In Eat this Book, Eugene Peterson teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. This passage tells the story of how Jesus was tested as he began living out his calling in ministry.
MATTHEW 4: 1-11; ENCOUNTERING TEMPTATION
“Then the Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness so that the devil might tempt him. After Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was starving. The tempter came to him and said, “Since you are God’s Son, command these stones to become bread.” Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread, but by every word spoken by God.”
After that the devil brought him into the holy city and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down; for it is written, I will command my angels concerning you, and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.” Jesus replied, “Again it’s written, Don’t test the Lord your God.”
Then the devil brought him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said, “I’ll give you all these if you bow down and worship me.” Jesus responded, “Go away, Satan, because it’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”
The devil left him, and angels came and took care of him.”
The story of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness is very familiar to many of us. Here are a few gems we may not have noticed in this story before, a testament to the Holy Spirit’s eagerness to reveal new layers in a scripture passage if we are open to being surprised.
- Jesus doesn’t “overcome” temptation; he trusts God to deliver him from temptation. We aren’t to “push through” our to temptations; we are to be dependent on God. As David Lose says in the Working Preacher website, “Jesus knows who he is by remembering whose he is.”
- This wilderness time is not a one-time ordeal that Jesus must get through so that he can show that he is ready to begin his ministry; it is a glimpse into what kind of experiences he will face during his ministry.
- Jesus experiences everything that we will encounter. “No place is so desolate, so distant, or so challenging that Jesus has not already been there; no test or temptation is so great that Jesus has not already overcome it” (Audrey West, Working Preacher, March 5, 2017)
- The message from Matthew is not “resist temptation” but to take a closer look at it, think about it, and figure out just what are those things that lead us astray.
- This passage raises questions for our daily life. How do we live in faithfulness and obedience in a world in which the devil is so obviously active?
♥ Today’s politically charged atmosphere “tempts” us to lose our tempers, our compassion, our grace. The next time you are in this situation, don’t act reflexively. Stop! Think about why you are upset. What is keeping you from a Christ-like response (fear, judgmentalism, anxiety)? That is your temptation. How will you deal with it?
♥ Audrey West suggests that if we read through the book of Matthew we will find Jesus experiencing the same kind of temptations as he did in the wilderness.
[They are replayed] in his encounters with persons who are sick, hungry or in need; with persons who use their connections to power (including, perhaps, the lawyers, Pharisees and Sadducees who test him in various ways (Matt 16:1; 19:3; 22:18, 35) to ascertain his loyalty; with persons who too easily worry about the world’s assessment of greatness rather than God’s (including some of his own disciples (Matt 18:1-5). (Working Preacher, March 5, 2017)
Read the Scripture passages she suggests and see how Jesus’ wilderness experience prepares him to deal with encounters in his ministry. How can we use our temptations to learn from and prepare us for our future encounters? When does doing the will of God require going beyond our own self interests?
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“Perhaps faith, doesn’t do away with the hardships that are part and parcel of this life, but rather gives us the courage to stand amid them, not simply surviving but actually flourishing in and through Jesus, the one who was tempted as we are and thereby knows our struggles first hand. This same Jesus now invites us to find both hope and courage in the God who named not only him, but all of us, beloved children so that we, also, might discover who we are be recalling whose we are” (David Lose, in Working Preacher, March 13, 2o11).
“Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness reveals that these temptations are a part of what it means to be the beloved of God. And, what are these temptations? To satisfy your own hungers when millions go hungry. To insist that God’s loyalty and promises need to be tested on a regular basis. To choose the power that the world values over obedience to God. It may very well be that Lent’s true temptation is to ignore by what Jesus really was tempted” (Karoline Lewis, Working Preacher, Feb. 26, 2017).
For another look at Temptation of Jesus passage, go to an earlier post that focuses on Jesus’ leadership style.