Testing: kingdoms

temptation_of_christ8 Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, 9 and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” 10 At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’” 11 Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.

All this I will give to you…  The view from the mountain recalls Moses’ view of the promised land from Mount Nebo (Deut. 34:1–4). The devil’s dominion over all the world, implied here and explicit in Luke 4:6, is stated also in John 12:31 (cf 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19). France (2007, 135) considers that Satan’s offer is mere bluff and bluster – or did in fact Satan have some dominion over the world?  Several times in the NT Satan will be described in such language, e.g., “ruler of the world” (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 6:11-12; 1 John 5:19; Rev 12:9-17).  The gospels seem to take for granted that Satan does have such power but that is always seen within the ultimate victory of God. Continue reading

Testing: angels

temptation_of_christ5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’”

Command the angels…In a wilderness filled with stones and rocks, no special mention is needed about place or details of the place. But the next two tests “transport” Jesus to a new location.  While much has been made in attempts to make the “transport” physical, the pericope works just as well as a vision. What “high mountain” (v.8) exists where one can see all the kingdoms of the world? Does one need to leave the wilderness to see the Jerusalem Temple? Ezekiel remained in Babylon will being “transported” to Jerusalem (Ezek 8:1-3, 11:24). We should remember that Jesus is led [up] by the Spirit to be tested. One need not worry about which mountain or which parapet of the Temple Continue reading

Testing: hunger

temptation_of_christ1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. 3 The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” 4 He said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’”

Command these stones… The opening word in v.3 is also validly translated as “since.” Thus, the devil is not attempting to raise doubts in Jesus’ mind, but arguing about what it means for Jesus to be the Son of God. There were expectations that the Messiah would reproduce the miracle of the manna in the desert, thus an overflowing of food and prosperity. Continue reading

Testing: tempted

temptation_of_christAll three synoptic gospels record an incident of Jesus confronting the devil in the wilderness immediately after his baptismal experience at the Jordan River. Where Mark notes quite simply: “At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him” (Mark 1:12-13). Matthew and Luke record a three-part dialogue between Jesus and the devil that is recorded traditionally as a “tempting.” Continue reading

Testing: context

temptation_of_christ1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. 3 The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” 4 He said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” 8 Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, 9 and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” 10 At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’” 11 Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him. Continue reading

Discipleship’s anchor: the Word of God

Command these stones… Jesus is challenged to show that he qualifies as Messiah by change the stones into loaves of bread. In the Lukan version (Lk 4:3) the challenge is “stone” and “load.” Without entering the argument of whose version is more the original, what is clear is that the stones/loaves are a challenge to satisfy more than just Jesus’ hunger.  Jesus is tempted to use his divine power for his own advantage to accomplish God’s will rather than to trust in his Father’s plan.

After all, the Son of God has no need to be hungry and it is beneath the dignity of such an exalted figure to suffer so. Jesus has the power to satisfy physical need by miraculous means. Later miracles prove this was true (14:15–21; 15:32–38). Jesus recognized in his hunger an experience designed by God to teach him the lesson of Deuteronomy 8:3: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” The contrast is paradoxical – God’s word does not fill the stomach, but it is really a question of the ground upon which one is anchored. Continue reading

Discipleship’s anchor: temptation

The Testing/Tempting in the Dessert. It is helpful to consider this pericope as being “both-and:”  Jesus is tested by his heavenly Father so that Jesus knows what is “in his heart” at the same time Jesus is tempted by Satan to be other than fully obedient to God.  We should note that Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted/tested (v. 1). This is a softening of Mark’s account where the Spirit “throws Jesus out” into the wilderness (Mk 1:12). Lest there be any concern, as Boring (163) notes: “… [Jesus’] submission to temptation is not an accident or a matter of being victimized by demonic power, but is part of his obedience to God.” Continue reading

Discipleship’s Anchor: context

Matthew 4:1-11  1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. 3 The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” 4 He said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” 8 Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, 9 and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” 10 At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’” 11 Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.

Context  From the 4th Sunday to the 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Sunday gospels include most of the “Sermon on the Mount” (Mt 5:1-7:29)[1]  On the first Sunday in Lent, the traditional reading reverts to several chapter earlier – Mt 4 – to consider “the tempting of Christ in the desert.”

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