Last week in chapter 3 we read how John the Baptist called people to repent (turn from every thing in life that hindered them from becoming the people God made them to be) and to receive baptism (change their hearts and lives, accepting God's kingdom life). We then read how Jesus (who had no need for repentance), too, was baptized to demonstrate His alignment with God's kingdom life and to receive God's claim as His Son, chosen and marked by God's love.
How interesting, then, after having read about Jesus receiving the same baptism as the rest of us and learning about His human genealogy, that we find ourselves in the opening verses of chapter 4 reading about Jesus' temptation...something we humans understand far too well. It called to mind these lyrics from a great worship song called Lead Me To The Cross:
"You were as I, tempted and tried...human."
Fred Craddock rightly states in his Interpretation commentary:
"Being committed to the way of God in the world does not exempt one from the struggle. In fact, it is those who are most engaged in the way of God who seem to experience most intensely the opposition of evil. If Jesus struggled, who is exempt?"Of course, the answer to Craddock's question is, "No one." We all struggle and temptation is something that never goes away; especially when you consider that our strongest temptations are to do things within our power, rather than things we are unable to do. Look at how the devil tempted Jesus:
- The devil said to him, "Since you are God's Son, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." (Lk 4:3, CEB)
- The devil said, "I will give you this whole domain and the glory of all these kingdoms. It’s been entrusted to me and I can give it to anyone I want. Therefore, if you will worship me, it will all be yours."(Lk 4:6-7, CEB)
- The devil brought him into Jerusalem and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, "Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down from here; for it’s written: He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone." (Lk 4:9-11, CEB)
Something else that struck me about this passage and Jesus' temptation was its conclusion. Both the NRSV and the CEB refer to Jesus having finished "every" test and the MSG says the Jesus "completed the testing." I suppose this could mean simply that Jesus successfully completed the three temptations mentioned. (It is worth pausing here to note that Craddock postulates that the first temptation was personal/social, the second was political, and the third was religious.) But, the connotation of "every temptation" has led me to wonder, "Is it possible that during His 40 days in the wilderness Jesus was subjected to every human temptation?" Regardless, the result was the same. Jesus overcame the power of temptation and triumphantly left the desert to begin His ministry, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons with authority that amazed.
There is so much more that could be said about the beginning of Jesus' ministry since a full two-thirds of the chapter is dedicated to it. However, I will leave you to your own reflection since it really was Jesus' temptation that captured my attention. Remember, this is supposed to be interactive. So, make comments directly to my blog or on Facebook or on Twitter...what captured your attention in chapter 4?
Looking forward to next week...
PS - If you are so inclined, I invite you to please pray for the FL Conference Board of Ordained Ministry as they set about the very important task of interviewing candidates this week in Leesburg. I will be interviewed Wednesday morning, seeking approval to become a Provisional Elder.