Friday, 15 February 2013

Temptations of Jesus Luke 4:1-13

Jesus Tempted, by Chris Cook
"If you are the Son of God..." Luke has just emphasised for the reader the sonship of Jesus. (Lk 3:22; 3:23-38) Presumably, if this temptation is to have any force at all, there was a chink in the armour of Jesus.  If out there in the desert Jesus wasn't wobbling in some way in regards to his relationship with God, the devil's introduction - "If you are the Son of God" would have been water off a duck's back. So what's wrong with making some bread out of stones? A bit showy granted, but nothing like jumping off a tall building (the last temptation). If resisting this first temptation is to be programmatic, as commentators like to call the temptations, then I would like to suggest that the temptation itself must be more serious than unnecessary (private) showmanship, and more serious than Jesus listening to his belly too much. There is something else going on here. Jesus, presumably, was doubting his sonship, or the fatherhood of God, or both. When our needs aren't met as usual all sorts of fears and aggravations appear within us. Jesus' reply shows us that he squeezes out the temptation by recommitting to God's care for him beyond his usual needs (like food). God's care will be disclosed to Jesus not in a prosperity gospel, not in a nice comfortable life, not in the avoidance of pain, but by Jesus being fed(/led) by more than these usual desires. Without overcoming this temptation it is difficult to imagine Jesus being able to say on the cross: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." (Lk 23:46) 

Twenty years ago I prayed the Prayer of Abandonment by Charles de Foucauld every day for a year. 

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father. 


I had to stop eventually because I couldn't commit to it; I didn't want to trust God like that, I really wanted my life to be fulfilled by 'bread', health, family, children, wealth, career. Oh dear.

Twenty years later some of the usual desires for my life (listed above) are lost. I have to admit I wouldn't protest if they were magically restored to me.  But the truth is I know I want to live by more than bread alone. (I am not so sure about the cross bit with, "Father, into your hands ..." A bit of a way to go yet. At least I hope so!!)

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