Monday, June 30, 2014


Jesus, like us, faced temptation. Unlike us, He triumphed over it. As with everything that the Master has done, there is a lot for us to learn from His reactions to the challenges put before Him.

When we think of Christ's temptation, usually our minds are drawn immediately to His temptation in the wilderness. It certainly couldn't have come at a worse time for our Lord. Alone, in the midst of desolation. Hungry. Weak. But the strength of the body was only a fraction of the faculties that Jesus had at His command.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,    and they will lift you up in their hands,    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do 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 splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:1-11 NIV)

Honestly, I've always seen these temptations, or at least the first two, as being pretty weak. The least Satan could have done was tempt Christ with some magic steak, or Chipotle, or something tasty. And how, "If you jump off this building, God might just botch your suicide attempt" even qualifies as a valid temptation has always eluded me. To top it off, he then offers Yahweh Elohim Himself, the great Creator of the universe, the world, which He already owns!

It seems as if Satan has gotten a bit rusty since the temptation of poor Job. Jesus breezes through, with chapter and verse ready at hand.I don't know about you, but by the time of the third temptation, Christ always seemed more annoyed to me than truly swayed by the tempter's appeals.

I think we do ourselves a disservice, however, by reading this passage in isolation. I think we can be deceived by the Gospels' relatively straightforward narrative into missing nuance that we wouldn't in a modern literary work. The secret of the three temptations of Christ is that they were only just to set the stage for what Satan intended to be the knockout blow.

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. (Matthew 16:21-27)
Did it ever seem to you like Jesus has just lost it here? Most commentators, in discussing this verse, will make sure to tell you that this is coming mere minutes after this, Peter's crowning moment in the Gospel:

 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter,and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-19)
Why then is Jesus giving Peter such a hard time? He does it because He was right to, because it was this moment that posed Him (and thus us!) the greatest challenge.The temptation here isn't power, it isn't money, or fame, or magic. It isn't anything out of the ordinary at all - and that's why it's so deadly!

This is the most insidious temptation: to be ordinary, to live a peaceful, normal life. What could be wrong with that? You aren't taking anything away from anyone else, in fact, you're contributing to society! But we must emphasize here Christ's words:

"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me"
Both words in the Bible which we translate as sin (Hebrew חַטָּ֣את and Greek ἁμαρτία) mean to fall short, to miss the mark.It isn't merely about doing something bad, but about failing to become that which God would have us be. Jesus's mission was to become the Suffering Savior of the world. Nothing else, no matter how harmless or unobtrusive, no matter how good, even, would do. 

Christ could feed the world, cure disease, rule with an iron rod and force the world into an unending peace. That wasn't good enough! 

If this scared Christ, it should terrify us. I know, in my own life, that I struggle most of the time to just get by. I'm no hero, I'm no evangelist. Most of the time I fail to even be a decent human being. But the call is to be much more. The temptation to shirk the call is great, to stay behind and bury the past, to keep our hands on the plow, but if we do so, we are not worthy of the Master who went before us. May God, and our brothers, and our sisters, in Heaven and on Earth, help us to follow Him.


  1. Need moar blog posts.

    How do you feel about global warming?

    1. Doesn't exist. Also we don't even fully understand how weather works, so even if it were to exist, how could we negate it. Further, I believe we're between ice ages right now. It might be a GOOD thing if we could warm the world to prevent slipping back into one if those.