Temptation is a big deal because it looks like no big deal! Even for Jesus when he is tested by the devil out in the wilderness having fasted 40 days & 40 nights (Matthew 4:1-11) – right? Wrong!
How many times have I heard it said that the temptations were no big deal for Jesus because – after all – he was the Son of God and had the supernatural power to resist!
If this were the case – Jesus would fail to inspire me. If I am to follow his way I need to be confidant that he was homo sapiens in every way – including being tempted every way as I am.
Then there is the nature of the temptations themselves. Don’t focus on the acts – its not about overindulging on chocolate or cheating on income tax. I like what John Shea says about being pulled from expressing one’s true sense of identity when someone else hijacks the agenda. We are distracted from our course. It is the devil who is the initiator and driver of the discourse in the wilderness temptation stories.
It would be easy to focus only on my and the world’s material need – especially in the wake of disaster after disaster and as I watch repeated footage of the horrendous tsunami sweeping over Japan’s coastline. But even as we respond, we realise we need more than bread and shelter to fulfil our human destiny.
I could succumb to the strident demands for “proof of God” that are becoming more and more prevalent and waste a lot of time performing verbal and philosophical tricks that would do little more than entertain., but this distracts me from my true course of living generously from God’s Spirit.
I could put all my faith in the political party that seems closest to bringing about the kind of society that the Sermon on the Mount celebrates, but my focus then becomes displaced as the plumb line shifts and I am forced into compromise for the sake of expedience.
Jesus knew who he was – he had heard himself named and acknowledged as “the Beloved in whom YHWH (the Heart/Mind behind the universe – thanks Bruce Sanguin) is well pleased”. That’s why he beat the wilderness temptations – he was not distracted by arguably worthy but incomplete considerations.
But – is this not the identity of all who seek to follow his light?
This is where my sermon-crunching is heading for tomorrow.