So here we go into temptation number two. Satan doesn’t give up reaching out for a foothold in the life of Jesus. He doesn’t give up easily on us either. If we succeed in choosing God’s will for one area, evil isn’t walking away sulking. There are plenty of places in our lives that evil would love to get a foothold…just one place to begin chipping away at what God has offered to do in our midst.
And so we see the same happening to Jesus in the wilderness. Satan takes Jesus to Jerusalem, the holy city, and places him on the pinnacle of the temple. As he’s looking out over the city he loves, Satan even tries to use scripture for his own purposes.
Recently our home group was reminded by John Ortberg in our Bible study, that Satan often works this way. That he doesn’t usually try to tempt us to do a complete 180 from what we believe. Often it’s just a slight change in direction from where we were originally heading. Just a small amount off course…something we may not even notice if we’re not paying attention.
Jesus was filled with God’s love for the city of Jerusalem. For the people of God living there. To be standing on the pinnacle of the temple, surrounded by the city God Loves, must have filled Jesus with large amounts of emotion. Pride. Confidence. Love. Joy. Hope for what God has in store. And it’s while He’s standing there, taking in everything around Him, that Satan whispers… “Go ahead, God has promised to take care of you no matter what…you think the joy you’re feeling now is cool? Just wait until you feel the rush of angels protecting you from the fall!”
We don’t know how much time passes. Whether it’s instant, or whether Jesus does stand and imagine what it might be like to experience this. But we know that the next significant thing that happens, is a response right from the same Word of God that Satan tried to use. A very solid “no”, spoken in a way that practically dares Satan to try it again. Jesus reminds Satan, and us as we read, that the purposes of God’s Holy activities in our midst are not for show. He draws his scripture from the story of God’s people as they’ve finished wandering the desert. They’ve been rescued from slavery in Egypt. They’ve followed Moses, and God has been faithful to provide for their escape and survival. But now they’re thirsty, and ask Moses if God has brought them into freedom in the middle of the desert, only to die by thirst. They reveal that even though God has moved in mighty ways on their behalf in their past, promising them an incredible future – they’re still struggling to trust Him in the present. Jesus had this same temptation, and so do we. Jesus knew about the past of God moving through His people, and prophecies about the Messiah. He knew about the future redemption and salvation that was being made possible. But Satan was trying to get Him to lose sight of His purposes and calling in this moment.
We know God has been faithful. As a people, we all know someone, or have experienced ourselves, the way God can bring life transformation. We read scriptures about movements of God’s Spirit, and know God has moved throughout all corners of His creation. We also believe in a “someday”, when God will bring to completion everything He began with Christ. When heaven and earth will be made completely new, and we will live with Christ forever. But what we’re tempted to lose sight of is what God wants for us today, right now, in this moment. Tempted to base our entire experience of God on what is happening right now. Satan knows he can’t erase the past ways God has been faithful, and He’s pretty powerless to remove the future as well. But if He can just get us to put God to the test in a single moment, sometimes that’s all it takes. This could be less a caution against temptation, and more a reminder of the faithfulness and promises of God. Maybe that’s something you need to hear today.
What are the circumstances of your life this week? What burdens are you carrying? What is happening in your world, that make you wonder if God is even with you? Our reminder is this: God has been with us…and God will always be with us. Most importantly, God is “Immanuel – God with us”, even now. Despite what Satan may have been whispering to you as you suffer. Nevermind how heavy the burdens may seem. God suffers with you, offers to carry our burdens, and offers us a solid Hope for what He has in store…if we will have faith in His purposes through today.
As we prepare ourselves to celebrate Easter together at the end of this 40-day season, it’s a journey that becomes a reminder of how we live. The “40 days” confuses many people, because as we look at the calendar, from Ash Wednesday to Easter is actually like 46 days. But that’s because as the early church was forming this tradition, they recognized that every Sunday – especially the Sunday’s during Lent – stood apart as miniature celebrations of Easter. Existing in “God’s Time”, and not our own, they occur throughout the 40 days of Lent, inviting us to celebrate in small ways, what eventually is celebrated fully. It’s the same in our lives. We experience only glimpses, and places where the Kingdom of God “breaks through”, as the veil continues to be worn thin. But someday we will experience and know fully as New Creation, what today we only see here and there throughout our lives. Will we continue to be faithful from Monday through Saturday, believing that Sunday is coming? Or will we listen to the voice of Satan, that tempts us to test God according to what we think should be happening right this moment?
God is with you, right now.
Stay tuned for “Temptations of Jesus, Pt. 3″…