Sunday, February 21, 2010

Invocavit: A Devotional Commentary

Matthew 4:1-11 Then Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Spirit in order to be tempted by the Slanderer, and after fasting forty days and forty nights, at the end He was hungry. And after approaching Him, the Tempter said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." But answering, He said, "It stands written, 'A person will not live by bread alone, rather by everything said that comes out through the mouth of God.'" Then the Slanderer takes Him along into the holy city and sets Him upon the pinnacle of the temple and says to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it stands written that He will give instructions to His angels concerning You and upon their hands they will carry You, lest You strike Your foot against a stone." Jesus said to him, "Again it stands written, 'You will not test the Lord your God.'" Again the Slanderer takes Him to a very high mountain, and shows all the kingdoms of the world to Him and their glory and he says to Him, "All these things I will give to You, if You will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus says to him, "Get behind me, Adversary! For it stands written, 'You will worship the Lord your God, and you will serve Him alone.'" Then the Slanderer leaves Him, and look, angels came and were serving Him.

Unfortunately this text is often preached on as if it were primarily an example for us to follow--Jesus memorized the Scriptures and defeated and the Devil and so can you. But that misses the point. This isn't the story of how Jesus defeated the Devil with His awesome Scripture memorization skills. What is this all about?

This happens right after the baptism of Jesus in which God the Father announces, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." In the Old Testament, God baptized Israel in the Red Sea and called Israel His son. Israel was led by God to be tested in the wilderness but failed. Jesus was led by God into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil and triumphed.

After God led Israel to be tested in the wilderness to be tested for forty years they began to complain to God because of their lack of food and said that it would have been better to die in Egypt than starve out in the wilderness. Jesus is led into the wilderness to fast for forty days. Jesus is definitely hungry but does not complain about God or doubt His purposes. The Slanderer tempts Jesus to use His power to serve Himself. "If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread." Later on, Jesus would do a very similar thing and use His power to serve and feed others, but here Satan tempts Jesus to serve Himself. The Slanderer wants to get Jesus to question His own identity. If you are really God's Son, why are you out here starving? But unlike Israel, Jesus trusts in God's Word. God the Father said that He was His beloved Son. Jesus takes the path of humility and trusts the Father.

During the time of their testing, the Israelites doubted the protection of God. Will God provide us with the water that we need and protect us from our enemies? Does He even care? We're dying of thirst out here. The Slanderer tempts Jesus to put God to the test. Throw yourself down. If you are really God's Son He will send His angels to protect you from harm. But Jesus trusts God without testing Him.

When Israel was tested in the wilderness, the Israelites fell into idolatry. They did not trust the plans of God and sought to gain control of the world by worshipping rival gods. The Slanderer tempts Jesus to do the same but Jesus will not and tells the Slanderer to take off.

We are not called to put on our WWJD bracelets and follow the example of Jesus. We simply cannot. And the passage is not about us finding the right Bible verses to combat temptation. The passage is about what Jesus did, not about what we should do. The passage is about the humiliation that Jesus descended into for us. If there is a lesson to be learned from this passages it's "Believe that you are who God says you are." Do not trust your observation of the world around you. Do not look within yourself to see if you're sanctified enough. Do not look to see if you have the most toys or a successful marriage. Trust in the Word of God. Trust in the Word of God spoken in your baptism. You have been baptized into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. You are God's beloved Son.

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