The Temptation of Jesus

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  October 12, 2013

            Before Jesus embarked on his profound ministry that changed history, he visited with Satan. In an epic story that is told in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus rises from the waters of baptism and spends 40 days fasting and praying in the wilderness. Near the end of this time of spiritual preparation for the greatest ministry in all of history, the Devil pays Jesus a visit and tries to stir things up a bit.
            “Turn these stones into bread,” Satan taunts the exceptionally hungry Jesus. It is a tempting suggestion that has great practical applications. After 40 days without food, Jesus was surely feeling the weakness and hunger that comes with a prolonged fast. He would soon break his fast anyway, so what would a little bread hurt? After all, the added strength and energy would help him get off to a great start in his ministry.
            Our temptations may not be that different. We live in a culture that is permeated with messages to take care of our own needs first, then worry about others later. We may willingly follow Jesus, but how frequently do we do so with the implicit desire to use him and the church to serve our own needs rather than sacrifice our needs in order to fulfill Christ’s ministry?
            “Here’s one, try this,” Satan then challenges Jesus. “Throw yourself down from the pinnacle of the Temple.” Again, the practicality must have been very tempting. The sheer spectacle of the event would have certainly drawn incredible attention, fame, and notoriety.
            Often, the temptations facing the church are very similar. We live in an entertainment-driven society. The greater the spectacle, the greater the attention. In the minds of many, integrity is measured by views on You-Tube or attention by network news commentators. “Entertain them and they will come” is a practice many organizations embrace to attract members and often the church is extremely tempted to fall victim to this temptation.
            “Here’s one you can’t resist,” the Devil spouts off with his alluring confidence. “Do what I say and you’ll be able to rule the world!” As with the first two temptations, this one had reasonable purpose. The power to rule and control the thoughts, actions, lives, and choices of others would certainly make Christ’s job a lot easier. No cross, just authority. Yet, the authority of Jesus Christ would never be in his ability to control the lives of others, but in his compassion, love, grace, and wisdom.
            Control is such an alluring temptation. One can easily imagine how much better the world would be if everyone would do things as we know they should be done. It is easy for all of us to fall into the tantalizingly illusive belief that if we just had more control we could make the world a better place.
            The Son of God had nothing to prove by facing off with the Devil. Rather, he allowed the encounter to serve as an example for us. The integrity of our faith as Christians is measured by how faithfully we follow the examples of Christ.
Given the challenges and choices that face Christians in this complex and confusing world, what path are we going to choose? Are we going to make sure our own needs are served before prayerfully and actively attending to the needs of others? Do we value the entertainment of spectacle over the hard work of meeting people where they are and sharing God’s love in the day to day living of life? Would we rather have the authority to control others or are we willing to risk the love that requires we be a positive example to be chosen?
Is the Church ready to say no to the temptations of the Devil?