture-quoters with references that deflate falsehood and hypocrisy. That Jesus actually resists temptations, because any one of the options Satan suggests would indeed be tempting to Jesus. That Jesus is serious about the ultimate change the world needs — the rooting out of all that is opposed to obedience to, and trust in, God, the One he calls Abba.

HOW TO … ACCORDING TO JESUS?

Align ourselves with Jesus’s responses to Satan. Sit light to bread in all its meanings. Don’t be glamorized by the feats of stardom and celebrity or the ingenuity of special effects. Turn to Abba at any and all times and worship (ascribe value to) Abba alone.

OTHER ANGLES:

Dostoevsky read this story as Jesus’s condemnation of organized religion.  He argued that the dominant church had capitulated to mystery, miracle and authority as means of controlling the people and removing from them responsibility and therefore freedom. Assuming that Satan’s tempting goes on today, how are the original temptations being manifested in contemporary life and society?

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