In speaking about Jesus, the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us: (Hebrews 4:15 NASB) we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin. In other words, in regards to temptation, there is an “equal sign” there between Jesus and me.
Now, in Math, the equal sign works both ways. That means that not only was Jesus tempted the way we are all tempted, it is also true that we are tempted the way Jesus was tempted. This realization makes me see Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness in a new light.
We read in the Gospels that, after Jesus was baptized by John, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…
Matthew 4:1-4 (NASB) Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted for forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
But He answered and said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God.’”
This is the first of three temptations. It appeals to Jesus’ basic needs, our basic human needs: food. Now, at first glance, from the way the temptation is worded, it may appear that it is unique to Him; in the sense that the devil knows Jesus can turn rocks into bread… but we cannot.
Does this mean that this temptation does not apply to us in the same way?
Yet, it says in Hebrews that He was tempted the same way we are tempted.
I think it would be a mistake to think that there is a difference here between Jesus and us. Because if we think that Jesus’ miraculous power is the basis for the temptation, we are also liable to think that He overcame that temptation also by His miraculous powers. That kind of thinking can lead us astray because then we see in Jesus’s life not a pattern to imitate, not footsteps to follow, but an unattainable goal that we can aspire to but which no one could really expect us to reach.
I talked a little bit about this issue last time when I mentioned the difference between Jesus as the abased, rejected servant of God in this world versus Jesus as the King of Kings in the world to come. They are not the same… they do not co-exist within Time. Paul tells us Jesus emptied Himself of Divinity when He became one of us. And it was that fully human Messiah that taught us and asked us to follow in His steps.
Putting the “super powers” in perspective
The key to not making of Jesus a super-hero is to know the rest of the story. Yes, Jesus could turn water into wine, multiply fish and bread, even walk on water… but none of those were “super powers.” He was a man just like us. So, how did Jesus do those miracles? We have the answer verified at the tomb of Lazarus:
John 11:41-42 … And Jesus lifted up his eyes on high and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me; but I knew that thou always hearest me; but on account of the crowd who stand around I have said [it], that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
The Father did those miracles.
It only seems that Jesus did those miracles Himself because He was always in contact with the Father.
John 5:19 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, Verily, verily, I say to you, The Son can do nothing of himself save whatever he sees the Father doing: for whatever things *he* does, these things also the Son does in like manner.
It was a seamless relationship to the point that He truthfully could say, I and the Father are one.
Does this mean that all of us ought to expect to be able to do miracles right and left, like Jesus did? I mean, we know that even when He was not paying attention, if a person believed in Him and touched the hem of his garment, healing power flowed from Him and healed that person. That really sounds like super powers… Can you do that?
Well, what we can say is that all of us can, and are called to, have a relationship with the Father every bit as close as Jesus’. Really… Nothing stands in our way. He gave us the Holy Spirit to live inside us! He taught us everything the Father sent Him to teach us. He declared that he completed His mission. Therefore, if we enter whole heartedly into that relationship with the Father, then His will for our lives will come true.
And that is the key. God’s will for Jesus’ life was for Him to enter into our timeline and bring Salvation to all mankind. It required Him taking onto himself the sins of the whole world, dying, and rising again. He accomplished that. Similarly, God has a will for my life, your life, everybody’s life. Is it the same as Jesus’?
In purpose? Yes: to save everyone we can from this world of death.
In method, in approach? Not necessarily.
Remember the way the parable of the Talents starts:
Matthew 25:14-15 “[The kingdom of Heaven] is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability…
We don’t all have the same ability. We don’t all have the same gifts. That is probably why none of us are able to do the kinds of miraculous signs that Jesus did. God the Father fulfilled Jesus’ mission for Him accordingly as Jesus remained faithful to His Plan for Him. God the Father will fulfill our mission for us accordingly as we remain faithful to His Plan for us.
Philippians 2:12-13 So that, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much rather in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both the willing and the working according to [his] good pleasure.
The temptation to expect Divine Intervention
If this is so, then the temptation that Jesus faced is also one that we will face. The devil says to us: If your trust in God is justified then He will provide miraculously for your needs. This is a tricky challenge, subtle, as the serpent is subtle.
