1 Ki 2; Mat 4; Psalm 67
In the temptations in the wilderness, Jesus is revealed in his full humanity to us. Tempted as we are in every way. What holds him through all that he endures is his understanding of who he is. Whilst we rightly make much of how Jesus responds to the Satan with words of Scripture – we perhaps miss the significance of his baptism – that his identity is secure in God his Father and he is enlivened by the Holy Spirit.
Each of the temptations is in essence to deny who he is, and each challenges us about our apprehension of our identity in Christ as sons and daughters of God.
First he is tempted to provide for himself. Of course much of bourgeois Christianity does exactly this. ‘God helps those who help themselves’ we are told and a thousand and other little lies. We are taught to take our lives into our own hands. In many ways it is the greatest failing of the western church, that throughout 1700 years of Christendom, we have become entwined in the world’s way of thinking about material things. How are our lives any different from those around us in regard to the physical provision of God. Do we know His provision of the stuff of life?
Next Jesus is called upon to deny his Father in terms of trusting him to work his good purposes out. Again the temptation is ‘to take his life into his own hands’, ironically in a way by risking his life. In an age where more than ever before we vaunt the spectacular, the large scale [think how much effort we put into ‘good communication’ re ‘EVENTS’ coming up in our churches] – in our own way we throw ourselves down from the temple many many times . . . to no effect. God reveals his Glory in His way. Ultimately, the ‘spectacle’ of God’s glory is revealed not in pyrotechinics but in the dead body of Jesus on the cross. That is His way of manifesting himself. We need to allow That to influence our efforts at what is effectively ‘self’ promotion.
Finally it all comes to a head – ‘Bow down and worship me and you will have everything you desire’. It is perhaps barely necessary that we have perhaps unwittingly, but certainly in culpable ignorance sold out to Satan in our worship of Mammon in the contemporary church.
Again, I say we see Jesus here in his humanity. In his overcoming temptation he sets a path for us to follow. Being His entails learning from Him (being his disciple). It is not primarily learning the Scriptures, although they have their not insignificant place. Primarily it is coming to our senses as Children of the most high God, realising that these temptations assail our very being, and learning like Jesus to refute them – secure in our identity as those he is not ashamed to call brothers and sisters – following Him.