6.01.2009

following jesus: the temptation

We pray lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (or the evil one). Jesus was led into temptation that we might be delivered from evil (or the evil one. I have read the temptation story any number of times, and I have heard it preached and teached (or is it praught and taught) even more times. I think I got it in a general sense. Usually the moral of the sermon is “Know your scripture because the Devil will twist it!” or “Don’t worship Satan!”

I have never—at least any time I was paying attention—heard a teacher or pastor draw out the parallels with Israel’s wilderness experience. This is surprising given that all of Jesus’ answers to the temptation can be found in the context of Israel’s exhortation before entering the land. Consider the following allusions:

JesusIsrael
Lk 4:1-13; Mt 4:1-11; Mk 1:12-13 → Dt 8:1-20; 6:10-16
In the wilderness 40 days → In the wilderness 40 years
Before beginning his ministry → Before beginning their conquest
Temptation 1 – Bread → Dt 8:1-10 – You shall not live on bread alone
Temptation 2 – Kingdoms → Dt 8:11-20 – You shall worship the LORD alone
Temptation 3 – Temple → Dt 6:10-16 – You shall not put the LORD to the test
Faithful → Unfaithful

Where Israel was disciplined in the wilderness as a father disciplines a son, Jesus is likewise tested in the wilderness. Where Israel was not able to remain faithful, Jesus proves himself faithful. Jesus is found to be the only faithful son of God, where all others have failed.

The temptations seem to me to fall along these lines:
Self-preservation – Israel (Dt 8:1-10) was to remember that they depended upon God for their bread (i.e. Manna), and their hunger was to remind them of their dependence. Jesus was tempted to take it upon himself to provide satisfaction for his hunger rather than remaining utterly dependent upon God for his provision. His answer is to humbly trust in God’s provision.

Self-exaltation – Israel (Dt 8:11-20) was warned not to think that their prosperity and success in the land had anything to do with them. Rather they were to remain humbly faithful to God and to not follow other gods. Jesus was tempted to exalt himself by forsaking his allegiance to God. His answer is to humbly trust in God’s way (and time) of exaltation. (Ironically, it was when Jesus was faithful to the point of crucifixion that God raised him and he could say to his disciples “All authority has been given to me.” The very thing the Devil was offering him.)

Self-deification – Israel (Dt 6:10-16) is reminded that they are to trust and serve God. They are not to put him to the test as they did at Massah (v. 16). What did they do at Massah? In Ex 17:1-7, we see that they grumbled to Moses about the lack of water, which God then provided from a stone. The place is named Massah (testing) because they tested the LORD saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” Why do I say this is the temptation of self-deification? Not because one consciously sets themselves up as a god, but because one demands that God prove himself to them. In other words, they make God serve them. Jesus was tempted to make God prove his relationship to him. Jesus’ answer is to humbly trust that he serves God on God’s terms.

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