Saturday, April 03, 2010

Having Jesus In Your Heart 7

The next in a series of articles based on the Gospel of Matthew intended to equip us to be better followers of Jesus Christ.

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. Matthew 4:1-11 (ESV)

At this point Jesus is about thirty years old. He had been raised in a proper Jewish home. He must have experienced all the phases and stages of life. Likely He made childhood friends, and then lost them. Likely He knew feast and famine being the son of a tradesman. Likely He knew hard work and the satisfaction of a job well done. Perhaps He experienced the oppression and violence of rule by the Romans. Perhaps He watched as the males of his age rebelled against their parents and the church. Likely He saw sin and apostasy among the people of Nazareth. Maybe He felt the shame of being from a second or third class family in a backwater town.

All this means that, like all people, He could be tempted around food and power and glory. And like many men He could react to dares! This is why the Gospel account is to be taken literally at first. Jesus, the mere mortal, while in the midst of a spiritual retreat in an attempt to center Himself in His new role of public healing and preaching, heard the voices of selfishness, materialism and hedonism. Certainly they were the words of Satan. And certainly, He heard them as his own words of rationalization and justification.

One of the aspects of this story that makes it so wonderful is that we all know He is the Christ, the Son of God! We know that He is about to remember this, and feel again the power to advance his purpose! And indeed, His words demonstrate that He knows He is the Son of God. We anticipate with some glee that Satan is about to get his comeuppance.

Satan, His archenemy, knows all this too. So how can Satan think that anything he might do would be too tough for Jesus to handle? Yet He does think that, for he is as short sighted and stupid as all evil spirits are. Satan comes to Jesus at a weak moment–He has been fasting for forty days! So of course making some bread is tempting. We have all experienced the kind of hunger that even a mere suggestion can send us running to the refrigerator or fast food place. So we can imagine that Jesus might be tempted to use His power to turn rocks into bread. And Jesus knows He can do miracles, so we can imagine that He would be tempted just show up this smart aleck Satan and accept His dare to jump. And, finally, Jesus knows His job is to save the whole human race, so we can imagine that He might think that if He was king of the world He could do a better job of it.

Well, Jesus could do all these things. However, and this is the really important point, using His power to show Satan He can do it would not help Him do the job He had to do. In fact, it might slow Him down.

These are real temptations. And it is good to know how He resists the temptations. He could zap Satan right back to hell. He doesn't because the battle is inside Him, not from Satan. So He uses the weapon He has been taught from childhood to use: Scripture. That is how Jesus, God incarnate, defeats Satan. The lesson for us: The Word can bolster our bravery, it has all the information as to right and wrong, and it has the power to drive away evil spirits. Having it as part of our life gives us an incredible amount of power! And if it was what Jesus used to win in temptation’s battle, it is what we should use too.