Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command these stones to
become loaves of bread.”
But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
throw yourself down;
for it is written,
‘He will command his angels
concerning you,’ and
‘On their hands they will
bear you up, so that
you will not dash your foot
against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him,
“All these I will give you,
if you will fall down
and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Temptation is a suggested shortcut to the realization of the highest at which I aim — not towards what I understand as evil, but towards what I understand as good.
I have always loved shortcuts.
I wasn’t a patient kid. I wouldn’t wear jeans until I was in high school, because I hated all the damn buttons and zippers. Velcro shoes were life.
I skimmed books, ripping through 6 or 7 a week, never skipping to the end because that would be cheating, but snatching bits and pieces of page after page because I wanted to absorb the whole story as quickly as I could.
If you’re a naturally impatient, DIY person who has the guts and speed and resolution to get things done, learning to wait can feel like having your leg amputated with a handsaw without pain meds.
Learning how to stay on the twisty, turny path, and not cut across the field, is tricky.
As I get older, it doesn’t amaze me that Jesus was so young. It amazes me that Jesus was so old.
Thirty is young relative to a lifespan – it’s young in a career, for a parent, for a homeowner or Congressman and legally too young to be President of the United States.
But do you ever think about twenty year old Jesus? What was he doing? What about fifteen year old Jesus? Or twenty-five year old Jesus?
It’s not like Jesus was going to law school to prepare for being a lawyer, or networking with the rich and famous to make connections so that he could get into politics, or building a resume or working his way up in his field. He was doing something entirely unrelated to his future work. If he started working for his dad in his teens, then he worked for a solid fifteen years building things out of wood before he took a step towards being the Historical Jesus that we have these records of.
NT Wright argues that since Jesus was fully man as well as fully God, he had a discernment process that’s similar to ours – he wasn’t born with omniscient knowledge of who he was, what he was called to, what his vocation was. Wright argues that Jesus came to believe that he was the one who was “called to be and do for Israel and the world what only Yahweh could be and do” through wrestling, prayer, worship, and intimacy with God the Father (Wright).
So here is a young man, wrestling with vocation. In his twenties, living in a small town, building things, selling what he’s built, maybe having crushes, maybe getting into theological arguments with neighbors, and wrestling.
I wonder what it felt like to be Jesus in his twenties.
And this passage picks up right where our imagination ends – when “Jesus himself was about 30 years old” (Luke 3:23). Right before the passage for this week, Jesus’ ministry finally starts – after years of waiting, Jesus steps into the Jordan river to be baptised. I wonder how that felt, that walk to the river. I wonder how it felt to finally hear “the time is now.” What is was like to wrestle and then hear that the time for wrestling was over, and it’s time to walk to the river to be revealed, to begin a miraculous, nourishing, political ministry that will call in the Kingdom of God?
I wonder how excited Jesus felt then. After years of discerning, suddenly there was clarity about the next step. It’s time.
Then Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted.
And right away, right after being told YES! The time is NOW! The waiting is finally over!, before he could take a breath, he’s out in the wilderness, being tempted with shortcuts.
Because they’re all shortcuts, y’all.
Everything that Satan teases Jesus with, challenges Jesus to show off with, promises Jesus as a reward, are Good Things that Jesus eventually gets, or Scripture tells us he will get. Satan just tells Jesus to take them now.
Turning stones into bread? Jesus will stand on a hill and multiply a kid’s lunchbox for thousands of people. Miraculous deliverance in impossible physical conditions? Jesus will get raised from the dead. And all the kingdoms of earth? Revelation tells a story of a new heaven and new earth and Christ ruling on His throne.
Which is how Satan is so tricky. The temptation is to reach out and grab good things, not bad things. The temptation is to get for yourself what God has promised God will give to you later.
The temptation is to take a shortcut.
Don’t sleep on it. Don’t pray about it. Just. Do it. Right now. On your terms. In your strength.
I wonder how hard it was for Him to take a breath, and say “Those things are good. And God has promised them to me. But not like this. And not now.”
I know that it’s hard for me.
This Lent, I’m thinking about how to stay on a steady path and trust that the shortcut through the field isn’t actually better, or more efficient, than this path on my map.
I’m trusting that what I learn on the path will be what I need to know for the destination.
And I’m trusting that if the shortcut was actually better, that God would have led me that way instead.
Lord, help me give up shortcuts for Lent.