Day 270 “Nuances of Temptation” Luke 3 – 4:13
September 27, 2021, 11:59 AM

Day 270 “Nuances of Temptation” Luke 3 – 4:13

Christianity certainly didn’t start politely, did it? John the Baptist, fulfilling his father Zechariah’s song, emerges from the wilderness as a prophet, preparing the way of the LORD, which is, of course, The Way of Jesus.  Note all those names leading up to John’s arrival on the scene—these are all names that place John, and then Jesus, in a particular and identifiable time in history.

From that place in history, from the swirl of DNA that has created all of us, Johns the Baptist and Jesus, who are the same age, and who are both born with God’s mission embedded deeply into their spirits, appear on the historical scene at the same time, John quoting from the book of Isaiah as he preached repentance from sin in preparation for the work God is going to do, and Jesus, waiting on line with all the others,  being quietly baptized by John, well, except for that voice from heaven claiming Jesus as the Son of God.

That phrase leads directly into the genealogy—don’t miss this—from God, at Jesus’s baptism,  proclaiming him the Son of God all the way down through the list of names until we end with the definition of who Jesus is—Son of Adam (son of mankind) and Son of God, equally human and divine. There is a bookending of that phrase, Son of God, for it will be the aspect of Jesus that both saves the world, and yet causes his own death.

Our commentator today for the contemplation is again Eugene Peterson, and I seem to resonate with his observations, although I find him a bit judgmental at times. But then I wonder if I don’t need just a smidge of judgment in my life in order to see myself more clearly. You know how news anchors can use cameras that blur the edges of their faces so they are in a soft focus that is kinder to aging (I always think of news anchor Diane Sawyer when I picture this—most of you probably don’t even know who she is anymore!!). Pushing back against something helps me define who I want to be, and to see more clearly who I am.

But wait—that’s exactly what happened to Jesus! He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, maybe the same wilderness that John had just come from, and he was faced with temptations that he spoke against, temptation to power, to authority and to miraculous works. Satan wants to catch Jesus off his game, but Jesus is just warming up. However, it can be very powerful to do what Jesus was called to do—to face off against something that challenges us, to meet the devil head on in order to grow the spiritual musculature that we need to stay the course of our faith. The two most powerful words in the world are ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Both of those words can bring us out into the depths of difficulty when living the life of a Christian in the world.

Jesus never had to say ‘no’. He simply quoted scriptures to Satan in order to keep him at bay. For some reason, I never even picture Jesus being truly challenged by Satan, but I noticed something different this time. First the devil simply appeared and tempted Jesus with a miraculous work—turn this stone into bread. But the next two temptations involve Satan taking Jesus somewhere, and Jesus goes! Isn’t it funny that I never noticed this before? Jesus allows Satan to lead him to a high place in order to see all the kingdoms, and Satan placed Jesus on the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem—oh to have been in Jerusalem that day, and to look up at the Temple, squinting against the sun to see…a man? Two men? Two men having an archetypal battle of will and wisdom at a place where it was nearly impossible for any human to climb. What was that like, I wonder.

Jesus allowed Satan to pluck hm from the wilderness and to place him in all these locations, and with resolve and knowledge of the scriptures, he refuses Satan’s offerings. And much as I said before, pushing back against something helps us understand who we are and what we will have to face. Jesus, as he begins his public ministry, has seen the obstacles in large scale that will be thrown in his path, and in the pathways of his disciples. Jesus will never fail these tests. The disciples will fail over and over again, but they will learn along the way who they are, and whose they are. They will learn who they serve, and how hard the battle against self and Satan can be, but they will begin to choose God’s ways over their own instincts. They will earn their bread and their ‘power’ the hard way by following Jesus to the cross, and by picking up their own along the way, they will gain compassion and patience, and they will learn to see the world with the eyes of Jesus. And not one step of that journey was easy.

What the disciples had to learn, and what we do as well, is to counter the assumptions in the world that Eugene Peterson speaks of at the end of our reading—that we are all born basically good and innocent and we just have to make a few good choices to become good people. Jesus’s standards for us are higher than ‘good’, but we need not worry about becoming perfect. That is saved for Jesus alone. But on the Way of Jesus, we all face our own temptations, our own struggles of good and evil in our lives, and we need to name it when we see it or we run the risk of letting unnamed evil rule the day because no one is willing to fight against it.

John the Baptist is already in prison for fighting against evil as we end this chapter. Jesus has fought and is just beginning his own public ministry, a ministry which will do battle on a daily basis with evil. And Satan slinks away in the very last verses, waiting for a more opportune time to confront and tempt Jesus. But as he waits, Satan continues his work of chaos, confusion, destruction, distortion and temptation as he plays with the hearts of you and me, as he tries to get us to switch teams and follow his ways rather than The Way of Jesus. Somebody needs to tell Satan—Jesus already won the match, title and trophy, and we’re staying on his hometown, heaven-bound team. No temptation will ever be worth giving that up.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,


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