1. Many years ago when I was a student minister, I visited a poor family in the rural church I was serving. I came in and sat at the large kitchen table and as I sat there came out bread, jam, butter and tea. We talked a lot and they said they had few visitors but it was great that I came to see them. They shared a simple fare but I felt it was amazing hospitality. This first story of Jesus temptations is to do with bread. How much bread do we really need? How much food do we need to sustain us?
Jesus went to the desert to get away from the distractions of the towns he was in and his own family. He was led by the Spirit and had fasted for over a month. Anyone coming along with the promise of food would be welcome. The tempter should have been in advertising –they seem to know what we need before we think of buying it. And we know stuff piles up all the time as we give in to and then we realize what are we going to do with it? Jesus spoke back to the tempter and said that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God! I must have been hard for him after his long fasting to turn down the promise of fresh bread and perhaps some wine in this lonely place where he was wrestling with what his ministry was going to be.
We have our Lenten journey before us- are we to give in to many temptations that in our culture to acquire, to possess and to enhance our life style?
Jesus 2nd temptation
This was a strange one to jump off the top of the temple and be supported by angels- well we are awash with people trying magician stuff for the celebrity of it- you have heard of those churches in the southern states that bring poisons snakes into the church to handle them and use a bible verse to say that they cannot hurt you as God protects them from harm. These dangerous foolish attempts are as foolish to Jesus as standing on the highest point of the temple and using a bible verse to prove that he would not be hurt by jumping off – as wizards with corporate power promise that they can be trusted with shareholders money and customers safety. Any car recalls lately! Jesus dismisses the tempter with a simple phrase, “you shall not test the Lord your God.”
Extravagant claims are often made about God’s activity in the world often a result of an over fevered mind. Again simplicity, compassion, forgiveness, generosity and hospitality are the hallmarks of the Spiritual life.
Jesus 3rd temptation
The tempter made the last temptation the most difficult to turn down- It was to become one of the world’s greatest emperors ruling lands as far from what the eye can see. In Victorian times it was popular to contrast two young men who changed the world– one, of course, was Jesus the other was Alexander the Great. They both died at 30 but left a mark on the world. Alexander was a violent warrior prince who spread Greek culture far and wide and does have cities named after him and is still known and has movies made about him. In contrast Jesus is known as the prince of peace worthy of praise.
Jesus was not born a noble in a palace but the son of a carpenter and mother who believed in social justice. He never lifted a sword, he more often spoke softly and taught the ways of God, the ways of right relations, compassion and justice fired his followers; his power was in weakness and love for the world and everything in it including people who were different than he.
Jesus knew the life of a ruler in his time usually meant wars and dynastic struggles. This had little to do with God’s prophetic word to the world and even today this happens people try to fix things they favour and miss the justice calling out to them from the poor. Christian taking part in civic affairs even arriving at the leadership of some counties and cities do not often do the obvious just policies. Trying to be a tyrant of any stripe in the home or in the land Jesus knew that that is worshipping the tempter not God.
Away with you, Satan he said, worship your God only!
Then the tempter leaves and angels come to care for him –this is a fitting end to the lessons since we can be assured of angels helping us on our Lenten journey.
In our time we need to seek a simple renewal that helps ourselves and help us to converse with our neighbours in ways we hear from them. Still in our time we have artists and others who speak passionately about the way of life which is fairer kinder and more just. And as modern Christians we can join them in raising issues but we can also pray and meditate for courage in this time of lent to walk with Jesus on the road to Jerusalem.
PrayerCome to us loving God and help us as we faced temptations in living inthis society. Help us to be simple as we lay down our burdens and focus on our Lenten Journey as we consider our forgiving, healing, hospitable saviour