On most Sundays, I publish a brief Sunday Lesson. It’s nothing more than an observation or an idea or useful application from something I’m studying. I feel deeply blessed and deeply responsible for writing this. I schedule the posts to publish at 1:35. Don’t worry about the time: you can sign up to receive a notification any time I publish something. I’m up for all comments and try to respond to them all. Be forewarned that I reserve Sundays for my family. It’s a work in progress, but a goal we’re all growing into. So, if I don’t respond, I’m probably playing chess with my daughter or watching lousy TV with my wife. On an outstanding day, I might catch a couple innings of Braves baseball. With my wife, of course. It’s Sunday.
***Of all the things recorded in scripture, this certainly lends weight to the idea that Jesus was fully human. He’s been in one of his favorite places – alone on the desert – for forty days fasting and praying while Satan temps Him. (How is it that we think we can get by with a ten-minute quiet time?) When the forty days are up, Satan gives it his last, best shot.
If you are Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.I note two things here. First, and most obvious, is that Satan temps Jesus to fill his belly. But, why is this a temptation? Why is it a temptation to eat or to do anything else that we’re made to do? This is only the first salvo, though, and Jesus knows where this is going and fends off the temptation with a pertinent word from the Law:
Scripture says: Human beings live not on bread alone.He doesn’t say He’s not hungry or that Satan can take the bread and stick it where the sun don’t shine. That might have been the response Satan expected. Secondly, more important I think, at least for me, is that Satan tempts Jesus to prove Himself. My ESV notes that Satan temps Jesus to use his power to fulfill His desires, but I think that misses the mark. I think Satan is challenging Jesus to a match of dueling banjos. ‘It’s said that you’re god, the messiah, and that you mean to put me out of business. Prove it. Take this hunk of basalt and turn it into a loaf of bread. We’ll go from there. But Jesus doesn’t need to prove Himself. He doesn’t need to say anything to Satan. Neither should we. Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No and make your way through enemy territory with the map of scripture. So, Jesus isn’t playing and Matthew makes Him sound a little grumpy with the tempter. Satan, gloating, seems ready to get to the bottom of the matter and present the deal: He presents all the nations of the world to Jesus, maybe all past and all present, saying,
I will give you all this power and their splendor, for it has been handed over to me, for me to give it to anyone I choose. Do homage, then, to me, and it shall all be yours.If Jesus wants to play with Scripture, Satan will do the same. ‘Okay, he says, ‘if you want to play with the truth, how about this? This has all been handed over to me. You can have it – that’s what you’re here for, right? – if you bow down before me.’ Satan trips over his own self-worth, but Jesus already knows the outcome of the scenario. But, for a teachable moment, He gives an answer that speaks to believers in all ages, when Satan keeps coming:
Scripture says you must do homage to the Lord your God, him alone you must serve.Again, Satan asks Jesus to prove and glorify himself, appearing to make the same mistake humans everywhere make when they assume everyone else acts and feels just like they do. Satan assumes or taunts that Jesus wants the same glory and honor that he does, but Jesus doesn’t seek it, He is it. Taking him to the top of the temple, Satan urges him to jump.
Show me who you are, he says. G will surely save you.But Jesus knows who he is, and who Satan is, and knows that the father will save him. But Jesus knows something that Satan doesn’t: He didn’t come to the earth to show that he is G, that the Father will keep him safe, or to glorify Himself. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and show humanity what life in the Father looks like. Jesus gets monotonous here:
Scripture says do not put the Lord your god to the test.Bored, Satan slinks off, seeing that he has lost this match. We, however, can glean much from the exchange: 1. Jesus elevates the knowledge of scripture and a relationship with the father above all else. We are wise to do the same. Memorize and meditate on scripture. Pray often. Look for guidance from the Spirit. 2. Jesus doesn’t argue about his human needs. He doesn’t say He’s not hungry. Satan assumes his human needs will take precedence. He still assumes that, and, for me, it’s mostly true. Pray that you learn to recognize the primacy of the spirit. 3. Jesus refuses to prove himself, even in the face of his enemy. He is the author of all history and knows where this ends up. Three simple admonitions from Jesus that take a lifetime to learn… (A parenthetical side note: Jesus could have easily said, “Begone, Satan! It’s not yet me time!” In fact, He said those exact same words much more softly in another circumstance to someone else with a very different outcome…food for thought.)
***By way of explanation, I label myself as an agnostic Christian. I attend a Southern Baptist church and am comfortable with Roman Catholic and Orthodox theology and all kinds of Protestant thought. For Bibles, I generally use the Jerusalem Bible, the English Standard Version, and the Amplified Bible. A favorite verse is Micah 6:8 where the prophet says:
G has already told you what is right and what to do: do what is right, love loyalty, and walk humbly with G.