Lent

Palm Sunday

Triumphal Entry -or- Mistaken Identity?

Luke 19:2842
28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ tell him, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ” 32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. 37When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38″Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!“40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” 41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes.

————————–

As the unwitting crowds excitedly lay down garments and branches along the road into Jerusalem, they loudly and joyfully exclaimed “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord”.  But this is not a joyful scene at all; instead it’s quite disturbing.  For those swarming crowds did not really know what they were saying or even who exactly this Jesus was that they were praising.  Their expectations were so off the mark that when it became clearer that Jesus would NOT be the socio-political savior they’d been hoping for; they disbanded, disappointed and disillusioned.

They got Jesus wrong.  Even those closest to him got him wrong.

693px-Assisi-frescoes-entry-into-jerusalem-pietro_lorenzettiOver the last three years of Jesus’ public ministry they all grew enamored with his authority-drenched teachings, his counter-cultural style, and his power-displaying miracles.  Those growing crowds thought they could maybe get behind this one who very well could meet their main need: That of removing the yoke of Roman oppression and leading the Jews in a second exodus out into freedom.  They thought Jesus might be the one that the Old Testament scriptures seemed to have been pointing towards, at least in their incomplete (and mistaken) understanding of who that Messiah would be and what his kingdom would entail.

But they got Jesus wrong.  They got him so wrong that they very quickly ended up walking away disenchanted. In fact, while teeming crowds praised him with “Hosanna” and “Peace” that one day, within a short week’s span they’d be condemning him with screams of “CRUCIFY”.  He was definitely not what they had expected or hoped for.

No real surprise here. People always seem to get excited about a Jesus that holds the same ideologies and priorities that they clench so tightly to.  This can be said of the skewed Jesus of the Aryan Nazis, of the Westboro picketers, the Jesus Seminar skeptics, the American KKK, the Western “Me-First” individualists, the post-sexual-revolution permissives, and of the 1st century Jewish disciples who layed down palm fronds before the one they hoped would free them from the Romans.  They all got (and get) Jesus wrong.  Dead wrong.

People get excited about a Jesus that will look, behave, and act according to their own personal expectations, even if based on improper interpretation or understanding of scripture.

Basically, people get excited about a Jesus that is a mirror image of themselves. 

This was true then and it is still very true today.  The “Triumphal Entry Jesus” was more a fabrication and construction in the crowds’ own minds than he was the fulfillment of Old Testament scripture, the Messiah of God.  For one reason, his kingship and kingdom were of another realm (though having broad application to that time and place; as well as to ours).

The crowds, recounted in Matthew’s narrative (21:11) called Jesus “prophet”.   The Pharisees in Luke’s narrative (19:39) called Jesus “teacher”.  But Jesus called himself LORD.   In Luke 19:31, Jesus self-identifies as “Lord” (the Greek word Kurios).  Ironically, this title was reserved for the Roman Emperor and was unlawful to use of any other person.  But Jesus Christ is Lord of all (and over all) including the Roman Emperor and the Roman governmental systems that oppressed the Jews.

But his kingship and kingdom were of another realm.  In verse 42, Jesus distressed and distraught, wept over Jerusalem (the Greek word klaio used of Peter who wept bitterly as the cock crowed twice upon denying Christ three times –Mt 26:75, Mk14:72, Lk22:62) and Jesus declared through those tears that the peace the people were hoping for would indeed come, but in a whole other way.  It was hidden from their eyes (v.42), in a sense, but also right smack in plain view riding that donkey’s colt into town:  Jesus was the one.  THAT Jesus.

Ponder this: A Jesus whom we create that is in lockstep with our own social, political, military, sexual, and/or financial proclivities (that we and our contemporaries often buy into) is a Jesus of mistaken identify and isn’t able to challenge or change us where we need it most.  He’s not the real Jesus but rather a mirror reflection of ourselves when we read into scripture what we desperately want it to say rather than letting the text speak for itself.

