Monday, July 9, 2012

Matthew 4

     Before Jesus begins his ministry in Galilee, there is a time of sorting and testing. The three temptations are both unique to Jesus and common to all of us.
     "Turn these stones into bread." This is the temptation for Jesus to use his special miraculous abilities on himself rather than for the purpose for which he came. I am not tempted to turn stones into bread (although on occasion I have turned bread into stones). I cannot do this. However, the underlying temptation is the same. Every day, ever moment I face the decision to use my position, my experience, my status, my abilities, my education for my own self satisfaction or to use them in service for others. Jesus refuses the temptation and so should we. To quote Peter Parker's Uncle Ben, "with great power comes great responsibility." Or, John Dickson "humility is choosing to use what power we have in the service of others." Jesus was humble (in the Dickson sense) and he had great power. Rather than use his power to satisfy his own needs he keeps them for others.
     "Jump down from the pinnacle of the temple and the angels will rescue you." Here, it should be noted, the evil one quotes the Bible. Just because someone quotes the Bible does not mean they get it. The temptation here, as I have always understood it, is the temptation to put on a great show rather than to do the hard work of ministry. Jesus refuses for the very reason that you and I should. The work of discipleship has no short cuts. Drawing a crowd is not necessarily drawing a congregation. Jesus refuses by saying one should not put the Lord your God to the test. I have often wondered, is he saying "don't test whether or not God will send the angels" or is he saying "do not tempt me, the Lord your God?" It is probably right either way.
     "I will give you all the kingdoms of the world IF you will fall down and worship me." Apart from arguing whether the kingdoms of the world are actually the evil one's to give away, this is, at its heart a temptation to take a short cut and compromise. Jesus will be King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Philippians 2 tells us that "at the name of Jesus every knee will bow . . ." But for Jesus to attain the crown of glory he must be obedient to his Father's will. That is to say, in order for him to attain the Crown he must first endure the Cross. How many times in your life have you been tempted to take a short cut, to take the easy way, to use the escape hatch rather than working through the hard part and winning through to the end? How many times have we worshiped at alters that were less than the Lord God Creator of the universe? Every time we bow down to something less that the Ultimate we are surrendering to the purposes of the evil one.
     The rest of the chapter is Jesus beginning his public ministry: 1) he moves from Nazareth to Capernaum (13) he begins to preach "repent for the kingdom of the heavens is at hand!" 2) he calls his first followers: Peter, Andrew, James and John. (The words: "Follow Me" were the invitation from any Rabbi to a potential student and carried the weighty assumption that said: I see in you the ability to become who and what I am.)

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