Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The 4th temptation in Luke 4


"All spoke well of him". (Luke 4:22)
This passage is confronting to me.
Jesus had just been baptized and was full of the Holy Spirit. This description alone could cause endless debate but all I wish to point out is that, all that follows relates to a man powerfully working in the fullness of God's will.
So he is led by the Spirit into the desert where for forty days he is tempted by the devil and eats nothing.
It is interesting that Satan uses this time of solitude and separation to tempt Jesus. We often seek solitude for recharging, as did Jesus, but solitude by no means keeps us safe from temptation, computer screen or not.
And the temptations are very interesting. They vary from food to fame to amazing feats. But where Adam and Eve failed quickly without famine or need, Jesus in a physically weakened state, strongly and obediently resists.
The Spirit led him into the desert, but the devil led him to high places. It is not stated, but it seems Jesus had no choice but to follow the devil to these places and endure the temptation.
Each temptation was rebuffed with a clear knowledge, understanding and application of God's word. "It is written..."
But the devil also quotes scripture as part of the temptation, so clearly Gods word can be used with evil intent. Knowing God's word alone is not necessarily proof of holiness or of orthodoxy.
Vs 13 says that when the devil finished all his tempting he left him for a more "opportune time".
When is this time? In the Garden of Gethsemane? On the cross?
In my opinion it happens in the same chapter.
Jesus went back home to Nazareth, still full in the power of the Spirit. Everyone is now talking about this local boy who has amazing gifts.
He reads from Isaiah and proclaims that he is the fulfillment of the very words he reads. What an amazing and sublime moment that must have been. 
And "all spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips".

If I put myself in Jesus sandals at that exact point in time, I don't think I would have taken Jesus' next step.
Surely it would be good to enjoy the moment of popularity and positivity after your first sermon at your home church. Surely we would use the positive vibe to build on our momentum in our career as a stadium speaker? Surely this positive vibe is a blessing from God?
Jesus must be mad or stupid (from the point of view of our modern, commercial, money orientated world) because the next step he takes is to completely and irreversibly undermine his current preaching success. He destroys it in such a way that the event would go viral today if it had been captured to YouTube.
In his home synagogue, just after receiving a standing ovation, and without any provocation, he adds to his sermon the worst possible ending. If anything he incites the congregation.
It seems, though it isn't directly stated, that the people were now waiting for some miraculous sign, some special event for Jesus to perform, as he had done elsewhere. After all, this was his home town, and he had just read about giving sight to the blind and releasing prisoners etc. form the scroll of Isaiah.
Instead Jesus refuses, and reminds them about the fact that a prophet is never accepted in his home town. He then reminds everyone that God ignored the many, many widows in Jerusalem during a great famine, and instead sent Elijah to a widow in Zarephath. He doubles the pain of his point by adding the fact that God ignored many others with leprosy choosing instead to heal the Syrian general Naaman.
In other words, Jesus was saying, "you can talk me up as much as you like, but I'm not going to do any miracles here."
And just because he wasn't going to do miracles there, did not invalidate his fulfillment of Isaiah's passage.

The people were furious, not in the sense that they weren't going to invite him back to speak again. They wanted to kill him.
This seems like an over reaction to a bad sermon.
I would suggest that maybe this crowd became possessed by the devil (which by no means clears them of personal guilt for what they were about to do).
Where Hitler took advantage of crowd dynamics and stirred them to his advantage, Jesus rejected his popularity, recognized it as from the devil and unmasked their hearts and their desire to kill him with his deeply cutting comments.
He was taken to his third high place in that chapter, with the intention of being thrown off to his death.
He could have once again "tested" God to see if the Angels would buffer his fall, but instead, in the power and humility of the Spirit, he walked through the crowd and escaped.
Being spoken well of, in this circumstance, was, in my opinion, Satan taking his opportunity to thwart Jesus' mission. Satan failed. Jesus succeeded.

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