Gospel Text:Matthew 4:1-11 (NIV)
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written,’You shall 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 glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Some thoughts on Temptation and the First day of Class
It is the first day of class. We have heard various rumors or information about what the class is like and especially what the professor is like. Is the professor mean, scary or nice? How do they teach? What are their expectations? However, you do not really know until you actually meet the professor. As you begin to dialogue with the professor you get a better idea of who they are and their expectations for you.
The beginning of the Gospel of Matthew is like that first day of class, full of expectation. We hear the story of Jesus’ birth and his genealogy. There are a lot of expectations about who Jesus is. Has he come as a king or a conqueror? No one really knows for sure. But there are expectations.
Jesus is named and claimed as “The Son of God” at his Baptism. He is then lead into the wilderness to be tempted. As Satan begins to tempt and ask questions of Jesus, this is the first time Jesus speaks for himself. The first time Jesus finds his voice and tells us, who he is. This is where we find out if this Jesus, meets are expectations about who God is.
Jesus is no doubt very hungry from fasting. Satan asks him “Turn these stones into bread if you are the Son of God?” He is the Son of God so sure we expect him to be able to do it. But NO! Jesus replies using God’s word “Man is not fed by bread alone but by every word of God” Jesus’ response takes this offer to satisfied physical need and defies our expectation with the promise of something greater. He offers to satisfy our spiritual need.The kind only God can give. Soldiers in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan deal with a variety of needs, physical, emotional and spiritual.
In a recent, article about Army Chaplain Brian Kane. He notes that there were often long lines outside the chapel with those needing prayer, confession, and spiritual guidance. Although overwhelming, he said, “The source of strength comes from knowing that God called me to be a priest and that Jesus promised that he helps us to carry our crosses and do very difficult things.” We often settle for less. For the here and now. For the physical and not the spiritual. However, Jesus offers us more.
Satan then asks, “If you are the Son of God, thrown yourself down for the psalmist says God will save you.” Jesus responds with God’s word again, “Do not test the Lord your God” The Jews were expecting a miracle worker and magician. They wanted signs to prove who he was. Even during his Crucifixion it is echoed. “If you are the Son of God, save yourself.”
Have you ever tried to bargain with God? , “God answer this prayer and I’ll go to church more?” or “If I don’t sin for a week, God will you bless me?” We put conditions on God. God does not want that kind of shallow faith. He wants our obedience. He wants our trust. Trust and faith are given, not bargained for. Trust and faith come with relationship. Joe Kapolyo a Zambian pastor writes “We can trust God for safety as we serve him obediently but, sometimes his will is best fulfilled by having to undergo suffering.” When we put conditions on God we forget about his unconditional grace. A grace so great he went to the cross to show us an example. Not because we asked or deserved it but because he loves us.
Satan then asks his boldest question yet “Look at all the kingdoms of the earth. You can have power over all of these if you just worship me.” The Jews were expecting God to save them and show his mighty hand here on earth. We often expect our politicians to use their power as well. To show a strong arm and make the world they way we want it. Jesus rather forcefully tells him to get lost and with God’s word states, “you shall only worship the Lord your God.” If you know any history at all, you know that great leaders and empires come to power and fall again and again. Jesus rejects the devil’s offer of earthly power. A power that will fade and wither away. Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus offers us something better than we expected, his kingdom, his reign over heaven and earth. One that is eternal. After all Jesus is the Son of God.
I think the hardest part of temptation is choosing whose expectations we will follow. Will it be our peers, our own, the media or our God? When I was younger and did something wrong, I often thought, “My Mom and Dad are going to kill me?” I knew they were not going to actually kill me. But I knew what they expected of me. I knew I had missed the mark. I had let others expectations effect what I did. Jesus being God’s Son knew his father intimately. My parents know me better than anyone else. I want to make them happy and I want to meet their expectations because I love them. I sometimes forget that unlike my human parents, God’s expectations come with grace that is abundant even when I do not measure up.
This however, is not the end of the Jesus story. It is not the last we have seen of Satan. This is still just the first day of class. The beginning. As we get to know Jesus more, I wonder how he is going to change our expectations yet again?