The REAL Jesus does not layer himself on top of all our self-absorbed agendas, but rather replaces them with his Christ-centered lordship.  And why?  Because the one who rode into Jerusalem in mistaken identity, and later died a criminal’s death under cloud of shame and isolated aloneness, is the very one who rose on the third day and now is seated on the King’s throne at the right hand of God.  Triumphal entry indeed.

THAT Jesus.

#Wade

Categories: Devotional, Lent, Palm Sunday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Embracing of Calling (The Temptation of Jesus in Desert pt.3)

The EMBRACING of Calling

MATTHEW 4:1-11

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.

#Wade

———————-

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.

Categories: Creation, Devotional, Lent, Testing in the Desert | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Embodiment of Scripture (Temptation of Jesus in Desert pt.2)

The EMBODIMENT of Scripture

LUKE 4:1-13

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’ “ 5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ “ 9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: ” ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ “ 12 Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 13When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

—————————————- 

tempt-in-desert-stained-glass-chartres-cathedral

In the second part of this three-part Lenten series, the focus will be on the cryptic interchange between Jesus and the devil, specifically relating to the quoting of scripture back and forth.  What exactly was the point of that and what can we possibly learn? In this devotion, we will see that Jesus spoke the Word and that the Word spoke of Jesus.

1.  JESUS SPOKE THE WORD.
Fascinating, this interplay between good and evil.  Considering the crucial nature of this cosmic battle, one might think Jesus would have instead tapped more fully into his divine nature and zapped the devil right off the face of the earth.  But he didn’t, and he wouldn’t, because that would have short-circuited his mission which would inevitably lead him towards the cross; thereby sealing the redemption of creation and mankind.

Instead, Jesus simply quoted scripture.  Three times he quoted the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy (8:3, 6:13, and 6:16) to thwart the devil’s attacks.  Strange as it seems on the surface, of all the potential debate tactics that could have been used, this turned out to actually be the most powerful and efficient; it did the trick.  As the Apostle Paul writes, the sword of the spirit is indeed the Word of God (Eph 6:17).  So like any instrument or weapon, to be most effective, it must be most properly comprehended and wielded.

Something very interesting to note in all of this is that the enemy knows the scriptures too; very well indeed.  This is obvious from the fact that he also quotes scripture back at Jesus, but something is missing:  Though the adversary knew the scriptures, he didn’t “know” (in the fullest worshipful sense) the God of the scriptures; the God who would complete his redemptive plan out of love for his people.  The New Testament (Jas 2:19) informs us that even the demons “believe” (and shudder) so there is evidently quite a difference between intellectual assent to theological doctrine and deep heartfelt worshipful faith.  Out there in the lonely wilderness, we get a quick snapshot of that distinction.

About Jesus:  Jesus knows the scriptures, he understands them, and his conversations and teachings are infused with them. He is so saturated with the Old Testament scriptures that he drips them, so to speak, whenever he opens his mouth.  This specific phrase used three times in our narrative, “it is written” (to refer back to the Old Testament scriptures), is used by Jesus 63 times directly in the New Testament.  63 times!

This is a large relative percentage of what the Bible has recorded him as saying!  And not only that, there are many more times Jesus referenced (and inferenced) the scriptures without prefacing with that specific three word phrase.

It needs to be reminded that our Lord held a very high view of scripture.  Let’s allow the full-orbed consequences of that to sink in deeply.

In our present day, there’s a movement towards emphasizing only the “red letter” words of Jesus; downplaying the history of the gospels and Acts, minimizing the teaching of the apostles, and especially discarding the reliability and relevance of the Old Testament.  But that wasn’t Jesus’ approach at all.  He taught as if the Old Testament scriptures (“Law and Prophets”, “Law and Writings”, even “Moses and Elijah”, being synecdoches; a part standing for the entire whole) were both reliable and authoritative.  He built and based his life, works, and teachings on that certainty.  [More on this in a moment].

If this was not true, if the divine Son had not thought the Old Covenant scriptures to be reliable and authoritative, we could only deduce that his numerous references to the Old Testament were then insincere and even deceitfully manipulative, making Jesus out to be quite a deceiver, even a liar; thereby not a perfect teacher, not a perfect savior without sin, and therefore not a redeemer.  But we know much better.

