Choosing Against Common Sense


Luke 4: 1-13; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16

“Jesus full of the Holy Spirit returned from the Jordan where his baptism had just taken place and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him….” (Luke 4:1-2)

The Temptations:

1. Command the stone to become a loaf of bread (Lk.4:3-4)- (cf Dt. 8:1-3)

2. Worship me and I will grant the control of all the kingdoms of the world (Lk.4:5-8) -(cf 1 Jn. 5:19)

3. Throw yourself from here, for he will rescue you according to his word (Lk.4:9-12)- (cf. Ps. 911-2; 9-16) .

*Satan can only suggest, the action is yours, temptation is not a sin by itself until we act on them.

Having not eaten for forty days, it makes perfect sense to make bread out of a stone particularly if you have the power to do so after all would God want his son to starve? Jesus needed to act to provide for his own personal needs so the devil thought. He presented Jesus with an opportunity to prove himself as God’s son an opportunity that could have had serious consequences for Jesus and his mission. Could hunger although a legitimate reason lead Jesus to show mistrust of his father? Luke tells us that Jesus turned the challenge down by referring to an old story in Dt. 8:1-3.

Worship me and I will grant the control of all the kingdoms of the world (5-8) -( cf.1 Jn. 5:19)

The devil moved to another area to test Jesus. He enticed him with power and authority offering him the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would worship him. Jesus knew full well that the kingdoms of the world would become the kingdom of God and his Messiah. So, he could have jumped at this offer after all his people would be free from the Roman occupation in an instant and he would become a hero and a true Messiah for his people. They surely would recognize him as the new Moses who came to liberate them from Rome’s crushing rule and restore God’s rein once for all. Once again Jesus rejected the offer knowing full well that all that was his but the way to attaining them was through suffering and death and not through a short cut, which would have proven deadly.

Throw yourself from here, for he will rescue you according to his word (Lk.4:9-12)

In oder not to be left behind or depicted as ignorant of God’s word, the devil shifted his tactics and said to Jesus, “it is written, “He will give his angels charge over you, and on their hands they will hold you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:11-12). Here the devil dared Jesus to trust God’s promises. Trusting God’s promises is not easy when faced with enticing alternatives. Jumping from the pinnacle of the temple would be a spectacular show of rescue that would go along way to prove that he is indeed the high priest.

Satan dangled to Jesus the collective Messianic hopes, and by doing so brought them to consciousness as options to be chosen rather than fate to be accepted (Walter Wink). When Jesus tested his own sense of calling against what was being offered to him by the devil, they did not fit. Jesus could perceive them not to be what was proceeding out of the mouth of God. Satan offered him, in short, not outright evils but the highest goods known to Israel.

Jesus was to be the Mosaic prophet, Priestly king, and Davidic king. All these were images of redemption, which Israel believed God had given them in scripture (the church has given Jesus all those title, prophet, Priest and king). The devil normally does not come to us with crazy unreasonable things; he offers us the good instead of the best. He puts the question at the leading edge of possibility and what he suggests in many cases makes perfect sense.

As C.S. Lewis once said, only the person who never yielded to temptation knows the full strength of temptation. Jesus never wavered. The devil threw everything he had at Jesus, took all his best shots, but Jesus never fell. Jesus is the only realist, Lewis said, because he alone knows the full fury of temptation. Because of that Jesus knows better than anybody how much strength we need. And so, by his Holy Spirit, he gives it.

Amen!

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