There is, throughout the Gospels and everywhere in Christian theology, a tension between the humanity and the divinity of Jesus. It’s very clear in this story of the temptation – or testing – of Jesus in the wilderness.
Jesus is fully human and fully God, at the same time, all the time. Our creeds and our theology attest to that. So, let me share a personal belief. Since Jesus is fully human, it was probably not possible for him to go for 40 days and nights without having anything to eat or drink. More likely, he ate and drank sparingly, surviving on what the wilderness provided him. While not abundant, it was enough.
In truth, the details of Jesus' fast are not important. What does matter is that the purpose of a fast is to allow us to focus more completely on our relationship with God. Even something as simple as fasting from chocolate for the 40 days of Lent reminds us that God gives us the delicious food we enjoy.
The temptations – or tests – themselves tell us how Jesus managed to do what he was sent to do. Last week, we thought about Jesus praying, keeping his focus on God and on us. Today, he’s talking with the devil, still keeping his focus on God and on us. Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness, where he could struggle with any resistance the human Jesus might find to God’s plan, and where he could gain the strength to know he could fulfill the purpose for which he became human.
In order to live according to God’s plan, Jesus has to make choices. If he chooses to feed his human self by turning stone into bread, he uses his divine powers and denies his humanity which cannot do such a thing.
If Jesus chooses to worship the devil he denies his divinity and claims powers that humans would love to have. The divine Jesus knows that the devil’s offer is a lie, since the whole world belongs to God, not the devil. Since Jesus is both human and divine, he already has all the power and glory he needs, and it would be foolish to give it all up to the devil.
If Jesus chose to put his human body at risk by jumping off the top of the temple without a bungee cord, God would probably let him die, because he would be misusing his divine status and power. This would be against God’s plan, and they would need to find another way to save humankind.
But, Jesus has been sent for God’s purposes and does not fall for the devil’s tricks. The devil has to look for other ways to defeat him.
We like to think that it is easy to identify the devil, but it’s not. The devil does not run around in a red body suit with horns and a pitchfork. The devil looks like you and me; that’s why it is so easy to fall for the lies the devil tells. In our class last Monday, someone mentioned the word seduction. I think it’s a very good word, because seduction is a powerful force that draws us away from our current relationships into a relationship that is not healthy. Seduction draws us away from God and into the belief that we don’t need God. Seduction leads us into trusting in ourselves for what we have and for what we want. Seduction is how the devil works in our lives, because the devil looks innocent, just like us.
· The devil looks like a guy who is very happy with his new car, because he loves the power and handling capability.
· The devil looks like a gal who is very happy with her new hair color because it makes her look younger and sexier.
· The devil looks like the smart-alecky baby who has all the answers to financial investment and wealth.
· The devil looks like the newest gadget, replacing last year’s newest gadget.
· The devil looks like the comfort of the easy chair and whatever is on TV.
· The devil looks like the latest pill to help us lose weight.
· The devil looks like the fear to speak about our faith in Jesus to another person.
· The devil looks like resistance to change because it’s different from what we have always known.
· The devil looks like hatred of people who are different from us.
· The devil looks like people who complain about injustice without taking action against it.
The devil is anyone or anything that leads us away from our trust in Jesus. The devil is anyone or anything that keeps us from putting God first in our lives. The only way we can resist the devil’s seduction is to do exactly what Jesus did – put our trust in God and in God’s plan and purpose for us and for our world.
Please pray with me. Mighty God, it’s only through you that we can recognize the seduction of the devil’s ways. And it’s only by trusting in you that we can resist the temptation to trust in ourselves instead of in you. Forgive us when we turn from you, and help us return to you, again and again. Amen