A time for……..Reflection
Sermon date: March 10th
Reading: Luke 4 v.1-13
How would you define “temptation”? Do any of these comments help?
“I can resist anything except temptation” (Oscar Wilde)
“There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.”
“Temptation is the feeling we get when encountered by an opportunity to do what we know we shouldn’t.” (Steve Maraboli)
Please read together Luke 4.1-13
Jesus is not Superman who looks like an ordinary human being but underneath this disguise is all-powerful; a kind of computer-age super-magician. In Luke’s genealogy, Jesus is described as a descendant of Adam, so he must face all that Adam faced in the Garden of Eden. And more so – all the powers released through mankind’s sin and rebellion.
After his baptism, Jesus had two questions to answer:
What does it mean to be God’s Son?
What sort of messiahship am I to pursue?
“We must not imagine Jesus engaged in conversation with a visible figure; the Devil’s voice appears as a string of natural ideas in his own head.”
Q.1 How far do you agree with this statement?
The temptations provide possible answers to the two questions – but all three temptations are plausible and attractive.
Q.2 Can you put these temptations in your own words?
“Surely God cannot want his only Son to be famished? What kind of Father would want that?”
“Surely if God wants his Son to be sovereign of the world, why not go the easy route?”
“Surely if you are the Messiah, why not prove it with a spectacular display of power. Just think of the crowds who will flock to you.”
There is a good case for seeing these temptations as a new wandering in the wilderness - the time when the people of God had crossed the Red Sea only to spend 40 years wandering around the Sinai Peninsula.
Deuteronomy chapters 6-8 focus on three major events:
At Massah when the people complained about lack of water and Moses accused the people of testing God with their complaints (Dt 6.16).
Whether the people would worship God, and God alone, or would also worship other gods (Dt 6.13-15)
When God miraculously fed the people with manna (Dt 8.3)
Jesus’ response to the Devil are all taken from these verses.
So what is the significance of this?
Jesus faced the same trials that the Israelites did BUT he responded in quite a different way. He demonstrated the possibility of facing such trials but responding to them in a new and positive way.
Note that Jesus responded to the Devil not by arguing but by quoting Scripture. Physical needs are important – but loyalty to God is more important.
It is crucial that as disciples of Jesus we learn to recognize the voices that whisper attractive lies; to distinguish them from the voice of God and to use the powerful weapon of Scripture to overcome them.
Q.3 How good are you at quoting Scripture when faced with a challenging situation?
Q.4 How easy/difficult is it to hear the voice of God in today’s world?
Q.5 Can you think of any modern equivalents of Jesus’ temptations?
Social justice is what really matters today. Our task as Christians is to feed the hungry and overcome oppression.
Water down the Gospel message to make it more attractive to the world around us: God loves you as you are and asks nothing more of you than to come to church on a Sunday.
Prosperity religion: God wants you to be healthy and wealthy – and if you have enough faith it will come your way.
Other questions to might like to consider, if time permits:
Mark 1.12 tells us that Jesus entered the wilderness immediately after his baptism. Temptations tend to be strongest soon after a time of blessing.
Q.6 What might we learn from this?
Jesus later fed 5,000 men (+ women and children) with just a few loaves/fishes, and he also performed many miracles.
Q.7 Does this contradict his response to the Devil?
Note verse 13. This was not the end of Jesus being tempted. Nor will temptations ever end for us.
Q.8 What most tempts you away from God?
Much has been written about the significance of the number 40 in the Bible, a number which occurs 98 times. One answer is this: “Symbolic of a period of testing, trial or chastisement, but not judgement. Ends with a period of restoration, revival or renewal.” If you have time you might like to see how many of those 98 references you can find and if you can come up with your own answer as to the significance! Here are just a few:
Exodus 24.18 Moses on the mountain 40 days and 40 nights
Deuteronomy 9.8 Moses fasting 40 days and 40 nights
Numbers 13.25 Spying out the land for 40 days
1 Samuel 17.16 Goliath taunts the Israelite army for 40 days
1 Kings 19.8 Elijah travelled for 40 days and 40 nights
Jonah 3.4 City to be destroyed in 40 days
Ezekiel 4.6 Ezekiel lies on his side for 40 days
Jesus brought to the Temple when 40 days old
Acts 1.2 Jesus appeared for 40 days after his resurrection
And many more …
Invite someone to slowly read the following:
A TIME FOR REFLECTION
Close your eyes and imagine you are in a desert. How would you survive? What temptations might come your way?
Experience the solitude of this deserted place, providing space for thought, but in the darkness lions may lurk. Feel the flat stones shimmering in the heat and in your hunger touch them – they feel like loaves of fresh bread.
Hear the inner voice that whispers, “Do it my way. Why not use every way possible to achieve your goal?” See the crowds in the Temple – you can do anything with crowds if you want to.
A miracle or two and they will hail you as Messiah. Hear Jesus say: “ONLY GOD’S WAY IS RIGHT.”
What is temptation? “Temptation comes when we are so divided in our vision of life; as uncertain of our calling as human beings in this or that situation, that we let our desires have a status they are not meant to have.”
Do I allow my life to be run by my physical and emotional needs?
And do these needs and desires prevent me addressing the spiritual issues in my life?
Where is my priority for God?
May this Lent be a time of renewal of my vision; a reordering of my priorities; and a deepening of my trust in God.
Malcolm Raby, 28/02/2019