Temptations to Power
Humans pack a powerful punch, too. Which is why, I think, we are prone to taking matters into our own hands. Of going ahead of God.
Jesus had power, too. Lots of it. But he showed total disregard for this power, choosing instead to be led and empowered his entire life. So our story starts by telling us that Jesus was put out to sea. “Say what?” You heard me. “Did you mean put out to pasture, pastor?” No, but it’s almost like being put out to pasture—being retired. For that’s what “put out to pasture” means. At the end of a long career of powering your way through life, you are out to pasture. Retired. But this isn’t the case here. Jesus was not being put out to pasture. He was being put out to sea. That’s what the text says. Not making it up. To face the raging sea called life guided and empowered by someone else. I would much rather the story follows a football story. “He put himself out to sea.” You know what football commentators say, “All they need to do is win this game, and they are in control of their own destiny!” God hands the ball to the Buss—Jerome Bettis—I mean Jesus. He runs downfield, powers through the linebackers, the safeties, the cornerbacks. Doesn’t even bother to shift and avoid contact like LT. Bam! Bam! Bam! He rams right through every opposition with his raw power. And, “Goal!!!” Oh, wrong sport. “Touchdown!!!” Yeah! But that’s not what our story says. And I almost wanna put the disclaimer on the Survivorman series here: “Don’t try this at home. You’re bound to fail.”
Jesus was put out to sea. Not put out to pasture—not to retire. He’s at the beginning stages of his ministry. But put out to sea.
Let me see. How might humanity’s representative be tempted to use his power? With the most basic of human needs. Survival. You cannot survive without food. The first of the triad of basic necessities: Food, clothing, shelter. What is so wrong with the first temptation? End your fast. It is self imposed anyway. Forty days and nights? That’s over the top. What are you trying to prove. Pastor Mel here lasted four days and he was famished and he went straight to the fridge like a bee, and ate his comfort food—fish, rice, vegetables. Nearly gouged himself, but he ate. And hey, he’s still here. When it comes to basic necessities, humans are very capable of providing for themselves—for the most part. And that is precisely what we all do. I pride myself with the thought that if the Lord should ever reject my ministry and say, “You won’t be pastor anymore,” I will do everything in my power to provide for my family—even if it means going up and seeing my neighbor Bob up the tope of Coyote Hill, and begging him to let me mop the floor and flip burgers in one of his McDonald’s joint in Auburn. And I mean it, too. But the real issue here is not so much that I would do this with my own power. I’m sure that God would be honored if I used my power to provide for my family’s most basic of necessities. The real issue is this: What am I excluding by taking control of my own survival? Look what’s missing in this triad of basic necessities. In our pursuit to use our own power to survive, we end up starving. That is, we command every ounce of our human capacity to secure our basic necessities—and end up starving ourselves spiritually. God’s food is an afterthought, at best. Just what are you living for? Don’t survive only to starve to death! And when it comes to God’s food, your power means nothing. You cannot feed yourself with God’s Word. He feeds you! Your task is to cede power to him so that you begin to really live. And if this means waiting a while longer to break your fast, so be it. What I mean is that if it means that I pass up a tempting opportunity to secure my family’s basic necessities in order for God’s food to become paramount in your life, then so be it. And you will find that you will survive beyond your wildest dreams. Text here.
Not as easy to crack this nut, is it? Persistence, I suppose, belongs to the Devil, too. Failing to tempt Jesus to take his own survival into his own hands, the Devil tries to get Jesus to give God a second look. But not a good second look. A doubtful second look. It is the god of the day. The academic world is presupposed on doubt. Sometimes, all that’s necessary is not to forsake God altogether, but to make him small—or smaller. “If I can pear God down to size in this person’s eyes! I can tell him God can be trusted on the little things—but not for your life. You yourself can manage your own life, and let God take care of the small things.” Just a little crack and water will seep through, busting the dam wide open emptying it of all its water, until your faith is dry—dead. Go ahead and leave to God only the small things. Go ahead and manage the bigger things of your life. And Jesus succeeds where we all have failed: He goes to the heart of the Devil’s suggestion and reveals to us his rock solid solidarity with the very person—the very character—of God. “I know God more than you can ever begin to imagine. He does not need my second look. I will not put his character to the test. How dare you suggest to me that my father is anything but good!”
Sometimes, all that’s necessary is not to forsake God altogether, but to make him small—or smaller.
“If I can pear God down to size in this person’s eyes! I can tell him God can be trusted on the little things—but not for your life. You yourself can manage your own life, and let God take care of the small things.”
If that doesn’t work, try taking a second look at yourself. If you can’t be persuaded to take a second look at God. Consider the question, “Why are you here?
Just a little crack and water will seep through, busting the dam wide open emptying it of all its water, until your faith is dry—dead. Go ahead and leave to God only the small things. Go ahead and manage the bigger things of your life.
And Jesus succeeds where we all have failed: He goes to the heart of the Devil’s suggestion and reveals to us his rock solid solidarity with the very person—the very character—of God. “I know God more than you can ever begin to imagine. He does not need my second look. I will not put his character to the test. How dare you suggest to me that my father is anything but good!”
This is poverty of spirit at its best. Which can be yours simply by accepting Jesus’ life. This frees you the unbearable burden of measuring up to Jesus’ level of devotion and surrender. Take his poverty of spirit and say to God, “I want this spirit to be credited as mine, Lord.” And God says, “Thought you’d never ask.” End of human power. Glory be to God!
