Thursday, March 10, 2011

the long battle Matthew 4:1-12

There's was an ongoing battle, that is told of in our scripture readings. It's was a battle featuring Eve and Adam verses Satan in our first reading and Jesus and the very same old opponent, Satan, in our Gospel reading. Some say these were two different fights. I wonder looking at these readings and listening to Paul talk to the Romans if it wasn't really just the same fight that continued on generations later featuring a new opponent who was a new kind of Adam taking on the same old enemy.

So who will finally win this battle?

Satan, the tempter, was absolutely certain that he'd won the fight in the very first round. And he believed, sizing up Jesus in the wilderness, that he had a good chance to win completely. All the Evil One would have had to do to in order to win was tempt Jesus away from God the Father. It might have looked easy to Satan. Just tempt Jesus as he had tempted Eve and Adam away generations before and he would win.

I shouldn't get ahead here. Let's start with the first round of the fight in the Garden. The Devil has a habit of picking some of the most beautiful places to try and bring corruption. He knows how to use temptation to get us to do his destructive work in the world. The Evil One, our true enemy, has no power to create; but he does have power to corrupt and he does have the ability to invite other creatures to corrupt good things that God has made.

Think of Eden for a moment. God created a very good place for Adam and Eve to dwell. There's one key thing to remember about Eden it wasn't, as Dennis Olson points out, static and unchanging. Eden wasn't made out of plastic or fabricated aluminum parts designed to stay in place permanently. Eden was wild and beautiful, it wasn't like a theme park. God created a real life garden. Eden was a living and changing with growing plants and animals. There were flowers blooming, critters running around who ate the plants, and trees that produced all kinds of fruit. And in the middle of the Garden God placed one tree that bore fruit and he told Adam and Eve to keep away from this one tree.

The Tempter came like a snake. He slithered in to the beautiful place where everything needful had been provided by God for Adam and Eve and he tempted them. Those 2 knew the breadth and depth of God's good and gracious will. Adam and Eve had it made; but there was one tree to keep away from; everything else was in bounds.

There's a temptation for each of us. Some of us are very simple and some of us are a little more complicated. But the tempter knows us each. He knows our vices. He knows our desires and the little lesser gods that we worship instead of worshiping the real God who made heaven and earth. There's a temptation for some who covet things to worship a part of creation rather than the God who made everything.

Satan is skilled. But the promise of resurrected life in Jesus is the you are never alone with him. Invite Jesus in when you face temptation. Invite God into the life of a hurting person who needs to be made whole. You need not walk alone. Jesus came that we might have abundant life. He came that the tempter would be defeated in all his plans and schemes. On the cross the devil thought Jesus was defeated; but on Easter Sunday the devil and all of us learned the truth. In Christ we are not defeated. In Christ we have new life and not death.

Desmond Tutu the Anglican Arch-Bishop who was the great spiritual leader in South Africa's struggle for freedom and equality after generations of oppression held fast to the promise of new life in Christ. He wrote of the hope we have even as we face evil in whichever place and whichever form we might meet it. “Goodness is stronger than evil; love is stronger than hate; light is stronger than darkness; life is stronger than death. Victory is ours, through him who loves us.” In whatever situation you find yourself today hold fast to the promises of God who loves you. Invite him into whatever place of pain or temptation you face today or any day and know full well that you are never going to be alone.

No comments: