First in a Four-Part Series
Audio Link to Glendale City Church’s presentation: http://glendalecitysda.org/gcc/index.php/worship-service/church-bulletins-recorded-sermons/36-2013-bulletins-sermons-january-march
Video link to a version of this sermon I presented in February 2012 at Vallejo Drive Church: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/20692948
Over the next four sermons, we’re going to look at some stories about Jesus or stories that he told that expose some of our misunderstandings of God that lead to dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors toward ourselves and others. And we’ll see how Jesus corrects those misunderstandings.
First, we look at the story of Jesus’ forty-day wilderness experience and the three temptations he underwent at the hands of the devil. According to Luke’s account, when he enters into this extra-long time of solitude and fasting, Jesus has just been introduced to his countrymen as God’s beloved Son to whom they should listen. From this magnificent moment of his father’s presence, Jesus descends into an extended time of isolation and abandonment and then, at his weakest point, is confronted by the devil. It is here where Jesus, in my opinion, is tested on whether he has a healthy or unhealthy view of himself, his father and his mission.
In the first temptation, Jesus is encouraged to feed himself after fasting for so long. The devil says, “If you are the Son of God, make these stones into bread.” If Jesus doubted his pedigree, performing a miraculous act could be the way of proving it to himself that he wasn’t imagining it–that he was, in fact, SOMEBODY.
So much of our lives are lived trying to prove that we matter. If we’re successful, if we’re popular, if we’re respected, we feel good about ourselves and believe we’re somebody. But in a moment of failure, loneliness or mockery, we wonder if we’re nobody. So we work harder to prove ourselves again. But no matter how hard we work, that sense of meaning will be fleeting.
The only way to move out of the hamster wheel of proving ourselves is to know that we inherently matter because of who we are. Jesus knew who he was. He knew that the fact that he was alive and kicking meant that he mattered. He said to the devil, “Man doesn’t live by bread alone.” He knew that the very fact he was alive proved that he mattered. He didn’t have to do anything else to prove it.
Then the devil, knowing that Jesus came to take the world back from him, offers the world to Jesus on a silver platter. All he needed to do was bow down and worship the devil and he would get the world back. Jesus could worship the devil and get what he wanted. Simple.
Do the ends justify the means? Don’t we sometimes have to step on some toes, take some shortcuts or wade through some foggy ethics to do good? Don’t we have to play the political game, get our nose a little brown and scratch a few backs in order to win? In fact, you can’t win, unless you do these things, right? You always break a few eggs when you make an omelette.
Jesus doesn’t think so. For him, the process is as important, perhaps more important, than the end goal. For him, kingdom doesn’t come unless it comes through love, mercy, self-sacrifice, integrity and compassion. There is only one way to heaven for Jesus and it is by worshiping his father and obeying his father alone.
Then the devil asks Jesus if he’s sure that the father actually loves him as much as Jesus says he loves the father. He says, “Jump off the roof of the temple and see if your dad catches you.” If he does, then you know for sure you’re loved. If he doesn’t, why would you go through the charade of living this life? It would be better if you were dead. No point in living.
Wouldn’t you appreciate hearing God tell you he loves you? Wouldn’t it help to have him skywrite messages of encouragement with your name on it? Haven’t you prayed prayers for him to intervene in your life and you promise you’ll do whatever he wants once he does? How have you handled the fact that, more often than not, God doesn’t intervene in a way that you can prove he did?
Jesus replied to the devil, “I’m not going to test God.” He trusted in his father’s love without any direct proof that his father loved him. He trusted his father’s love at the moment of extreme starvation, weakness and temptation. He didn’t have to, and who could blame him if he didn’t? You don’t have to trust that there is a loving God and no one will blame you. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest there isn’t a loving God. But watch and listen to the Jesus who begins his ministry after these forty days. This is a man who loves and teaches love. This is a person who presents the father as a God of love. Something breaks free within you when you choose to trust in a God of love. You are capable of loving others in a much more profound way when you know you’re loved.
Do you know who you are? Do you know whose you are? And do you recognize what life is truly about? The more you can answer in the affirmative to those three questions, the more you are your father’s son or daughter. You’re a chip off the ol’ block.