I sometimes struggle with the temptation of Jesus stories. How can Jesus be tempted to choose a different way from God? Isn’t Jesus part of the trinity?
Consider: sin is going against the plan God has for our lives. In many ways, sin is trying to explain to God, I think I can run my life better than you. God has determined what makes life work correctly (toward a good end), and then has informed us through scripture and interactions in the world, how to live toward that good end. But sin tries to convince us that we can get the good life some other way. Sin says, we don’t have to follow God. We don’t have to be obedient. We know what’s best for our lives.
Temptation then is this very real struggle of trying to choose between God’s way and our way. It’s the struggle between what I want and what God wants. And the struggle must be real. It’s not a temptation if the struggle isn’t real; there has to be a real choice between my way and God’s way.
Which again makes the temptation stories of Jesus a real struggle to grasp, because if Jesus is tempted, then Jesus had a very real struggle of choosing between what Jesus wanted and what God wants.
Consider the temptations. For instance, turning stone to bread. This is so much more than just deciding whether to eat or not, or miraculously creating food. The struggle is, how will Jesus use the power he has as the Son of God? Will Jesus use his abilities to meet his own needs? Jesus clearly has the power of God. The question is, will Jesus act like God in the use of his power, or will he become selfish and only think of himself? Will Jesus reserve his power for blessing others, and helping to meet needs, or will Jesus selfishly take care of himself first? Will he choose his own way, or God’s way.
Or consider jumping from the temple. Again, the question is how will Jesus use his power. Will Jesus use his power to draw a crowd? Is there more than one way to accomplish the goal of drawing the multitudes. It had to be frustrating at times for Jesus to know that he was the Son of God who had come in the flesh, and yet many people ignored him. He had come to set the people free and announce good news, yet he was silenced by the authorities. But he could prove them all wrong in one great event. Which way would he choose?
Or finally, bowing down to get the kingdoms of the world. The goal was to bring the kingdoms back under the reign of God. Did he really have to go to the cross to do it? Couldn’t there be other ways to accomplish the task? If the ending is the same, does it really matter how you get there? Does the end justify the means? Will Jesus choose his way, or God’s way.
Ultimately, it’s about whether Jesus will submit to the cross or not. If the kingdoms of the world already belong to Jesus, then he doesn’t have to go to the cross. If Jesus could perform some miracle to draw crowds leading to repentance and transformed lives, then he doesn’t have to go to the cross. In many ways, Satan is tempting Jesus with the mantra, you can have it all if you want: redemption without death. Atonement without suffering. The question thus becomes, will Jesus obey God, or will he look for an alternative option?
That’s the struggle isn’t it? These temptations are not just about power, or pleasure, what is pleasing to the mind, the eye, or the heart. It’s about obedience. And even for Jesus, that at times was a struggle, it was a temptation. (We aren’t the only ones who are tempted.) The major question, will Jesus be obedient to the Father?
Which makes us wonder, will we be obedient to the Father? These temptations we deal with, from major things like sexual purity, addiction, or abuse to what at times we consider little things like honesty, pride, or road rage, these temptations at their core are really about will we be obedient to God or not? Will we choose the path of discipleship? Will we turn the other cheek? Will we share our resources? Will we seek God above all others?
Which path will we choose?
Jesus had to choose, my way or God’s way? We have to choose, my way or God’s way?
Jesus chose to follow God.
What will we choose?