If you’ve ever dieted, either to shed a few pounds or because of health reasons, what is the main thing you think about whilst denying yourself of some type of food? I can’t speak for you, but I know that most of the time all I see are visions of corn-dogs dancing in a chorus line singing “We taste great with MUSTARD!”. That’s a fascinating thing about the human experience: we have strong urges and desires for whatever it is that is that is generally not good for us.
In a theological framework we talk about sin, but sin is simply the determination to do what we want instead of what God intends. It is the evasion of God’s rule over our lives and we are tempted to evade God on a regular basis.
We’re coming back to our study in the gospel of Matthew, reading chapter 4:1-11 this Sunday. In stepping into the human experience, Jesus faces temptation to evade God’s rule as well. In fact, the account of his temptation in the desert is a sweeping overview of the nature of our temptations. Do you ever feel bad for being tempted by things you feel you should be beyond in your Christian walk? Remember this: Jesus was tempted too. What does that tell us about how we should understand our own temptations? There’s an old saying that we’re not responsible for the birds that fly overhead, only the one’s we allow to nest in our hair.
The first temptation that is presented to Jesus is found in v1-4. It wasn’t wrong or evil for Jesus to be hungry. He certainly was given power to do miraculous things with bread – he’ll supernaturally provide enough bread to feed thousands of people out in the desert later on in this story. Why was this suggestion to make bread from stones a temptation to sin? How do you think this would this be evading God’s rule? What clue does v4 provide for us?
Next Jesus is tempted to jump from the highest point in the temple (v5-7). Again, this is similar to something Jesus will do later on – he won’t walk on air, but he’ll walk on water, defying the laws of physics. The devil quotes scripture to back up the suggestion. That’s something to ponder for a while. When people say “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” – why would that not apply in a situation like this? Why would it matter who is speaking God’s word? What is the temptation to sin in this suggestion of stepping out in faith that God will rescue him? What clue do we get from Jesus’ response in v7?
The final temptation recorded in this account is in v8-11. Once again we have the contrast of human kingdoms with God’s kingdom. Worship me, the devil says, and you will be King of kings. Interesting, since that is ultimately what Jesus is called – and the last book of the Bible says in Revelation 11:15 that the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord. Why is this a sin if it’s the fulfillment of his destiny anyway? What happens before Jesus ascends to the right hand of the Father? What does Jesus have to go through in order to be exalted? Who’s will is he serving before he can be King of kings and Lord of lords?
In each of these temptations there is a forecast of something Jesus will ultimately do. The difference is by whom it is fulfilled. Where do we look for our fulfillment as human beings? A lot of things in this world promise fulfillment and wholeness – but Who holds the true source of wholeness? What has your experience been in looking for fulfillment in the things we can grasp for in this broken world? How can that instruct us?
Whelp – it will be an intense study, but comforting all in all. Hope to see you then!