My food is to do what God wants

Read Matthew 4:1-11, John 4:31-38

The original temptation in Genesis 3 was about food; a shiny, juicy, appetising piece of fruit that promised much more than its outward attractiveness. Again, food is at the centre of this temptation. Food is so central to human existence; it is something that the body not only needs but longs for. And it is enjoyable, being far more than something functional.

The need and desire for satisfied appetite lies at the root of both the temptation in the garden and the temptation in the wilderness. But Jesus is placed in a more pressing situation than Adam & Eve. They were surrounded by beautiful things, many of them good things to eat - and they took the one thing not allowed to them. Jesus is surrounded by rocks and he refuses the one chance of food offered to him.

He refuses to use his power to satisfy his hunger. Jesus' power is not a quick fix to solve problems - for him or for us. He does not choose to exercise his power simply to extricate himself from difficulty. His Father had led him into this desert setting and he would face the consequences of that for as long as his Father desired. It was not for him to question or struggle against the circumstances arranged by his loving Father. How easy to allow my appetites to dictate my behaviour. I want it; I can afford it, so why shouldn't I have it? How understandable it would for Jesus to use his power to ease his difficult circumstances. That's often how I behave, using the many options open to a middle-class, educated, westerner to get myself out of potential difficulty. But avoiding difficulty must mean missing out on the benefits of lessons that can only be learned through the melting pot of trouble and hardship. I need to learn not to struggle but to submit.

Jesus points beyond human appetite to satisfaction of our real appetite; for God's truth, our real sustenance. The challenge is to ask which appetite will drive me. For Jesus the answer is unequivocal; his Father's word is his true sustenance which will build him and nourish him and strengthen and enable him. This is about the place of God's word in our lives and there could hardly be a stronger statement. The most important thing for Jesus at that precise moment was to hear God's word. That took precedence over everything else.

Andy Bathgate

Andy has been CEO of SU Scotland since 2001. When he's not busy with us, you'll find him playing with his grandsons or in an art gallery with his wife.