Tomorrow morning's sermon, (Part one in a three-part series called "Encounters with Reality") Temptation, is up and ready for a preview. I also posted a condensed version of it on i.ucc in the "Opening the Bible" blog area. Here's the condensed version: (Click on the sermon title for the expanded version)
Update: "Temptation" podcast is, uh, podcasting.
All too often we look for something simple that we can do when we read the Bible. I don’t think the account of the temptation of Jesus from Luke 4:1-13 works that way.
This account isn’t about the exacts. It’s about what is significant about the descriptions. It isn’t about defining what the Holy Spirit does and doesn’t do. It’s about the Holy Spirit’s presence even in the chaos. It isn’t about the scientific certainties. It’s about remembering the past, understanding that Jesus was tested and being challenged to understand more about temptation and what to do about it.
The devil tempted Jesus three times. First he tempted a famished Jesus to turn the stones into bread so he could eat. And Jesus responded with scripture – Deuteronomy 8:3: 'One does not live by bread alone.'
Why wouldn’t he make bread to eat if he could? I think this is the temptation that gives me the most trouble to understand. Some say that if Jesus did use his miracle ability to his own benefit, he would lose his credibility when he asked the disciples to deny themselves and follow him. But we’re not talking about anything extra here – we’re talking about bread for a famished person. What’s wrong with wanting to eat when hungry?My best explanation is that Jesus wasn’t going to do it just because the Devil dared him to do it. He’d eat soon enough.
The other two temptations are easier to understand. The second one, where Jesus was tempted take the easy route to power had an easy answer. Jesus answered with Deuteronomy 13:4: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'
I think the whole reality that Jesus wasn’t here as a political or military leader made this temptation easy to resist. I think it can remind us that attempts to rule politically and militarily by religious means aren’t what God calls us to do.
The third temptation is sort of fun. The Devil twisted scripture to try to get Jesus to hurl himself off the peak of the temple. He quoted from Psalm 91. , 'He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.' And Jesus responded with Deuteronomy 6:16: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'
The devil tempted Jesus by using scripture. He took the Bible and twisted it into something it is not.
I don’t know if these particular temptations are ones that we resonate with. They’re not that clever – and I think we are not easily fooled. But what kinds of things are we tempted by that aren’t so easy to identify?
Here one I can think of:
The temptation to do nothing to care for others because we have so much to do ourselves.
Jesus’ commands to love God and love each other aren’t qualified with “If you have time” or “If it makes you feel better.” They are simple – this is what you do.
The temptation in assuming you have it all figured out.
Bible study, attending church, discussing “God-things” with other people help us to understand things more and more. But as soon as we think we’ve got it all figured out, we lose the blessing of being on a Journey with Jesus. We stop.
I don’t want to stop. I want to continue learning, experiencing and wondering what God will continue to reveal on the journey.
What do you want to do?