About the enemy:  It’s not just Jesus quoting scripture in this narrative; the Satan does it as well.  And this isn’t the first time either.  Think back:  We’ve heard the devil quoting scripture before, and in doing so, twisting it to mean something OTHER than what God had intended (Genesis 3:1-7).  Back in the Garden of Eden, earlier in Genesis 2, the Father had created the perfect paradise and set only one rule for the first man and woman: “…you must not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die”.  When the devil, in the form of a serpent, came to tempt, his approach was crafty as he provoked with his sly twists in order to heighten doubt about what God might have meant in that (presumably, to them, unfair and unreasonable) rule.

“Did God really say you would surely die”?  We can almost imagine the private dialog playing out where the skeptic/mocker/tempter played on Adam and Eve’s human emotions.  “Maybe the serpent is correct” Adam and Eve might have said privately to one another, “If Father was really a God of love, he wouldn’t hold back from us anything… he’d certainly let us follow ALL our innate desires and allow us to eat of ALL the trees including THAT one”.

Satan used that weak moment to coerce; to lead them in erroneously believing that there was some mistake in their interpretation or understanding of God’s Word to them.   And so it went.  And so it goes.  And so it still goes, even today.

Sometimes just a slight word change or spoken inflection can cast major doubt, and if we don’t know the full context of the redemptive story of God in Jesus or the smaller grammatical-historical contexts (along with etymology) within the texts themselves, we find ourselves adrift on a sea of confusion, doubt, and potential misunderstanding.

2. THE WORD SPOKE OF JESUS.
It can be said that Jesus held a “high view” of scripture.  To more fully understand this, let’s think back to the narrative in Luke 24 where Jesus walked along the Road to Emmaus.  The newly risen (and unrecognized) Christ was walking with two disciples (one named Cleopas1) and in essence gave them a compacted Master’s level “Messianic Survey of the Old Testament” course as he explained how all those scriptures in the Old Testament were about HIM.

The Bible isn’t about “us” (or even about “them”);  It’s all about HIM.

Everything in the scriptures is about Jesus.  From the Old Covenant ceremonial laws describing priestly duties and innocent sacrificial lambs, from the prophetic foreshadowings of the prophets about the coming Messiah, on to Wisdom literature speaking of the embodiment of wisdom and knowledge.  From the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, the Passover lambs of the exile, the manna bread in the desert, the tabernacle, the temple, and all the symbolism and typology we discover in Adam, Noah, Abraham (with Isaac), Moses, Jonah, Boaz, David, Nehemiah,  etc, etc, etc.  It’s not about us.  It’s all about HIM.

To take it a step further, we realize it comes around full circle when we recognize that Jesus spoke the Word that spoke of Jesus.  Think about his first recorded homily in the synagogue “Today this scripture IS fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21) along with the Road to Emmaus narrative (Lk 24) and many more examples.

The apostles recognized this much more clearly afterwards.  In fact, the Apostle John launches his entire gospel biography of Jesus by writing first verse first chapter that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.  Jesus Christ:  The Embodiment of the Word.

Jesus himself not only held a very high view of scripture and frequently spoke and taught it to his hearers (followers and detractors alike), but he himself was and is the very embodiment of the Old and New Testament scriptures himself.  We catch a strong glimpse of this concept in this sword fight battle of words out in the desert.

Watch this short YouTube clip for an animated quick summary on this topic.  It’s a MUST WATCH 🙂

#Wade

———————-

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?)

Next: Part 3: The Embracing of Calling (There is one thing lacking between all that Jesus had then, and all he would have after the cross, and that makes all the difference; to him and to us!)

