Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Temptations are oh too real. Matthew 4:1-11

The very first sentence in Matthew 4 has me really troubled. "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil." Matthew 4:1 NIV

If you follow Matthew's version of the story along Jesus, fresh from the water of baptism, was sent by the Spirit into the desert to be πειρασθη̂ναι ὑπὸ του̂ διαβόλου (tested/tempted by the Devil). The devil is even given the name πειράζων (tempter) in verse 3.

As a kid I was taught to pray, "lead us not into temptation." Matthew makes it clear that God left the avenue open for the diabolical one to tempt Jesus to take on power. Martin Luther wrote in his Small Catechism, that God is not the one who tempts us; but Luther leaves out any mention about God stopping or not stopping the Devil.

God tempts no one to sin, but we ask in this prayer that God would watch over us and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful self may not deceive us and draw us into false belief, despair, and other great and shameful sins.

And we pray that even though we are so tempted we may still win the final victory.
The reality of temptation is all too real these days. Watching the Super-Bowl adds this year reminded me that God isn't the one to tempt us; quite the opposite we are the one's who tempt each other. The devil revels in our efforts. He has no trouble finding opportunity to break up more of what we call good and holy. The promise of Christ in the cross isn't that we go through life un-tempted; rather the promise is that we still have the final victory in Christ over all things: sin, death, and the devil.


pa rum pum pum pum said...

There are two things I'm going to read into Luther's statement about temptation which may not have been intentional by Luther but could be argued:
1 - False Belief and Despair are the biggest two sins a human can suffer. Bigger than thievery, murder, adultery, etc.
2 - Because they are the greatest, False Belief and Despair come first, both sins internal to ourselves, and then lead to such "other great and shameful sins" which are largely external to ourselves, affecting our neighbor in the world.

The Unlikely Conversationalist: said...

Luther often wrote about real faith being a terror to the Devil; but those who had no real faith and only motions of religion were terrorized by the Devil.
Either way you cut it separation from God is painful for any human being to deal with whether its a consequence of an internal sin or an external one doesn't matter that much to me in the end; but the separation part is what does.