Each day over the Easter weekend I'll be sharing a special 5 Part series looking at the Temptations of Jesus. These reflections derive from the idea that the more you look the more you see. I am fully committed to daily engagement with the Bible and I value the idea of reading consecutively through books of the Bible, but I think there is also a place for more concentrated study and meditation, giving more prolonged time to study one passage or episode, returning to it day after day to see what more it is saying. I did that with the temptations of Jesus and this is the result. These are not highly polished reflections. In fact most of them were written on the bus between Edinburgh and Glasgow. They are more like an artist's sketch rather than the fully developed painting.
As I approached these passages I did so with at least three key principles in mind: 1. To read the passages and to keep reading them, praying that God would focus my mind on fresh things. 2. The temptations are primarily about Jesus facing temptation and gaining victory for us. Any lessons we learn about how we face temptation are secondary; this is mainly about focusing on Jesus and his work for us. 3. There is a time for self-examination, so that we can find a fresh sense of joy in forgiveness and draw anew on the grace of our Lord Jesus.
We pray 'lead us not into temptation' (or hard testing). No one wants to go there and least of all those of us who recognise our frailty of character. Jesus is led into temptation by the Spirit. This is deliberate and planned. He does not seek out the experience in an act of bravado.
Rather, he cannot fulfill his divine purpose, completing the Father's will, without himself being tested and the Devil being rebuffed. Why did the Spirit lead him into temptation? He is led here in the immediate aftermath of his baptism; that emotionally-charged, euphoric moment when the declaration is made 'this is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased'. This moment of affirmation, reassurance and security now comes under onslaught. Is he, and will he continue to be, the Son who pleases the Father; the Son who bends his will, renouncing his comfort and well-being, to the Father and his way? Did Jesus need to be tested? Did his love and faithfulness need to be proved? It seems he did, as a human being. He had never been a man before.
The Godhead is placed in a dynamic relationship never previously experienced. Despite Jesus' eternal existence he had never experienced anything quite like this. In his incarnation, would his love and obedience, as the Son of God made man, remain true and undiluted? Jesus remains true to his sonship. He faces down the opposition and starts on the road to vanquishing the Devil and final victory. Temptations will inevitably surface; some of the severest will cause Jesus to say; 'not my will but yours be done'. But this initial test sets the framework and foundation for facing the rest.
He is truly the Son of God who pleases the Father so that we can also become sons who please the Father.
Tomorrow: Part 2 - 'My food is to do what God wants'