Sunday, February 18, 2007

Temptations: No Kidding Lent 1c Luke 4:1-13

Desert times and times of great plenty are often the very moments when the devil has the very most opportunity to strike at the people of God. The enemy is always trying wanting always to pull us from God, but in the moments of greatest joy and sorrow he often gets the most opportunity to get us away from God so that we can be most useful for evil and not for good.
How can one person be so certain about the reality of evil? scripture and experience:
Our scriptures make some clear claims about evil and the devil.

  1. There really is a devil. It's that simple. There really is a being in this who wants to tempt us to walk away farther and farther from what God intends for us.
  2. Temptations are as unique as each human being. And Jesus, fully human, was no different in appearance as a target for the diabolical as any of us.
Jesus was guided by the Spirit into a time of fasting. He sat in the desert forty days. He ate nothing and drank nothing. Hunger and thirst were surely companions in the wasteland. But beyond the hunger and the thirst was temptation to something more. Not only the temptation to eat and to drink and to be satisfied. There was another hunger there too. In the middle of the wilderness Jesus had access to power. His earthly needs were unmet. His hunger was as real as his flesh and blood body. He could have easily chosen power as the way out.

The experience of evil tempting us with something other than what God is asking of us is as old as humanity. The key is to understand that the devil knows each of our temptations. The enemy is a master at plying us with exactly what will pull us from God. For Jesus the devil believed the real temptation was power. Fyodor Dostoevsky in Brother's Karamazov invites us into a view of the temptation in a little story called The Grand Inquisitor. The inquisitor knew exactly what would pull Jesus away from his relationship with the Father. But Jesus would not given in. His greatest temptation would have destroyed the triune relationship of Father, Son and Spirit being one by only one choosing power over the others.

The difference between Jesus and us is that we easily surrender our wills. Luther described boldly how the human will is held in bondage to the power either of God or the Devil. We loose control and become the objects of either force not the one in control. The enemy tests us over and over. And we, unlike Jesus, will fail over and over. Faith doesn't save us from ourselves or from our limits. But the love of God releases us from the tempters power again and again so that our sins do not chain us for eternity.

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