Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Casting doubt

Matthew 4:1-17
The Temptation of Jesus
​Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
But he answered, “It is written,
‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple,
saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’ ”
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Jesus Begins His Ministry in Galilee
Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
“Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.”
From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Last week, we read of Jesus' baptism and recalled our baptism, celebrating our status, baptised or not, as beloved Children of God.
As Matthew records it, after his baptism, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Though I've always valued retreat, I've also wondered how frustrating that might have been for Jesus.
Baptised, affirmed, commissioned, and then left cooling his heels for 40 days.
And it is then that the Tempter strikes. When Jesus is weakened and famished and far enough away from that moment of baptism to begin to doubt its authenticity.
One of my mantras is : "In times of desolation, never doubt what God has revealed in times of consolation."
But, 40 days after God's affirmation of his beloved son as he emerged from the waters of baptism, the tempter knew just where and how to strike. Jesus, tired and famished from his sojourn in the wilderness ws particularly vulnerable. And the Tempter went for the jugular.
"If you are the Son of God..."
Striking at the heart of Jesus' identity.
"If you are the Son of God..."
Did he have to prove that identity?
Could he trust the words he had heard at baptism?
Life often conspires to tell us that we are insignificant or less than beloved children of God.
At vulnerable moments, we doubt that affirmation and acceptance that God showers on us.
Attacking us right there is an effective strategy.
And the Tempter knows it.
So as we read the story of Jesus' temptation and witness how he lived into his status as the beloved Son of God, may we be strengthened to defeat all that attacks and makes us question our status as God's beloved children. And, strengthened in that knowledge, we take up our commission to emerge with Christ into ministry in the world.

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