———————–

POSTSCRIPT:  The reader can clearly see I’ve taken a high view of scripture in this devotional.  Two thoughts for later development:  (1) I do not subscribe to a literalist hermeneutic, but rather view scripture through the lens of historical-grammatical-cultural context, genre, and big picture Christological typology.  (2) If or when “perceived” problems or contradictions arise, I most properly interpret/understand that potentially difficult text by weighing it in light of other more clear relevant texts, that along with the big picture redemptive story of God in Christ.  Personally, I find Prof. Darrell Bock’s chapter on “precision” –vs- “accuracy” (for instance, the very words of Jesus –vs- the voice of Jesus)2 to be far more convincing than Prof. Bart Ehrman’s skepticism in this regard.  But all that for some other posted musing down the road.

1 Richard Bauckham’s book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Eerdmans 2006) is a fantastic treatment on eyewitness accounts related to the biblical gospels.  He handles the reason why the one Cleopas (out of two) disciples on the Road to Emmaus is named and the other is not, as well as many other important details and examples of eyewitness testimonies.

2Darrell Bock’s Chapter on Precision and Accuracy in Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?: A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture (Crossway 2012). A very helpful treatment especially when we are dealing in this series of devotionals on three synoptic narratives that each deviate from the others, but all three written by gospel writers with differing purposes and some more concerned with “words” -vs- “voice” in the texts.

Categories: Devotional, Historicity/Reliability of Bible, Lent, Testing in the Desert | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Empowerment of Approval (Temptation of Jesus in Desert pt.1)

The EMPOWERMENT of Approval

MATTHEW 4:1-11

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.

——————————

Immediately after Jesus is baptized by John, he is led by the Holy Spirit directly into the desert for a crucial preliminary test of his character and mission.  It. is. ON!!!!

JesusTemptedintheDesertIconAnd it boils down to this: Does Jesus indisputably believe the words of affirmation and approval spoken earlier by the Father at the river?  Can Jesus (in his humanity) truly rest in and rely upon his Father’s goodness and love to provide and guide him along the journey towards fulfilling his mission?  Or will the enemy be able to plant enough of a doubt in his mind to warp and twist Jesus into being willing to short-cut the redemptive plan?

Some important considerations stand out in this passage.  In this first part of a three part Lenten series, the focus will be on the immediate link between Jesus’ baptism and his being tested in the wilderness.

And what might that link between those two events be?  It is the empowerment that comes in hearing the fatherly words of approval and affirmation.

No doubt the words Jesus had just heard from the Father, “You are my son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased” (Mt 3:17, Lk 3:22), were emotionally and spiritually energizing.  To rise up from the water and be reminded of this eternal all-encompassing delight would certainly empower Jesus for any task that might be ahead, one would think.

The immediate task for Jesus was this preliminary forty days of fasting (and, we’d surmise, praying) in the desert before his official public ministry was to be launched.  This Greek word “eremos” translated desert or wilderness (v.1) describes a very solitary, lonely, desolate, and secluded place.  Think about it:  There’s no audible voice of the Father heard there, and there’s no Holy Spirit descending in bodily form as a dove there either.  Jesus is alone and lonely.  He’s away from crowds and all by himself.  In essence, Jesus has been dropped from spiritual “high” to “low” almost immediately.  It’s so obvious, and so many of us have experienced this type of abrupt transition, though not in such an extreme form,  that it’s almost predictable; even expected.

How it all began was that right at Jesus’ weakest point, when hunger pangs were the strongest, the enemy came to tempt him. In reality, the word “temptation” doesn’t even begin to do justice to the cosmic battle that was being played out in the desert.

Here’s why:  The word tempted, translated from the Greek “peirazo”,  means to try, to attempt, to conduct a trial.  What was taking place was more than simply the devil testing Jesus’ character to see if he was a good (god-man) person.  No; it was a three-pronged (pun intended) attempt to powerfully sabotage Jesus’ redemptive calling.  Not so ironically, this word “peirazo” was used six times by Matthew in his gospel: Two times about the devil and four times about the Pharisees and religious leaders.  Notice the not-so-subtle connection there.  Basically, it was about anything and everything to keep Christ away from the cross for obvious reasons:  No cross, no redemption!

