He endured the cross
Read Matthew 4:1-11 On the cross, the Lord Jesus will cry out in a deep sense of abandonment: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It could hardly be more distant from the warmth, intimacy and affirmation of the baptismal announcement. Yet this too is the Father's will. God's "strange work" some have called it. Part of the Father's pleasure in his son is his willingness to be in the place of wilderness. The people of Israel (God's children or God's son) wandering in the wilderness had so often disappointed God, showing resentment and often being disobedient. I see myself in the vacillations of their life; an underlying rebellious spirit popping to the surface all too easily. But the true Son of God goes to the wilderness willingly and submissively, without complaint. The Israelites who left Egypt would never emerge from the wilderness. They would die there because of their hardness of heart. Jesus will leave the wilderness as a champion. Is the wilderness temptation a precursor of his cry of dereliction on the cross? Is this period in the wilderness a preparation and possibly even a test towards the horrific experience of aloneness he will face on the cross? Certainly there is the similarity in both episodes of disjunction between the statement of the Father's love for his son and an experience which seems to totally contradict the veracity of that love. "It was sheer faith in God, unsupported by any visible evidence that carried Him through the taunting and the scourging, the crucifying and the more bitter agony of rejection, desertion and dereliction" [F.F. Bruce]. Will the son continue to believe and trust in God's word and purpose in the wilderness? At the point when my good friend, Nigel Lee, was struck down with inoperable cancer he said: "Now we will see whether I really believe all I have taught over the years". He stood firm and, thank God, Jesus too passes this test and readies himself for the greater test of the crucifixion where "not my will but yours" will be the hallmark of his attitude as he faces the onslaught of sin and the Devil.
Some of the greatest temptations we face are about fundamental issues of life and identity. Like Jesus, they are not just about food, safety and material possession. On the surface they are about these things but really they are about who I am and the fundamental direction of my life. My greatest temptations are to deny my personhood in Christ; to live as if it were not true, to doubt God's word and to live introspectively rather than in service to others. During my readings of the temptation accounts I have faced strong temptation - the temptation to cease to believe God's power is changing me or will ever change me; the temptation to feel useless, having made so many errors in Christian service and life. I've felt I've done things that have been of little value to people. I have felt easily threatened by other peoples' gifts and fruitfulness; I have allowed anger and resentment to build in me. And even writing this can become a temptation to self-pity, sending me inward and downward. These are all real temptations and Jesus has faced them all in one way or another. He certainly was tempted to doubt His Father's continued commitment to him. He faced the issue of seeming failure, of being marginalised and rejected. He was surely tempted to anger at the immature wavering of his disciples and since he expressed his utter loneliness on the cross, one assumes there was a temptation to be bitter in the isolation of his suffering. All this‚ yet without sin! Often the further temptation for me is to seek consolation and identity and therefore worth in my accomplishments. If I can find evidence of success and identify my fruitfulness then I will feel better. But I am called to faithfulness not success. I am called to trust in the Father's promises, to look to the Lord Jesus as my victorious champion, to listen to the voice of the Spirit that assures me of my sonship - then to keep going!

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.