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Temptation and the Invitation to Become Who We Really are

February 23, 2013

The Gospel for the First Sunday in Lent always begins with Jesus’ Temptation in the Wilderness.

This Temptation, the Gospel writers all agree, took place immediately after Jesus underwent a Baptism of repentance, to identify himself with the people.

As Martin L Smith writes:

Jesus entered “into our condition, into our needs … He chose to plunge into it and make it his own. Nothing about me, about us, is foreign to him.

Now, as a continuation of this identification, Jesus goes out (as the second Adam and the faithful Israel) into the Wilderness. He goes into the Wilderness, because this is where we, in our suffering, dwell. The Spirit leads Jesus out to be with us. He doesn’t call from ahead, but walks with us in the valleys and the “dry and weary places where there is no water.” We’re in this together. As John 1 says, Jesus tabernacles with us in our journey.

Jesus’ choice of this path would eventually lead to the Cross. The Father affirmed this choice (and reaffirmed it on the Mount of Transfiguration, after Jesus’ words to Peter and the disciples about the Cross)  by saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved. With him I am well pleased.”

Each temptation in the wilderness is to forget all this – to choose, out of fear, a way other than the Cross – a different path than that of being poured out in love.

It’s the same temptation each of us faces in life. We, too, are tempted to forget who we are – to choose to live as less than we are – God’s beloved child.

We are tempted to choose to avoid walking the way of love, the Cross, and thus to miss out on what we’ve been made for – what is truly life, what it is to be truly human.

Lindy Black writes: “I made the mistake of telling my father, ‘But Dad, I’m only human!’  He wisely answered, ‘No, the problem is you are not human enough.’” 

Temptation is anything that makes us less human.

It’s to choose to give into fears, to try to take “shortcuts.”

It’s the danger of never learning the truth expressed by Mother Teresa: “If I love until it hurts, I find no more hurt, only more love;” of never learning that Easter Sunday follows Good Friday.

Lent invites us to pause and remember who we really are – God’s beloved child. But it also reminds us that we are the beloved child of the Parable of the Lost Son(s) in Luke 15.

So as we look at the Gospel for the First Sunday in Lent, we are invited us to realize our condition – to see in us the same struggle we see Jesus having, and to realize that we are not doing all that great in this struggle, either! We see that we have forgotten who we are, that we are living as so much less than human.

As one speaker said, “If someone were to put right now on a video screen for you to watch the ten worst things I’ve ever thought or done, I would not volunteer to be in the room when you watched it!”

I sometimes wonder if we realize how serious this is.

I’m impressed by the story of what college football coach Erk Russell did one day in Georgia Southern College. He arranged for a couple of good ol’ country boys to burst into a routine team meeting and throw a writhing, hissing, six-foot-long rattlesnake onto a table in front of the squad. Everyone screamed and scattered. Russell then said to them, “When cocaine comes into a room, you’re not nearly as apt to leave as when that rattlesnake comes in. But they’ll both kill you!” He made his point!

Well, Jesus speaking to Nicodemus in John 3 said that all of us have poison coursing through our veins – all of us are “snake-bitten,” but he came to be the antidote to the poison, concluding his words to Nicodemus with the famous statement, “For God so loved the world, that whoever puts their trust in him will not perish, but have eternal life.”

In other words, we need Jesus as more than our example; we need him as our Saviour.

We need the Lord’s life, power, strength – his Holy Spirit – within us.

We need to put our trust in him – our champion, who has battled the power of evil and won the victory for us to rescue us from its power.

When we do this, we are adopted into the family; when it is, as Paul writes, no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us, then we can hear God speaking in our hearts the words that were addressed to him: You are my beloved child.

If you’re among those yearning for a Saviour – to deliver you from being snake-bitten, I urge you to listen to what God is saying to us today through Holy Scripture.

Jesus invites – he yearns for – you to experience, share his victory, his fellowship. Lent is all about responding to this invitation to go deeper – to allow your roots to lengthen, going deeper into God – and God’s roots to lengthen, going deeper in you.

This Lent, may we all join Jesus in the wilderness, in quiet, alone, so that we can overcome the temptation that makes us less human, and become who we really are. Amen.

(This is adapted from the sermon at our February 17 Services.)

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Last year’s Lent 1 posting, “The Joyous Call to Join Jesus in the Wilderness,” can be accessed by clicking here.

The Lent 1 Reflection “Knowing Who Jesus is,” by Christopher Burkett, can be accessed by clicking here.

Other resources for the Season of Lent, and the First Sunday in Lent, can be accessed by clicking here (there are a reflection on the top of the posting and a number of links under Link #8).

One Comment
  1. I think you are absolutely right. How fortunate we are to have One much greater than us who knows all the crap that comes at us in this life!

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