The FIRST assault of this three-pronged attack came by way of the devil masterfully manipulating God’s words of affirmation “You are my son…” when he intimated to Jesus that if that statement was indeed accurate, and if God was truly a loving Father who would give a hungry son bread, not a stone (see Mt 7:9 for the context), Jesus should then use his divine powers to miraculously change stones into bread.  “You are starving, why not?” we could imagine the private dialog playing out.  “If you died of starvation, what good would you be to anyone anyway, let alone fulfill a redemptive plan from eternity past?”

Jesus countered that first assault by quoting scripture, Deuteronomy 8:3, where it is written that “man doesn’t live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”.  Jesus had other bread, other food, to fuel him in his faithfulness.  He had the powerfully energizing words of approval and affirmation to ruminate on; his food was God’s word!

The SECOND assault was when the Satan took Jesus (likely in a vision?) to the holy city to stand at the very tip-top peak of the Jerusalem Temple.  Again, the enemy is strongly manipulating those baptismic words of affirmation by again asking, “if you are the Son of God…”  IF!  Another “if”!   The accuser tends to try to cast doubt and confusion over the veracity of the love of the Father.

But Jesus had focus.  The empowerment of fatherly approval and affirmation helped bring the fortitude and longsuffering necessary in order to thwart this obvious attempt to get Jesus to “show off” and earn human worship by jumping from the peak.  The enemy’s plan, it seems, was that the angels would somehow catch Jesus, or that Jesus would float down safely like a cat with nine lives.  Though we can only speculate what might have happened had he jumped, and of course he wouldn’t have and he didn’t, but the intended result would be that the people would worship Jesus NOW, apart from his going the full journey towards the cross and resurrection;  thereby disrupting the cosmic redemptive plan.

So Jesus blocked this potential sabotage like he did the first attempt, by quoting scripture.  In this instance, it was Deuteronomy 6:16.  He would not put his God, his Father, the one who loves and delights in him, to the test by performing magic tricks like some first century David Copperfield or Criss Angel sleight-of-hand master magician.  No!  Certainly it is true that Jesus would indeed earn worship, that one day “every knee would bow ” (Isa 45:23, Rom 14:11, Phil 2:10-11) and that even the “stones would cry out” (Lk 19:40) under his kingship, but this would take place later, and for something wholly different and something that would have cosmic and eternal consequences.

Finally the THIRD assault took place when the enemy showed Jesus all the kingdoms and nations of the world in what Luke describes as “an instant”.   An instantaneous victory-reel of visionary footage intended to nudge Jesus to accept his due power now, before the cross; to try and get Jesus to institute his royal kingdom on earth now, completely apart from the death and resurrection that awaited him down the road.

Jesus thwarted this attack by quoting scripture as well.  He quoted Deuteronomy 6:13 to insist that the worship that would indeed be due to himself should most appropriately be directed to the LORD God in their full trinitarian glory, not prematurely only to Jesus himself outside of his upcoming redemptive act on the cross, death, and resurrection.  The three persons of the trinity act, work, and love in unity to accomplish God’s good purposes throughout eternity.  The kingdom would come, and the kingdom was here (in Christ), but on God’s terms, obviously not on Satan’s or anyone else’s terms.

So much was taking place in this packed narrative and so much more could be said, but in a nutshell, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit of God into the desolate wilderness for a preparatory period of forty days before the official public launch of his redemptive ministry.  In his solitude and hunger, he feasted on the Word of God; especially those recent audible words of approval and affirmation.  His power during these attacks was that his eternal Father delighted all-encompassingly in his eternal Son, and this brought empowerment and faithfulness for the journey ahead.

#Wade

———————-

Coming Next:

Part 2: The Embodiment of Scripture (What is up with the quoting back and forth of Old Testament verses? What does it all mean?)

Part 3: The Embracing of Calling (There is one thing lacking between all that Jesus had then, and all he would have after the cross, and that makes all the difference; to him and to us!)

Categories: Baptism of Jesus, Devotional, Jesus' Early Years, Lent, Testing in the Desert | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.