Weekly Teachings by Erik Momsen
Jesus and Temptation
by Erik Momsen
Some of my greatest pain and frustration comes from my desire to see justice reign. I am driven to make things better in as many situations as possible but I get to changing very little. The temptation I face is that I want to change the world. Jesus also wants to do the same thing, but I suspect goes about it in a very different way.
I want to see people have their daily needs met, live in safety, and governments rule wisely and well. Jesus even wished this - he taught His disciples to pray for it. He prayed "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Heaven on earth is what I want and this causes me much distress.
A poet wrote:
"To search for perfection is all very well.
But to look here for heaven is to live here in hell."
I believe it is possible to have heaven on earth but for one small word - sin. Sin is those things that make life painful and difficult, yet somehow humanity has acquired a taste for it. Sin is the reason the Son of God came to earth to die. Some might say he came because of love. That is just as true. Love is the opposite of sin and the remedy for sin. Love covers over a multitude of sins.
TEMPTATION IN THE DESERT
Many leave their country of birth because they hope they can achieve their ideals of a better lifestyle, physical safety and stable, just government. This was the very temptation Jesus faced in the desert. Satan said to Him, you can have these three things if you do things my way. If you are prepared to take a short cut.
"If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread"; "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down ... He will command His angels"; "All these kingdoms I will give to you, if you bow down and worship me."
Jesus could have changed the world in one afternoon had he taken Satan's offer. He however would only have changed the world and not human hearts. Philip Yancey says "Satan tempted the Son of God to change the rules and achieve his goals by a dazzling, short cut method. The rule change would have been from love to magic. From invitation to enticement."
Possibly the first temptation that Jesus faced was to face the temptation at all. Why should the God of all be irritated by a foul demon? Why should the King of Kings be ragged by a petty thief and pervert? For our sake he took the humility. Jesus faced satan as a man, hungry and weak after a 40 day fast. The temptations offered were not bad in themselves. Jesus was tempted to be human without the bad side-effects. He could enjoy the warmth of the sun on his face and the taste of bread without the struggle of working for it. He could experience the thrill of danger without the possible painful consequences and could enjoy fame, glory and adulation without the prospect of rejection. He could wear the crown without the cross.
The temptations were primarily about what the Messiah should look like. People wanted him to be grand, exciting, powerful, conquering. A mix between Father Christmas and Mike Tyson. Not a suffering, defeated Messiah. The Jews to this day are looking for this victorious Messiah and the church in its aspirations wants success and not sacrifice.
Jesus was tempted throughout His earthly life in the same way. The temptation was "use your awesome cosmic power and get some results".
In Matthew 16:21-28 Jesus tells the disciples that he must suffer and be killed. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. " 'This shall never happen to you'. Jesus turned to Peter and said, 'Get behind me, Satan ... you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of man' ".
At the crucifixion the people put the same temptation before Him. "Come down from the cross if you are the son of God. He saved others, but he can't save Himself. ... Let him come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him." (Matthew 27:40,42)
Adam and Eve wanted to be like God. That was a fatal mistake. Jesus had to become the true man so we could again be what God intended us to be. Satan tempted Jesus to act like God instead of man.
WHY CHANGE HEARTS INSTEAD OF THE WORLD?
The single issue that holds God back from using all power, removing all sin in one moment and bringing universal peace, is that he created us to be free. Free to love or not to love. Free to rebel or be obedient. Free to be in relationship with Him or to walk away.
Have you not wished that God would just change you in a moment into some perfectly obedient subject? Then I wouldn't sin and make myself and others around me unhappy.
Why does God sit back and allow us to do what we do to each other?
It would be easy for God to wave a magic wand and make everything OK, but He is interested in a deeper and greater truth. This story of God and us is the story that plays itself out in every home. The relationship between parents and children and even husband and wife. We want them to want to love us. We know we cannot make them love us.
Jesus set in motion the revolution of love given freely without strings attached. He would love us even if we did not respond. When he did show power it was out of compassion, not a desire to sway us. Only His love would be used to bring us back.
Date Added: 2008-09-02
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