Thursday, July 7, 2011

dealing with temptation

            Here in Luke 4:1-13, we read the classic story of Jesus’ temptation in the dessert after his baptism. Luke writes that the Holy Spirit leads him into the wilderness and then sustains him there for forty days while he didn’t eat anything.
            So, in setting up the scene, we just get done seeing Jesus baptized and the Holy Spirit descending on him. The story picks up in verse one as Jesus heads away from the Jordan River and into the wilderness by the direction of the Holy Spirit which has just come upon him. Luke jumps right into the meat of the action as Satan appears to Jesus in his hunger and tries to convince him to change a stone into a loaf of bread. Jesus, despite his hunger, says no and cites Old Testament scripture that speaks about the Israelites wandering in the dessert after their exodus from Egypt. In the scripture cited, the author is talking about how God sustained the Israelites by his own power and not by physical bread; this is what Jesus intends to do in his wilderness experience. Satan then tries to tempt Jesus’ humanity with power and respect, offering him all the kingdoms of the world and says “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them…because they are mine to give…if you will worship me.” (v.6-7). Jesus does not refute Satan’s claim of ownership, but instead cites another verse in Deuteronomy prohibiting the worship of any other gods for fear of the true God wiping the blasphemer from the face of the Earth. Lastly, Satan does something drastic and takes Jesus to the highest point of the Temple and dares him to jump and then uses Psalms 91 out of context and says that God will send angels to save him if he jumps. Jesus once again turns to Deuteronomy where it says “you must not test the Lord your God” (v. 12). This verse in the Old Testament refers to the Israelites complaining about their affliction at Massah. The devil then leaves Jesus.
            In this passage we gain several lessons from Jesus in how to deal with extreme temptation making this scripture extremely important for our Christian day-to-day life. First we see how Jesus, even under extreme circumstances, holds his faith in God and obedience to scripture above his own desires. Jesus was every bit as much human as any of us; because of this, his hunger was real, his desire for power and recognition was real and his longing to be glorified was real. He abstains from food so as not to negate the reason he is out in the wilderness by selfishly abusing his supreme power. He then refuses to take the glory of a king above all earthly kings, regardless of how appealing that is to his ego, because the price is too high; namely, worshiping someone other than the true God. In Satan’s last recorded attempt at thwarting Jesus’ righteousness, he dares him to test to see if God is really there. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but Jesus reveals it for the sin that it is. God demands faith and obedience from us and Jesus points that out by citing the verse prohibiting testing God’s faithfulness. This passage also gives us other small insights such as Satan’s ownership of the kingdoms of the world, but the overarching theme in this story is Jesus demonstrating resistance to temptation by way of following the scriptures and staying loyal to God.

            We can apply this to our lives as a template for acting under the pressure of temptation. Jesus leaned on scripture for a route to take when his own flesh told him to do what was wrong. In the same way, when we’re under pressure to do the questionable, we can turn to scripture for black and white direction. As humans, we don’t think clearly when we’re in pressurized situations so we need those instructions in order to stay faithful to God.

            As I read this scripture, I am caught up in the supernatural situations such as Satan showing Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in an instant and Satan zipping Jesus to the top of the Temple which was far from where he was. To me this gives testament to Satan’s power, but also the power of scripture in refuting the illusions of temptation. Sin only has as much power as we allow and Jesus shows us by his actions that, with scripture in hand, head and heart, we don’t have to give sin any power.

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