The EMBRACING of Calling
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ “ 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ” ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ “ 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ “ 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ “ 11Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Out there in the desert, there is really only ONE thing lacking for Jesus, it was waiting for him down the road, and that makes ALL the difference; to him and to us! In the third part of this three-part Lenten series, the focus will be to step back and ask why Jesus was even willing to go through all of this; to embrace this calling?
Pondering the eternal life of the Son, Jesus Christ, we must take stock of the fact that he had always been in relationship with his Father; an eternally blissful coexistence. The Trinitarian God is a Godhead that is relational in nature: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit loving one another and interacting with one another from all eternity past. Jesus existed in this fully comprehensive loving relationship and was already being worshiped and glorified by angelic heavenly creatures. So this begs the question: Why in the world would he leave it? Seems like paradise, does it not?
Why would Jesus leave that perfectly joyous heavenly existence, and insert himself into our fallen broken world, and do so in one of the most powerless, lowly, and poverty-stricken circumstances at that? And then on top of that to put up with those 40 days of pain, starvation, and over-the-top demonic temptations in the desert? And then ultimately ending up succumbing to complete abandonment by followers, friends, and family alike; even by God his Father for a moment (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mt. 27:46, Mk. 15:34) as he hung dying on the cross?
Here is what we know: Even though Jesus had it ALL in paradise, there was ONE thing which was missing. Jesus was lacking just that one thing, and that one thing was the very reason he set aside his full doxa heavenly glory, emptied and humbled himself (“kenosis”, Phil. 2), and journeyed to our world to sacrifice himself unto death on the cross.
That one thing was you and it was me.
He wanted US to be with him, to join him in that joyous relational existence in paradise, and he was willing to pay the ultimate cost for that to occur. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit so desired relationship with the human race that Jesus was willing to offer himself to leave the comfort and full glory of paradise, let go of everything, embed himself into our broken world, and die as our substitute for sin. As John the Baptist announced, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29, 1:36).
Fallen mankind (along with broken creation) needed redemption, needed a savior, and so Jesus came and incarnated into our fallen world in our form, that of a human being. Fully divine, fully human, tempted in every way (yet without sin, Heb. 4:15); with a very important mission to accomplish.
The mission: Defeat the devil’s destruction. To redeem and fully repair this fallen broken world that is full of disorder, dysfunction, decay, and death.
Out there in the desert, the devil attempted everything to try and derail Jesus from accomplishing this mission. He knew what he needed to do, so he tried to sidetrack Christ away from the Cross. In verse 9 of our Matthew 4 narrative, the devil himself offers to Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he would just bow down to him. The Greek word bow down, pipto, is most properly translated prostate in context.
Interestingly, in all of the New Testament, there is only one instance of Jesus in a prostate position. In the second garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus knew the utter pain and loneliness that would come from being rejected by all (including the Father, for a moment) culminating unto death as he was to take upon himself the full blows of the compacted comprehensive sin and brokenness of all time. As representative and substitute, he knew what awaited him and in this instance, the night before his crucifixion, he was laid low. Laying prostate in Gethsemane, Matthew 26:39, he anxiously pleaded, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as you will”.
Jesus would NOT bow down prostate to the devil or any kingdom of the world, but he would indeed bow down prostate to the somber comprehensiveness of the task that awaited him; the fulfillment of his mission on the cross: Dying for the sins of mankind, the brokenness of the fallen world, decay and death, and redeeming it all (including you and me) by rising victorious on the third day.
And in embracing his mission, God’s creation returns, in a sense, back to the original Garden, The Garden of Eden. Back to that perfection but even better: New heavens, new earth, new glorified bodies, new regenerated souls, fully redeemed, fully forgiven, and accepted by the Father… beginning now and to be fully manifested in the glorious future. Perfect paradise and full-on face-to-face relationship with God. No sin, no guilt, no shame, no brokenness, no disease, no dysfunction, no death. Forever and ever.
That is why Jesus came and conquered every temptation and even death itself on the cross. He embraced his calling and that makes all the difference for you, for me, for all saints across time, as well as for the entire cosmos.
Other parts in this series:
Previously: Part 1: The Empowerment of Approval (What was the nourishing “food” that Jesus feasted on during his 40 days of fasting, and how does this help us see his relationship, and ours, to the Father?)
Previously: Part 2: The Embodiment of Scripture (In the cryptic interchange back and forth between Jesus and the devil, we learn this integral fact: Jesus spoke the Word and the Word spoke of Jesus.