Reflections on Faith, God & Isolation
A Lockdown Devotional for the start of a New Year:
Monday 18th January 2021: #16 Jesus: tempted
Click here for link to the video
Matthew 4:1 “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil.”
Times of solitude were crucial for Jesus during his earthly ministry. We cannot imagine the drain on his body and emotions caused by the constant interaction with needy people. We read of him being hungry, thirsty, tired and emotionally overwhelmed; when the sick woman touched him “he felt power going out from him” (see #14). Multiply that by a hundred when we consider the number of healings he performed, and bear in mind also the extent to which he was confronting the demonic and the powers of darkness, and it is no wonder he needed regular times alone with the Father and the Spirit to ‘recharge’ and reorient himself to his mission.
While we tend to localise temptation, or even trivialise it, these episodes were on a much larger scale and should probably be referred to as ‘testings’.
But this early example in the Gospels was a little different. It seems that the purpose, certainly in the mind of the Father and the Spirit, was that here and now the Son should undergo a period of testing (Matt.4:1). We commonly refer to this as the Temptation of Christ, and it was that – but also much more. While we tend to localise temptation (being tempted to be greedy, lustful or angry) or even trivialise it (tempted to have a piece of chocolate or ignore an annoying person), these episodes were on a much larger scale and should probably be referred to as ‘testings’.
Immediately we see that the Devil is not a fair fighter. He gets Jesus when he is at his lowest and most vulnerable. He was starving. And he cuts right to the chase and hits him at his area of greatest need – hunger. Temptation can come when we have the fewest human resources to resist. It is not irrelevant that God’s first provision for Elijah (see #7) was food and sleep.
those same temptations to abuse power have been the Achilles Heel of many who have started out following the Jesus way, but have not followed him in resisting in this area.
The content of these testings is significant: self-indulgence, fame and power. “Use your power, Jesus, to help yourself, not others. You can even change the basic properties of nature, if you want. You created the laws in the first place, why not mess them around a little bit? Rocks to bread? No problem to you!”
Or: “Why don’t you do something really spectacular? You have all the resources of heaven at your disposal, you won’t come to any harm. That would show the doubters! You could be a superstar! You would have loads of followers.”
Or: “You really want to be King over all the earth- stand aside for me and I will give that to you. Sure it will be all for a good cause!” These, on one level, were all about abuse of power. And it should not surprise us that those same temptations to abuse power have been the Achilles Heel of many who have started out following the Jesus way, but have not followed him in resisting in this area.
On a bigger level, these temptations were primarily three tests to divert him from the cross. ‘Look after yourself;’ ‘Use the easy route to get your followers’; ‘get to the end result without having to die for it’. As we watch the drama unfold we see that, just as he resisted in those early days of ministry, so he remained faithful to the end; refusing to be diverted from the cross; electing not to call down heaven to get him off it; recognizing there was no other way.
Crises and hardship and temptation do not cause us to behave ‘out of character,’ rather, they reveal our character and expose the aspects of our character that require cleansing
Times of isolation and aloneness may be times of temptation for us. Temptation to indulge, be selfish, waste time; or, more likely, temptation to doubt, disbelieve, question God’s sovereignty or his goodness. We can weather these times because he was tested and he prevailed.
Crises and hardship and temptation do not cause us to behave ‘out of character,’ rather, they reveal our character and when we fail, as we often will, they expose the aspects of our character that require cleansing by the only One who came through all the testings known to man, and won.
What’s more, as he came out the other side of these early testings, after his 40 days of solitude, we find that he wasn’t alone at all. Of course, his Father was there, but so too, we read, were ministering angels who came and supernaturally ministered to him (v.11). May the caring eye of the Father, the empathetic embrace of the Son and the comforting presence of the Spirit – and all the angels, minister to any of us who are feeling alone, tempted, tested and tried at this time.
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Saviour died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the just, is satisfied
To look on him and pardon me.
(Charitie de Chenez “Before the throne of God above”)
Lord Jesus, thank you for bearing the weight of these temptations for me, and for winning the battle. Help me, by your Spirit, to resist similar temptations to abuse power or to indulge my own appetites or ego, rather than trust the way of the cross. I praise you, Lord Jesus, that you resisted to the end so that the powers of sin and hell can hold no fear for me. Bring me through this day as an obedient disciple; forgive my failings and lead me deeper into your love and grace, Amen