Think about it: We all know the Father loves us. And we all love Abraham’s story and how he called God: Jehovah Jireh: The Lord that Provides. All of this is true. We know that God has promised to provide for our needs. In fact Jesus promised the same thing…
Matthew 6:31-32 Be not therefore careful, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we put on? for all these things the nations seek after; for your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of all these things.
It is a truth. And precisely because it is True, the devil will use it, use the truth, the word of God, to try to trap us. But where is the devil’s snare here? How is he trying to make us stumble?
The answer is in Jesus’ reply to the temptation: He doesn’t deny that He could turn those stones into bread, as we should not deny that God will indeed take care of us, because He promised… BUT that’s not the point!
You see, the devils’ trap is like a magic trick on stage… usually accomplished by misdirection. The magician’s left hand does a flourish to the left while his right hand pulls the card or the flower or the rabbit from wherever he had it hidden.
It is all misdirection: By asking us that question: Didn’t your father promise to provide your needs? The devil wants us to think about it and say… well, yes… now that you say it, He promised. And then the devil says nothing else…
And we sit there and think some more and in that silence we start talking to ourselves and we say… You know, I am hungry… you know, I need to pay my rent… you know, my child’s shoes are worn out… yeah… well, God… where are you? What’s taking you so long?
The devil doesn’t need to say anything else and pretty soon we are griping about how God is failing us. You see how it works?
Is God failing us? Really?
Let me ask you a question: Was he failing you before the devil asked you that question? Did he fail you yesterday? Or last week? I mean, did you die of hunger last week? Did you not figure out how to pay the rent last month?
Please, believe me that I am not minimizing hardship… And neither was Jesus. He meant what He said in that Sermon on the Mount:
Matthew 5:25-30 For this cause I say unto you, Do not be careful about your life, what ye should eat and what ye should drink; nor for your body what ye should put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body than raiment? Look at the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, nor reap, nor gather into granaries, and your heavenly Father nourishes them. Are *ye* not much more excellent than they?…
…And why are ye careful about clothing? Observe with attention the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin but I say unto you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed as one of these.
But if God so clothe the herbage of the field, which is to-day, and to-morrow is cast into [the] oven, will he not much rather you, O [ye] of little faith?
Was He making fun of us? Making fun of the poor? No. He knew what it was to be poor. When Joseph and Mary took him as a baby to dedicate him in the Temple, they offered the smallest of acceptable sacrifices: two pigeons or two turtledoves. That’s all they could afford. Yet they went on and made a life in Nazareth.
Life is hard. Yes. But it’s hard for all of us! People born rich and free of care are few and far between. And those people are in worse trouble because they can fall in the trap of thinking they have it all under control.
But the fact is, we all live in this fallen world, and all of us are subject to its pain and sorrow. Jesus was no different. You and me are no different.
And Jesus’s passage in the Sermon on the Mount where he is talking about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field is there to remind us that that is life, here in this world, because this is not Heaven.
Nevertheless, we all have a Father in Heaven that loves us and indeed is watching over us. And He will take care of us day by day… not to make us rich, not to take us out of this world, but to hold us and give us the strength to keep on going in this world, where we are; because right there where I am is where I can do His work.
We are His children, and wherever a child of God is, His Word and Life and Light can shine. Do you want God’s light to shine in your family’s life? In your neighborhood? Among your friends? Well, that is why you are there. That is why I am here.
Again, did you die of hunger last week? No.
But the devil asks us that question… if indeed you are a child of God… to try to get us to forget that. To try to get us to doubt God and lose our trust in Him
But the fact is God has not stopped being faithful. He never will. So, worrying whether or not He will keep His word is useless, it is a misdirection; not the point. It is not what matters in my life. That part is assured.
God has been faithful. The question is, have I been faithful?
What does He want of me? That I keep my eyes on Him: Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.
And that is the point of Jesus’ answer: Man does not live on bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God. God will take care of our bodies and lives here in this world; but He wants so much more than that. He wants us living in His Kingdom, starting right now. And we can only do that by focusing on listening to Him.