Τότε Then ὁ Ἰησοῦς Jesus ἀνήχθη was put out to sea (a technical term with a derived meaning of “was led out”)
Intro: At the very limits of human power
Intro: At the very limits of human power
Τότε Then ὁ Ἰησοῦς Jesus ἀνήχθη was put out to sea (a technical term with a derived meaning of, “was led out”)
Jesus was put out to sea. For forty days and forty nights. And reaches the limits of physical existence. How do you survive without food and water that long?
v. 1a - Τότε Then ὁ Ἰησοῦς Jesus ἀνήχθη was put out to sea (a technical term with a derived meaning of, “he was led out”)
v. 1b - εἰς into τὴν ἔρημον the desert ὑπὸ under [the power] τοῦ πνεύματος of the Spirit πειρασθῆναι to be tempted ὑπὸ under [the power] τοῦ διαβόλου of the Devil.
v. 2 - καὶ and νηστεύσας after fasting ἡμέρας τεσσεράκοντα forty days καὶ and νύκτας τεσσεράκοντα forty nights, ὕστερον afterwards ἐπείνασεν he was famished.
Drifting there in a desert sea, alone, reaching the limits of his human power, with two unseen powers vying for control—one leading, another tempting—Jesus had some serious decisions to make. Should he keep relying in the Spirit’s power, or power his way through?
What would cause Jesus to stop relying in God’s power? He may have reached the limits of human power, but has unlimited divine power tucked away somewhere. He voluntarily gave it up to demonstrate complete surrender and obedience to God. And be the second Adam. Pick up where Adam failed.
What would cause you to stop relying on someone’s strength, and start relying on your own? Only one thing: If you no longer in agreement with that person. About what it means to exist. About what is true. And about what is important.
How do we secure our existence?
v. 3 - καὶ And προσελθὼν ὁ πειράζων the tempter came εἶπεν αὐτῷ and said to him εἰ if υἱὸς εἶ the son you are τοῦ θεοῦ of God, εἰπὲ Command! (imperative with the force of a vocative: “Take control of the situation!”) ἵνα so that οἱ λίθοι οὗτοι these stones ἄρτοι γένωνται might be turned into bread.
v. 4 - ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν But answering he said· γέγραπται· it is written οὐκ ἐπʼ ἄρτῳ μόνῳ not by bread alone ζήσεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος shall man live, ἀλλʼ ἐπὶ παντὶ ῥήματι but by every word ἐκπορευομένῳ coming out διὰ from στόματος θεοῦ the mouth of God.
What is the truest statement there is?
v. 5 - Τότε Then παραλαμβάνει αὐτὸν ὁ διάβολος the Devil takes him εἰς into τὴν ἁγίαν πόλιν the holy city καὶ and ἔστησεν αὐτὸν stands him ἐπὶ on τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ the pinnacle of the temple
v. 6 - καὶ and λέγει αὐτῷ he says to him· εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ if you are the son of God, βάλε σεαυτὸν κάτω throw yourself down· γέγραπται γὰρ for it is written ὅτι that τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ ἐντελεῖται he will definitely order his angels (ἐντέλλομαι implies an official permission) περὶ σοῦ concerning you καὶ and ἐπὶ χειρῶν ἀροῦσίν σε on their hands they will carry you away, μήποτε προσκόψῃς so that you may not strike πρὸς λίθον τὸν πόδα σου your foot against a rock.
v. 7a - ἔφη αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς Jesus declared to him (φημί focuses on the content of what is said: “Jesus said, ‘Read my lips’)·
v. 7b - πάλιν γέγραπται again it is written· οὐκ ἐκπειράσεις do not test (ἐκπειράζω here is an extensive testing of someone based on doubt, to see if that person can really be trusted: “Do not put God’s goodness to the test”) κύριον τὸν θεόν σου the Lord your God.
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:8
What is of greatest importance to you?
v. 8 - Πάλιν Again παραλαμβάνει αὐτὸν ὁ διάβολος the Devil takes him εἰς ὄρος ὑψηλὸν λίαν to a towering mountain καὶ and δείκνυσιν αὐτῷ shows him πάσας all τὰς βασιλείας τοῦ κόσμου the kingdoms of the world καὶ and τὴν δόξαν αὐτῶν and their glory (or “their worth”)
v. 9 - καὶ and εἶπεν αὐτῷ· he says to him ταῦτά σοι πάντα all these things to you δώσω I will give, ἐὰν if πεσὼν falling down προσκυνήσῃς μοι you might worship me (with the subjunctive verb, the Devil tickles Jesus’ fancy by suggesting rather than bullying: “If you fall down and maybe worship me?”).
v. 10 - τότε Then λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς Jesus says to him· ὕπαγε go away, σατανᾶ Satan· γέγραπται γάρ for it is written· κύριον τὸν θεόν σου the Lord your God προσκυνήσεις you shall worship καὶ and αὐτῷ μόνῳ him only λατρεύσεις you shall serve.
What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Conclusion: At the heart of blessedness
Conclusion: At the heart of blessedness
v. 12 - Τότε Then ἀφίησιν αὐτὸν ὁ διάβολος the Devil left him, καὶ and ἰδοὺ behold ἄγγελοι προσῆλθον angels drew near καὶ and διηκόνουν αὐτῷ cared for him.
“We think happiness is to be found in the display of power; Jesus taught that happiness is found in the restraint of whatever power we may have.” (J. Ellsworth Kalas, Beatitudes from the Back Side, 36)
This is poverty of spirit at its best.