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Friday, February 15, 2013

Lent 1: The Temptation of Jesus

Luke 4:1-13

Over the last 2 months since Christmas we have looked at some of the milestones of Jesus’ life......His birth.....His presentation in the Temple when He realized in some unique way that God was His father.......Then His Baptism, when He heard the voice of God saying – ‘My Son’, and at the same time receiving the Holy Spirit.
I would hope that we’ve all had similar milestones:
We were certainly all born.
Hopefully, we've come to the realization that in some special way, God is our Father.
I hope you’ve had the experience of sensing God saying – You are my child, I’m so pleased with you.
I hope you’ve had the experience of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Now we reach another milestone in Jesus' life – this period of Temptation.
Jesus has realized it’s time to begin His ministry, His campaign to save the world.
Before you go on a campaign, your mission, you have to choose your methods.
In our reading today we see Jesus choosing once and for all the method by which He prepared to win people to God.
It shows Him rejecting the way of power and glory and accepting the way of suffering and the cross.

We can mistakenly think that these verses happened in a few moments, or an hour or so, but that would be wrong.
We must realize that Jesus deliberately went to a lonely place and for 40 days, wrestled with the problem of how He would win people.
And this was a long battle which didn’t really cease until the cross.
Notice the story ends with “The devil left him for a while.”

Let's look at these three temptations:

1.    The first temptation was to turn stones into bread. The wilderness is not a desert with sand, it is an arid area with millions of little rocks and stones. Jesus was fasting so… he was hungry.
Jesus had grown up among poor people who were often hungry.
Jesus had power to change stone into bread, didn’t he?

The tempter is saying: If you want people to follow you, use your wonderful powers to provide people with material things, with food, with water, with a  job, with a home. Give them these things, they’ll follow you.
They’ll love you.
He’s really saying “bribe people” into following You.

This is one of two temptations which is a temptation to do good. To get rid of world hunger is a good thing.
You and I have probably often wished Jesus had said yes to this temptation. That we could click our fingers and have a God who provided for our material needs.
But Jesus answers the devil: there’s more to life than just getting your material needs. Life isn’t just about food and water, a job, a house.

William Barclay says, “The task of Christianity is not to produce new conditions. It’s real task is to produce new people, and then the new condition will follow.”

Jesus in a sense was saying: I could miraculously produce food for the people who live on the streets and in the gutters of the world, but I'm rather going to work at producing people in the world who will go out and give food to the people who live on the streets and in the gutters of the world

2.    The 2nd temptation has Jesus seeing the whole civilized world and hearing the devil say, “worship me, and all this will be yours.”
This is the temptation to compromise.
The devil is saying: “I’ve got people in my grip. More of them follow me than will ever follow You. Don’t set your standards so high. Strike a bargain with me. Just compromise a little with evil and people will follow You. Instead of You Jesus, trying to change the people of the world for the next few thousand years, just change yourself, it’ll be much easier. You want to attract people, Jesus, just do things my way.”

It’s so easy to please people by compromising with the standards of the world, isn’t it?

And Jesus answer is “There is only one God and His way.”

3.    The 3rd temptation is to be a worker of wonders, a miracle man. Throw yourself from this building and when people see you float, they’ll love it. They’ll say: “He must be God” .......people just love miracles.
But Jesus won’t primarily be a miracle worker. This is why He often says to people He heals, “don’t tell anyone”. He didn’t want people to follow Him for miracles.

So Jesus was tempted, you and I are too.

What can we learn? I think 3 things:

1st; Notice that all the temptations are aimed at getting Jesus to focus on Himself and His own desires, instead of on the will of God.
But He resists taking the easy way out (we should too). He resists placing Himself at the centre of His world (we should too).
His focus is God’s will and God’s way (ours should be too).

So: don’t focus on yourself.

2nd; Jesus encountered each temptation with a word from Scripture. In faithful hands, the Bible contains all we need to resist the devil.
Imagine how pleased the devil is that so few Christians read the Bible.

So: Read your Bible.

3rd; we learn that Jesus (in the power of the Spirit) resisted temptation. You and I can too.

So: Rely on the Holy Spirit to enable you to resist temptation. 


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