The Reading: Luke 4: 1-13
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
New Revised Standard Version
Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by the Devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up he was hungry.
The Devil, playing on his hunger, gave the first test: “Since you’re God’s Son, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to really live.” For the second test he led him up and spread out all the kingdoms of the earth on display at once. Then the Devil said, “They’re yours in all their splendor to serve your pleasure. I’m in charge of them all and can turn them over to whomever I wish. Worship me and they’re yours, the whole works.” Jesus refused, again backing his refusal with Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God and only the Lord your God. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.” For the third test the Devil took him to Jerusalem and put him on top of the Temple. He said, “If you are God’s Son, jump. It’s written, isn’t it, that ‘he has placed you in the care of angels to protect you; they will catch you; you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone’?” “Yes,” said Jesus, “and it’s also written, ‘Don’t you dare tempt the Lord your God.’”
That completed the testing. The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity.
The Spirit Makes us Bread
So—what is this thing with the devil?
“If you are the Son of God—-show me—show the world—prove it!”
And among the devil’s ideas for this are to turn a stone into bread and jump off the temple.
Jesus of course had other ideas about proving who he was——-he would let God do the proving in God’s usually surprising and sublime but very reliable ways.
But the Devil wants news footage. Or maybe a Vegas show—maybe Caesar’s Palace—–
I can see the Vegas marquee:
Jesus Son of God! 40 days only!!!
Walk in with a stone——leave with a loaf of bread!
You may be aware that for 40 years there has been a slow but significant erosion in church participation in this country. We are now only just beginning to sense that this has been caused by some historic shifts playing out in our culture and across the world. Some of this shifting is being driven by technology, by globalization, by the ascendance of individuality as over against the more communal mindset of the World War 2 generation for example. We are still a long way from making sense of it all but it has felt like a wilderness experience in some ways for many people including those of us in the church
I have been wondering this week—-in these times of shifts and transition and change and fewer people attending churches—-have churches been feeling tempted to prove something? We are doing fine here at NOCC in many ways but I sense that we nevertheless do struggle with this dynamic as we identify ourselves as church people out there in a culture of “nones” and “spiritual but not religious” folks.
Are we as church people feeling tempted to prove something?
To prove we have something significant to offer? To prove we are relevant? To prove we are cool? To prove we have a pipeline to God? Have we felt a need to prove to our friends that church is worthwhile or dare we say even life changing? Do we feel pressure to prove that the Bible is worth reading….that it contains the most sublime wisdom pen has set to paper? Not that it’s the only sacred book, but that it can certainly hold its own with anything written before or since that we consider great—–the sacred texts of the other enduring religions, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dickenson, Dante, Dostoevsky, Mel Brooks.
I am thinking that this is when the church gets into trouble—when it tries to prove itself—when it gets pulled into the challenge posed by some; “Show us what you got.”
“Ok” some churches say; “We got rock music. We have concert quality sound. We got coffee shops. We got giant singing Christmas trees. We got Crystal Cathedrals. We got gymnasiums. We got domes covered with gold.
What SHOULD the response be? How does Jesus teach us here?
He seems secure doesn’t he? He is filled with the Spirit, by the way, as the text reminds us.
It’s important to remember that the Spirit is the more significant actor here. Jesus is never without the Spirit….NEVER. Nor are we. EVER.
This may be it. The Spirit-filled don’t have anything to prove. There is no NEED to prove anything.
This is NOT about arrogance. It’s about a faith and trust in the Spirit’s wise guidance—that all we need to be concerned about is giving our selves wholeheartedly to the Spirit’s call…..attending to the Spirit’s voice calling us to serve, to love, to pray, to a deep intimacy with the Divine….it’s the Spirit’s voice Jesus is listening to.
The Spirit’s voice is much more compelling that the banal invitations of the devil.
That’s what they are really—-banal. They are banalities.
“Change stones into bread.” “Jump off the Temple”.
To Jesus…the Spirit’s voice is the Halleluia Chorus.
The devil’s voice is Roseanne Barr singing the National Anthem.
The Spirit’s voice is Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln. The devil is Sly Stallone shooting people.
The Spirit is a Van Gogh painting. The devil is a “sofa size painting for less than $25”
“Show me what you got Jesus.” “Show us what you got Church.”
“Well,” we might say, “we don’t deal much in banalities.”
“And we certainly have no need to prove anything.”
“But we DO have the Holy Spirit—–or rather the Holy Spirit has US.”
“Come and listen. Come and see. Come and taste. Come and be filled.”
“We don’t change stones into bread here.
The Spirit makes us bread for the life of the world”