And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” (Luke 4:1-4 ESV)
A couple of descriptors Luke uses are interestingly strung together, which by themselves are not nearly as interesting. For instance, Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit but hungry. He was led by the Spirit, but into the wilderness where there was nothing to eat. It’s an odd juxtaposition of literary elements. Of course it also sets up nicely an odd event.
Luke has some unique details. In his account Jesus is tempted the whole 40 days, not just at the end. There are inevitable discussions about the ‘source’ for this event shared by Matthew and Luke, and what they seem to have done with it, and which one keep the order, and so on. The point of both remains, Jesus is the Son of God.
THE FIRST TEMPTATION OF ALL OF US
The one temptation in both Matthew and Luke that is in the same place is the first one. It’s been forty days since Jesus ate, and He’s hungry. It just makes sense to make bread. Stones are readily available, and wheat and so on isn’t. He’s also God, so why not just make what He needs out of nothing, or stones. But Jesus quotes an interesting verse, part of an interesting comment God makes to Moses in Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy 8:3, it says, “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
So, confronted by extreme hunger, Jesus remembers that when the people of God hungered, it was to learn humility and dependence upon their God. This is the truth of this temptation that can be easily missed. The temptation wasn’t about food, it was about taking care of Himself. Whether Jesus did or did not turn stones to bread, He was still Jesus, the Son of God, and He still had the power to do so. Yet as Paul points out in Philippians 2:8, “He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of a cross.” We read that, but how often do we think back to this temptation?
TEMPTATION OF THE NATURAL GOOD CHOICE
When we look at what the devil suggests, there’s nothing inherently evil about it. There’s nothing sinister, nothing particularly rebellious or wicked. Jesus is hungry, so eat. It’s a natural response to Jesus’ situation. How often in our ‘situations’ do we simply, without thinking, just do the natural thing? Okay, we’re not turning stones to bread, and we can comfort ourselves that we didn’t do something ‘miraculous’, but this temptation wasn’t about the miraculous, it was about dependence versus independence.
AMERICA’S FAILURE OF INDEPENDENCE
In our nation, independence is a national heritage. We’re in real trouble here. We hardly need the ‘tempter’ whispering in our ears, we simply do without a thought. It’s truly our natural inclination to do for ourselves. We even created a quote not found in Scripture to justify it before God: “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” What a load of fetid moose droppings! Is dependence a new requirement? Did He put it on hold after the United States gained their ‘Independence’? Um…NO!
We have a long difficult road ahead of us because of this temptation. We haven’t yet progressed to the others because we don’t even see the first one. We’re still stuck on moving through life turning stones to bread as a daily habit. We can’t even begin to consider testing God or worshipping Him only. He isn’t even God to us yet! Do we see the basic need we fail to understand every stinking day? The foundational requirement for a believer is radical trust, dependence, and submission. We are to have the ‘faith of a child’ or we don’t enter the Kingdom of God. Do you get that? This isn’t optional or just another thing to ‘work on’. This forms the basis on which we are worked on by God, and without it, He does very little in our lives!
The radical and frightening nature of the Holy Spirit’s work in other nations absence in the United States is partly because of our inbred self-focused foundation of self-reliance, and personal independence. We have turned independence into the strength idolized by the whole nation. And there is nothing that separates us from God more. We bow down to ourselves, the devil doesn’t need to show us nations or promise us power. We test God as did the people of Israel when they worshipped false gods in the temple of God and believed themselves safe in Jerusalem. God will not save the US because we have some special attention from Him. He didn’t place His name here. He did not choose us among all the nations. We’re Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. This nation is going down in flames without God.
REPENTANCE FROM SELF
So what will it take to see ourselves as less Americans and more as Followers of Jesus? What will it take for us to relinquish our self-reliance, our self-focus, our self-indulgence, and become dependent on Jesus? Jesus, who loved us, and gave Himself up for us, calls us to a radical life of dependence upon Him. But we remain locked in fear feeling more safe relying on our meager abilities and resources than on the One who formed stars at a word. Are we stark raving lunatics? Have we so lost our minds that we would sacrifice a relationship with the Almighty Creator of the universe on the altar of self-love and personal comfort? REALLY?
Well, I have. You may not have this struggle, but I’m awash in the tide of my own selfish fears and assumptions. I can’t even imagine the peace and joy I leave behind as I pursue my own ridiculous pursuits of self-reliance and self-indulgence. I am stark raving mad. But I want to change. I want to be a ‘Ragamuffin’ before my King. I want the blessed life of being spiritually poor. I want to be fed on EVERY WORD THAT COMES FROM my MASTER’S LIPS! I want Jesus, to know Him, to know the power of His resurrection and be conformed to His death. I want to attain that resurrection from the dead He experienced! I want to follow Him into the heavens, taking hold of that for which He has taken hold of me.
I want Jesus. But I have a lot to lose in the process. Counting it all rubbish isn’t easy when I live in and have adopted the mindset of a nation of hoarding disorders. But it is necessary. It has to happen. To be honest, I’m hoping I can do it without quitting my comfortable job, selling our camp trailer, selling our nice house, giving all the money to the poor and moving into a tiny box. I don’t know though. It could mean moving to a foreign country, getting away from this poisonous mindset, and immersing myself in another. But I don’t think it will. I think my Master wants me to be different right where He has me, not somewhere I can think to run to.
That’s my particular view through the knothole this morning. What’s yours look like?