|Posted by Baltimore Lutheran Campus Ministry on February 19, 2013 at 4:50 PM|
The temptation of Jesus. We read it every year at the beginning of Lent. We hear about the tests from Satan that threatened to take him off course. And how he passed every test. And then we prepare to hear a sermon that tells us that we should learn to resist temptation because Jesus did. We hear that Jesus resisted temptation by quoting Scripture and you can, too, and God will give you power and everything will be ok.
I don’t know about you, but sermons like that come up a little hollow for me. A whole lot of “shoulds” just remind me that there’s one more thing I’m failing at which makes me feel worse which just makes me want to give into temptation to make myself feel better. Perhaps it shouldn’t be like that, perhaps I should be more like Jesus (well, I KNOW I should be more like Jesus), but life doesn’t seem to work like that.
And frankly, I think that a lot of the time we don’t want to avoid temptation because we actually like it. Because temptation is often encouraging us to do the things that we would prefer to do, even if they are not good for us. Asking us to do what’s fun for the moment. Like being tempted to eat a cupcake when we’ve given up sweets or being tempted to procrastinate by doing something a lot more fn than your homework.
So even if I know I should be more like Jesus, it’s not a real convincing argument to tell me that Jesus was good and I should be good like him. Especially when he got crucified by doing that and I feel like I’m doing pretty well on my own. So this week I struggled to find another way to approach this story. One that is faithful to the Scripture, faithful to what God might be saying to us through it, but a way of approaching it that might actually make it a story that changes us.
Now, we know how the story goes. Fresh from his baptism, fresh from God opening the heavens and proclaiming Jesus his beloved Son, Jesus heads into the wilderness. Maybe he was on a high from hearing the voice of God and knew he needed time for this to sink in (because he was also fully human and that God voice had to overwhelm him a bit!) Or maybe he knew that God was calling him to do mighty things in the world and he needed some time away from the world to prepare himself.
But he goes. Alone. With nothing to depend on but God. He takes with him the stories of his faith that he had learned from the time he was young and the words of Scripture that rang in his head. He got rid of all the distractions and drank in the word of God. And then he let God provide. Provide for his hunger and his thirst. Provide for his sanity as he spent 40 days alone. Provide for his safety and his comfort.
And at the end of those 40 days, when he is weak with hunger and starved for human contact, Satan comes to tempt him. And he dares Jesus to make bread- to whip up some magic breakfast. And he dares him to take control over the whole world as long as he does it the way Satan would want it done. And then he weirdly dares him to jump off the temple roof and let God save him. And Jesus responds to each test with the perfect words from Scripture and seems to nail the test without even having to think twice. Temptation beat. Jesus wins. Satan exits.
It sounds like it’s about temptation, but I think the deeper reality in this account is that it’s about trust. Jesus trusts God. The wilderness has been a school for him, teaching his human self how to trust God. He has spent so much time with God and God’s word that his heart has been changed. He’s been depending on God alone for 40 das and now his heart simply trusts because that is all it knows how to do anymore. It’s automatic.
It may not seem like that big a deal, to trust God, but think about what it feels like to truly trust someone or something. When you trust you are loved, you don’t have to worry about who’s looking at you or if you are measuring up. That awkwardness and anxiety aren’t there. Your stomach isn’t constantly in knots. You look at the world with joy and not fear.
Trusting means being so clear about who you are and where you are going that nothing can sway you. It means having your roots so deep that they’re not going to be pulled up in a storm. It means that even when you suffer, you don’t lose hope. Finding one that we can trust is what sets us free. To be truly ourselves.
But some of the things we try to trust often fail us. Relationships end, health fails, jobs dry up, friends treat us like crap, our dreams get smashed up and changed. And then life is in chaos. Trust is all good until it fails us. And that is why this story about Jesus in the wilderness is so vital to us.
Because it’s about what life looks like when we place our trust in the one thing that cannot be shaken. Confident. And hopeful. Free of feeling like we have to do everything. Free of awkwardness and indecision.
This story isn’t just about Jesus being such a good, moral human being, better than we will ever be. It’s about a vision of trusting God with all we are. Being so sure of the one that holds us that we are willing to walk into whatever life brings us. It’s about knowing our purpose and our identity so clearly that our anxiety and stress and awkwardness just melt away. And we are able to be fully who we are. Who God created us to be.
But how do we get there? Saying we should trust Jesus more isn’t really any more helpful than saying we should resist temptation. So perhaps we need some positive reinforcement.
So I want you to think about what part of our life comes pretty easy for you to trust God with. And that means not that you just hope everything will be fine, but that you know- good or bad- God will keep a hold on you and you’ll be able to make it through. Maybe it’s your health or relationships with others or money. Whatever it is, write it down.
And then, what do you have a lot of trouble trusting God with? What would you rather keep control of because you’re afraid of trusting God with it? Write that down, too.
And then imagine for a minute- what would your life look like if you could trust God with that second thing? What if trusting God with that came as naturally to you as the first thing you thought of? And what is keeping you from getting there?
Some of you have already begun a Lenten journey. Some of you aren’t going on one. And some of you are procrastinators who haven’t figured out what that journey should be about yet. But in these days where the church is especially eager to support you on your journey, this might be a great time to jump in and let go. Let go of one thing that is holding you back from trusting God. Or learn one story of Scripture well enough that it lives in you and gives you words to speak when trouble comes. Or spend a few minutes or days or weeks in the wilderness- of loneliness, or hunger, or life without technology. And see what God might teach you as you trust God to provide for you.
Because trusting God is a privilege that we are given. We get the great joy of trusting that God’s words to us are not just nice things, but they are true! That we ARE loved- not in some superficial way, but in a way that reaches beyond our fears and our faults and our insecurities. That we ARE created in the image of God and that image is always there, as much as we may try to hide it or rebel against it. And that we ARE promised that God will walk with us through every step as we follow Jesus- even when it sucks, when it’s painful and when it’s confusing and risky. That God will be with us on the other side of our pain just as powerfully as God is with us on this side.
So let go. And let God be enough.