The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Force – rejected! Readings for Sunday, 25 Feb 07

with 4 comments

The 3rd Temptation - NinanSo what’ll it be? What temptation would Satan use to flatten Jesus Christ?

Perhaps we most often think of temptation in terms of sex. Indeed, the popular press is awash with stories from imaginative writers about Jesus and Mary Magdalene. And the Adam-and-Eve story – suppose 9 of 10 of us assume it has something to do with seduction?

But I wonder if sizzly temptations like those would be just silly games when it comes to unhorsing the “Prince of Peace.” They’re nowhere near elemental enough – gut-level enough- for a conflict this sophisticated and unimagineably evil. No. He needs something that slices right up next to the deepest longings of his own human heart.

The temptations of Jesus are about power.

We’ll talk about it Sunday, then post the results here. Here’s the story (and check out the Comments for a little more clue on where I’m going with this):

From the Stories of Jesus: Luke 4
The Temptation of Jesus
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.'”

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'”

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:
” ‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”
Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

From the Letters: Romans 10:8-13
…”The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,”that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

From the Psalms: Psalm 91
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”…

If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge-

then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;

they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.

With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

from the Hebrew Scriptures: Deuteronomy 26:1-11
Firstfruits and Tithes
When you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name and say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the land the LORD swore to our forefathers to give us.” The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the LORD your God. Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, putting us to hard labor. Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, O LORD, have given me.” Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before him. And you and the Levites and the aliens among you shall rejoice in all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

First Sunday in Lent: February 25, 2007
Luke 4:1-13; Romans 10:8b-13; Psalm 91:1-2,9-16; Deuteronomy 26:1-11
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Written by Monte

February 19, 2007 at 7:25 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Sharon, again you amaze me. A comment I read suggested that this narrative was Jesus decided what it meant to be Jesus. And what it meant was that there were means of interacting with people that he would use, and means that he would not.
    And you hit the nail on the head.


    February 23, 2007 at 3:15 pm

  2. Hi M
    Today, I have been reminded just how grateful I am that I have membership in a community of Christ followers. I see again that my membership is more than I realized.

    Thank you Tony for your idea that temptation is just “to divert me (Him) from my (His) course.” Adding, that to “entice us into actions that will make us independent of God, ” brings back the subtle quality of ok-ness in my temptations.

    Thank you M for reminding me that Jesus interacts with his world on his own terms. He does not allow the temptations of the world to dictate terms to him.

    I wanted to wade in and fix someone’s embarrassment, by gossiping. Harmless, really! It would have been just a 1-2 punch that would not have been noticed. I would have earned the gratitude of ……… Ugh!!! Truth would not have been honored.

    It is hard to not say things like Jesus didn’t. I was tempted to step in front of God and use my power to fix by gossip. In my community of followers we have talked about fixing, gossip and the evil within them.

    Why is it so hard to look stupid and un-effective like Jesus? I can just see the title of the workshop now, “How to Look Stupid and Un-effective just like Jesus!” I can think of a couple people who would be qualified to lead such an event!! He he he. ;>)


    February 22, 2007 at 8:32 pm

  3. Thanks, Tony, glad you came by! I’m looking forward to working on this. Couple of thoughts:
    My hunch is that we, true to the nature of our evangelical roots, move quickly to the potential consequences of these temptations vis-a-vis the atonement, and miss a number of other really important things that Jesus demonstrates.
    I mention power because it seems to me that Jesus is demonstrating how he will work and how he will refuse to work as he brings in the Kingdom of God.
    Given Jesus’ passions for the poor, the sick, the oppressed, the 2nd temptation must grip his heart: as instantaneous ruler of the world, he could stop war, stop starvation – things he cares very much about.
    And in the 3rd temptation, he could use miraculous powers to lay down indisputable evidence that he is who he says he is, by jumping from the parapet in plain sight. I think he refuses for the same reason that he shows himself only to his friends after the resurrection – I would have gone to the Sanhedrin and said, “Who’s right now, buddies?”
    And we so often say, “If only God would … then all people would have to agree that Jesus is …”

    Rather than taking control of kingdoms, Jesus plods through backwater Galilee with a handful of unlikely followers. Rather than providing indisputable evidence, Jesus conceals the truth of his stories in parables. How ironic! We who preach struggle to make every word understood – Jesus struggles to conceal what he’s saying from those who aren’t ready to hear it yet.

    We want to force people to agree – to put down Josh McDowell evidence that no one can disagree with, perhaps partly so we can be seen as wise at last.

    But Jesus loves and serves one person at a time, waiting, waiting, waiting for the moments in which people want to know the source of his kindness, fully aware that most around him could not possibly yet understand what he is up to, and fully resolved to let it be so, for now.

    He looks stupid and ineffective to most. And he is OK with that.

    What security he has in his Father! May I be like him!


    February 21, 2007 at 11:52 am

  4. This is a very interesting post, Monte and you make some good points about temptation.

    There were three temptations, represent three different aspects and it is interesting to note that Satan quotes from the scriptures, out of context, to try and tempt Jesus into a course of action. Apart from the many other important reasons for really studying Scripture and knowing it inside out, the fact that Satan has a knowledge of God’s Word, should be an incentive for us and a warning as to some of his tactics.

    The temptations are as you rightly say an appeal to Jesus to use His power. But they are designed to divert Him from His course. To make Him take a diversion, a short cut directly to power; one that would have not taken Him to the cross. Satan repeatedly tries afterwards to prevent Him by human agency via a demonic source.

    Satan cannot create anything, but he can only use what has already been created by God first. The tactics he employs are often extremely subtle, but being a created being, he does have such limitations and in tempting it continues to come back to that same theme time and time again.

    For us, he seeks to warp the truth with everything concerning the tempting certainly stemming from him trying to entice us into actions that will make us independent of God, of being in Christ, independent of Grace, independent of the Cross.

    The original temptation in the Garden of Eden remains the same to this day; it just takes on different shades, versions and colours. He tells us that we can become like God (Genesis 3:5). This is clearly an appeal to take power. The New Age movement is one obvious example and having studied Yoga and Martial Arts and had friends who were into New Age disciplines, the old lie can be see coming through – ‘God is around you, God is in you, you are a god, discover this divine potential in you.’

    Incidentally, Philip Yancey covers the temptations in the desert in his book ‘The Jesus that I never knew’ and the chapter concerned gives some food for thought that helped me to further understand this episode in Jesus’s life and I would recommend anyone to read it.

    Thanks for sharing on this subject.

    God Bless.


    Tony Cooper

    February 21, 2007 at 9:39 am

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