Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jesus' Showdown in the Desert: Why His Temptations Were Life-Threatening

An obscure man from a small town who's been whispered to be someone very powerful walks into a desert wasteland, completely alone except for one very angry and powerful being who wants to hurt him. The man walks into the desert equivalent of a haunted house to enter a struggle with the most vile and ruthless spiritual being who has ever haunted the world we inhabit.


The man is someone very powerful, but not from a human perspective. In fact, he has been in this desert wasteland for forty days, and he hasn't eaten anything since the day he entered. For forty days his body has been wasting away, and he is the weakest he could be. And this has been his preparation to face the spirit in the desert. The fight won't be won with human ability because human ability has always lost against this spirit.

The spirit is the devil, and he has been tempting humanity to be stripped of what makes them human, created in the image of God, and to surrender to his destructive will for their lives. He's been doing this since the first couple in the Garden of Eden.

The man? His name is Jesus, and he's on a mission to face and defeat temptation on our account, so that we too can walk away from it unscathed. He will do this as a man dependent solely upon the power of God.

People often love scary stories at Halloween, but they probably don't think of Jesus' temptations in the desert as a scary story. But what if Jesus would have said yes to any one of the devil's temptations? What if he had just said yes to the request to bow to the devil just once? He could have avoided the pain of the cross. Power and authority would be his.

Or would it?

If God bows to the devil, then suddenly the devil is God. Do we think for a moment that the devil wouldn't have destroyed Jesus before he even lifted his head again? Imagine a world ruled by the devil. Hard to imagine because it's pretty unlikely that humans would still exist.

Matthew 4 records a pivotal moment in human history. The fate of the universe hangs in the balance as Jesus and the devil have their showdown in the desert. If Jesus had surrendered, all hope would be lost. But Jesus, who walked into this thing so physically weak he was probably nearly dead, walks away the hero. In that moment, he has just rescued the whole universe from a hopeless devil-ruled existence. Because he was the hero in that moment, he could go on to be the hero in the moment of redeeming the world through his death on the cross.

Jesus also showed us the way out of temptation, but more on that tomorrow.

What do you see as some of the most pivital moments in Jesus' life that we often overlook?

Photo Credit: Simon Rooke on Flickr Creative Commons

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