Theology

Wildly Tempting: How to win the war of temptation

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In his wilderness temptations, Jesus said no to each one. But how did he choose not to say yes to temptation? How did Jesus win that battle?

Of course it’s disturbing to imagine Jesus falling to the temptations of Satan. But it helps us imagine what was at stake. In these scenes in the wilderness we see Satan tempting Jesus to choose between his humanity and his divinity.

In tempting Jesus to make stones from bread, Satan is telling a famished Jesus he doesn’t have to experience the very real pain of his physical needs. As Jesus has discovered, it’s humbling and terrifying to live in a human body which needs to be fed day after day. It would be easier to have a super power which ensured you never had to ask God to provide.

It brings to mind the way the people of Israel were called to daily gather only the manna they needed for that day. And it makes me wonder if Jesus thought back to this moment when he prayed the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.”

As Jesus discovered, it’s humbling & terrifying to live in a body which needs daily feeding. Click To Tweet

How are we tempted to set aside the human pain of daily physical reliance?

In tempting Jesus with the authority and glory of the kingdoms of the world, Satan is telling a mission-oriented Jesus that he doesn’t have to experience the very real pain of his task. Jesus is focused on reaching the world for the Father–a pretty humbling endeavor.

Having limited himself to exist in one body, he’s aware that he has only one mouth to speak, only one pair of legs to take him on this mission. Satan knew that directly asking Jesus to set aside the mission would be too obvious.

So instead he tempts Jesus to have a mass-marketing approach. He doesn’t show Jesus thousands of faces but tempts him with authority, kingdoms. Instead of seeing the mission as a call to love, heart by heart, Satan is tempting him to create a brand. Instead of seeing his mission as serving the multitudes, Satan tempts Jesus to be served.

Instead of seeing his mission as serving the multitudes, Satan tempts Jesus to be served. Click To Tweet

How are we tempted to set aside the human pain of daily reliance in our mission?

In tempting Jesus to leap from the temple, Satan is telling a human Jesus that he doesn’t have to experience the pain of being led by the Father. It’s excruciating to limit himself to rely on the Father, to not always know the future.

Forcing the Father’s hand to behave in his way, in his time, would have set aside Jesus’ need to keep seeking, keep asking, keep following. But in doing so, he would have made a pet, a Father who performed for him.

How are we tempted to set aside the human pain of daily guidance from the Father?

If Jesus had said yes to making bread, it would have been a last supper of a different kind, a final, solitary feast that ended his kingdom. If he had said yes to worshiping Satan, he may have gained authority and glory but would have become like every other human ruler, lording it over the masses for his own glorification.

If he had said yes to leaping off the temple, it may have simply ended in an inglorious splat. But even if the Father sent angels to save him, the Son would have learned he could manipulate the Lord of the Universe.

In all of these temptations, Satan is showing Jesus his human limitation. He tells Jesus “Look how small and weak and limited and stupid you are!” In doing so, Satan tempts Jesus to find shame in his humanness. And from that shame, he tempts Jesus to set aside humanness and flee to the comfort of Divinity.

He tempts Jesus to quickly set aside the pain of human limitation and return to the power of being only God. He tries to tell Jesus that Human and God cannot co-exist. What hope for us would there have been if he had found shame in the limitations of humanity?

But He chose to wrestle in that place where human and God come together in Him. This makes his death meaningful. But in it he also discovers a way that human and God can come together in us.

In every way that we are human, Satan tempts us to find shame.

In every limitation, every lack of understanding, every physical need he tells us “Look how small and weak and limited and stupid you are!” And from that shame, he tempts us, as he tempted Adam and Eve—to find some way we can be like God. He tempts us with a quick fix to remove the pain of our human limitation.

But when we remember that there is no shame in our humanness, that God himself became it to embrace it, we can also embrace our humanness. And trust that the living Lord, who found some way to live in the pain of humanness will show us, in our own humanness, how to follow the Father.

There is no shame in our humanness—God himself became it to embrace it. Click To Tweet

Questions for Reflection

  • How are we daily confronted with our human limitation?
  • How are we tempted to find shame in it?
  • How do we respond out of that shame, to turn to anything that will make us feel strong?
  • How, instead, could it be an invitation to turn to God?

A Confession

We confess all the ways we’re ashamed of how you have made us.
We confess that we feel weak when our bodies get tired and sick.
We confess that we feel inadequate when we can’t control our fate.
We confess that we feel small when we can’t reach our goals.
We’re sorry for every way we’re ashamed of how you’ve made us.
We’re sorry for every way we try to be gods.
We’re sorry for every way we turn from you.
We confess we need you.
Teach us to recognize our need for you in every moment.
And give us the courage to turn to you instead of our own efforts.
When we do, receive us and forgive us.
Thank you for reaching out to us by entering the human race.
Thank you for showing us how to live in reliance on you.
Receive us back to yourself.
Let us live in harmony with you again. Be our God & we will be your people.

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