So, I have this theory that the temptation of Jesus wasn’t just about seeing if He would succumb to the pressure of what his flesh really wanted, but it was also a re-enactment of an acient temptation of the Israelites out in the wilderness. Where the children of God failed, Jesus succeeds and begins to rewrite the story. Here is my version of the temptation (in story form)…
He had just heard God’s audible voice and was bathed in the realization of God’s immeasurable delight, pleasure and love. While clear, cool waters of baptism ran off His flesh, the resounding words of the Father cascaed over Him in a waterfall of love. “You are My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased…”
But now He was somewhere altogether different. Dust, dirt, rock, sand – elements of earth – now surrounded Him. A landscape eroded by harsh winds and battering rains – the wilderness. And He came. Willingly led into it.
He knew He was geting ready for a test; a test that would require all of His mind, heart and strength. A test to show the harsh reality of living on this planet. A test to change the story of humanity.
Consequently, to gather strength, to muster courage, He emptied Himself. He fasted. He did not listen to His appetite and instead embraced hunger. Deep and thorough hunger was needed to prepare for this Test.
After 40 days – weak, so thin, weathered by the elements, in a state of extreme hunger – He looked up to see His opponent.
Disguised as beauty itself, the opponent was strong and handsome. His skin was plump – a sign that he lacked nothing at all. His clothing was a gloriously rich shining fabric with no trace of soil to be found. The One in whom God delighted was a pitiful stench of a mess juxtaposed to His enemy.
With a look of scorn and a sweet smirk of victory, the opponent came over with a basket of rocks. He picked one up, opened his mouth wide and took a huge bite. The aroma of freshly baked bread filled the wilderness. “Since you are God’s Son, take care of what You need. I can tell you hunger. Say it and these stones will turn into a feast fit for a king.”
Pangs of hunger roared through His empty belly and the aroma of sweet delicacies caused His mouth to salivate. But something else spoke deeper and louder than the cries of His human flesh. A story – beginning small then emerging to stand face to feace with the present ideology.
You see, this opponent had tried this before – generations ago – and had won. The people had listened to their appetites rather than God. In light of their overwhelming hunger, they had questioned whether God would give them what they needed.
“No”, said the Hungry One. “Life is far greater than fulfilling all whims of appetite and rumblings of hunger at hand. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth to satisfy true and deep hunger and to really live. Full bellies are not what is most needed – God is.”
And this new story devoured the old.
The opponents eyes were filled momentarily with hate and contempt. The another sly grin crossed his face as he led this One to the Temple in the Holy City. “Since you are God’s Son, why don’t you show me what you’ve got. This Temple shows God’s majesty…show me how spectacular You are. JUMP”, he said with dripping sarcasm. “After all, surely You know the scriptures, don’t You? He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone.”
The Weak One’s eyes flashed a holy anger. He who had created this opponent was now being challenged by him? He could show him more than a jump! But then, in Him rose another story – a story of another people in another wilderness. His mind reviewed the words of Exodus when those people, fueled by hunger and thirst, had quarreled against teh Almighty at Massah. “Is the Lord among us or not?” Then His thoughts traveled to a psalm reminding Him, “As in the day at Massah in the wilderness when your fathers tested Me, they tried Me, though they had seen My work…”
Quietly, from the depths of His heart came words learned and recited from boyhood on. This confrontation would not repeat that ancient story but usher in a new one. With a firm and confident look at His opponent, He made sure this place would not be a place of testing or quarreling but of trust. “Don’t you dare test Yahweh your God”, was His response.
His opponent raged!! His storytelling skills had no power over this hungry, weak One. Then in a flash, the opponent took Him to the peak of a huge mountain and a new strategy emerged. Gesturing expansively, pointing out all the earth’s kingdoms and how glorious they all were, he spoke. “Do you see all these? Look at the glory and riches in them. Look at the people. And they are yours – all of them – right now, if….” he paused. “If you just go down on your knees and worship me. I will give them all to you.”
The offer of power was intoxicating and filled this Hungry One with a sense of fullness that He had not felt in 40 days. To have all these kingdoms and their people without effort or pain was the story pulsating through Him.
But once again, a quiet story began to churn in Him. It encountered this story of power and glory with two whispering words – trust….love. He closed His eyes and listened to those words until their quiet whispers roared louder than the screaming false story and those words – trust…love…trust…love – resonated in every memebrane, cell and muscle in His body.
His eyes shot open and with power and dignity trapped the gaze of His enemy. His refusal was crisp. “Get out of here, Satan!” Those words seemed to reverberate across the wilderness. Like a pebble dropped into still water, His words moved out from around Him and with each breath in the silence, moved out in concentric circles and washed over creation, seeming to change it.
“Worship the Lord your God and only Him. Serve Him with absolute singleheartedness.”
The new story moved out from Him and squeezed out His enemy’s story – pushing it to the outer edge of the universe.
The test was over. His enemy could not stand to live in this storyteller’s tale. He left, and in his place came angels who came and looked after Jesus’ needs.