I enjoyed last night’s study group. We were looking at Luke 4:1-13 – Jesus’ temptation.
There is so much in that passage:
Jesus was sent into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, received at his baptism (no, hard times are not always a mistake), and is tempted (it is not the being tempted that is wrong . .).
Each of the temptations offers a diversion from the ministry that Jesus will have: turning stones to bread is about making comfort a primary requirement for our lives; the power of ruling the world is the temptation to have and use power over other people; jumping from the Temple suggests both forcing belief by using miracles to amaze, and misusing scripture to try and force God’s action.
What I realised more as our discussion went on was centred on two things. First, the Devil constantly tries to manipulate and force Jesus to comply, while Jesus chooses the actions which will preserve the freedom of choice for those he will meet and minister to. Jesus will not make disciples by offering comfort, power, or cheap thrills. While he acts in compassion and with clear purpose, he always leaves people free to follow or not, to believe or forget, or ask more questions.
The second thing that struck me was how Jesus struggles – and the Devil’s temptations – were linked to the question of identity. Twice comes “IF you are God’s son . .” All through is, “What sort of ministry? What sort of Minister?”
I wonder if the traditions associated with “Lent”, or other times and traditions of penitence and fasting, are so carefully linked to our identity as God’s people, responding to his love and invitation to serve? And do our traditions set out to prepare us for service, service in ways which bring life and blessing, but without trying to coerce, manipulate, or make people do what we want them to?