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Third & Adams Street, PO Box 9774, Moscow, Idaho USA | (208) 882-3715

Resiatance - July 1, 2018

Matthew 4:1-11

This story comes at the beginning of Jesus' ministry. In the Gospel of Matthew we've heard the story of Jesus' birth, the visit of the magi, the holy family fleeing as refugees to Egypt, and then Jesus as an adult being baptized by his cousin John. And then after the baptism comes this story...Jesus spending 40 days in the desert for fasting and prayer, and then being tempted by the devil.
And one of the things I find most interesting about this passage is that in the first verse it

tells us "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil." Then Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted. I don't know about for you, but for me that kind of gets under my skin. Why did the Spirit want Jesus to be tempted? What would that prove? Is that really how God is? Tempting us? Trying to trick us? Trying for us to mess up? Is that why we pray "lead us not into temptation"? Because God has to be convinced NOT to tempt us? It's kind of disconcerting. At least at first brush.
I had to dig around on that one. Study it some more. Read the passage again and again. Until I found an answer that makes sense to me. You see I don't see God as one who is trying to make us fail, but rather one who is desperate for us to succeed. I think God as a loving parent wants us to be our best self. And so when God sends the Spirit to lead Jesus to this time of testing, I don't think it's a trick where God expects Jesus to fail, but rather an opportunity for Jesus to succeed.
Think about it. At Jesus' baptism the heaven's open up, and a dove comes down and God says, "This is my Son with whom I am well pleased." Jesus is starting out on good footing. And then he spends 40 days fasting and praying. Spending intentional time with God. Building their reliance on each other. Practicing holy listening. Discerning where God would have him go and what God would have him do. Pretty intense discipleship. And then God sends the Spirit to lead Jesus to be tempted. Does it make sense that God would hope Jesus would fail? I mean God has been preparing Jesus for 30 years....Emmanuel....God with us....to save us, redeem us, and clearly convey God's message of love and grace and forgiveness to the world....and we think God expects Jesus to fail? I don't think so. I think God expects Jesus to succeed....and Jesus is fully divine and fully human...he's human like us, which means he's prone to self-doubt like us, which means Jesus needs to know for himself that he can succeed...that he can face temptation and remain faithful, that God will sustain him through all things, that his identity is formed and fueled by God. And to know those things, Jesus has to prove those things....not for God's sake, but for his own. Does that make sense?
Jesus needs to know for himself that he can do all that God has asked of him. Imagine if Jesus had succumbed to the temptation.....God could have redeemed that but Jesus would have had so much guilt and shame to work through...but Jesus chose God again and again. Jesus chose God over physical satisfaction. Jesus chose Godoverpower. Jesus chose God over all the power in the world. He stayed the course and he proved (to himself) that he could do it.
To which we might say, "yay Jesus! Good job buddy, that's why we're here because of you and not because of us!" Which is true, we are here because of him and for him and in order to be more like him. But I don't think this story is here just so we can know Jesus could resist temptation, or that he proved he is the Son of God in these ways, I think it's here for us....to know we can resist temptation, to know we should resist temptation.
We're probably not tempted to turn stones into bread or throw ourselves from the top of hells canyon trusting angels will spare us, and while we might want the world to run a bit differently, most of us aren't really wanting to take charge of it all. But we are tempted to fill the void of self-doubt and emotional pain with earthly things. Food. Drinks. Awards. Success. Work....we all do it....we scramble around grabbing things, trying things, using things believing that somehow that mend the hurt or fill the hole in our lives. It's very tempting to do. Right? But Jesus reminds us not just that we don't live by bread alone, but that the earthly things aren't meant to fill the God-shaped void. No matter how much I drink or eat, or run, or work there will always be a God-spot that can only be filled by God.

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