Look inside yourself and ask what makes you angry? Whatever does make you angry arouses strong passions within you, it connects with core beliefs, essential needs and your sense of self worth. You don’t get angry about something that simply doesn’t matter to you or poses no challenge in your soul. If it stirs you, it concerns you, deeply.
Do you think that the 33 year old Son of Man was above such struggles? The New Testament does not think so. The writers portray him as a real man dealing with the same issues, and more, than you do. “He was tempted” says the writer to the Hebrews, “in every way that we are”.
In which case he, like you and me, had to face his inner Pharisee, inner Sadducee and inner priest. They were not merely his external opponents but his internal opposition. Inside his phenomenal soul there was a titanic, daily struggle to overcome opposition which was throwing constant ammunition at his heart. His anger at the pharisaical legal eagles, the sadducean fat cats and the priestly holy rollers reveal his heart, what matters to him and what is also in his own inner conflict.
Consider how angry you get when someone devalues you, cheapens your reputation or insults your identity. That is exactly what these opposers did to Jesus.
Consider how angry you get when you see your core values twisted or hijacked. This is what aroused the Son of Man.
Consider how difficult it is when your essential needs to be heard, respected, to deliver your God given vocation are thwarted or mocked. So it was for this Son of Man.
But, and here is where you can really catch a glimpse of his life, these voices spoke inside him as well as in his ears. They were in his brain as well as in his environment.
How can you know that this is true? Because he tells us himself. Think of this. In three of the four Gospels there is an account of the Son of Man alone in the wilderness fasting then being tempted. Mark mentions it but the others go into detail. If Jesus was alone who told them the detail? It can only have come from the Son of Man himself. At some stage he taught them and explained to them what had happened to him when he was alone. So listen now to that account.
“If you are the Son of God….” whispers his ultimate opponent. It is a questioning, a devaluing, an assault on his identity. It is an invitation to doubt. It was a statement that he would hear from his opponents till his last breaths.
Then follow three well known temptations. Turn stones into bread; throw yourself off the Temple; bow down and trade your authority for global power. Remember these were real tests. It’s not a test if you cannot possibly fail. This is not play acting.
But please look carefully. The Sadducees’ lifestyle was one of compromise and materialistic comfort. Shrink the word of God, maximise ease and combine this with luxurious aristocratic self-centeredness. Don’t deny yourself, turn stones into bread. Use your power for selfish gain and grow fat in the process.
The arch opposer spoke the words of the Sadducean tempter into the hungry body of the Son of Man.
Look again. What was it the priests taunted him with at the cross? Come down from it – if you are the Son of God. Show us a miracle. What better place to show spectacular miracles than to throw yourself off the tallest tower in the temple when it was full of worshippers, letting the angels break your fall? This would demonstrate that you had an open door to the divine. This would vindicate your claim to be the priestly way to God, literally in one fell swoop. But it would also reduce God to spiritual theatre. It would be religious drama with no purpose. Exactly what was already happening at the temple. It would be to use power to impress, not to release.
Lastly reflect on the Pharisees’ agenda. They wanted to see a world that conformed to their ways. They looked for a messiah who would make their nation the world super power. This mythical, magical messiah would spectacularly and suddenly take over and restore order, their order.
And this is what the Son of Man was offered. All the kingdoms of the world, if he would obey another’s rule. This was the Pharisaical temptation. Don’t think of these as discrete or separate, they overlap. Three interactive, constant, inner temptations all designed to question his identity and invite him to take an inauthentic path.
Can you see it? This week at work you will face them inside yourself. The invitation to doubt that you are a Son of God. The questioning of your mission. The allure of self-centred materialism, spiritual theatre and power grabbing at any price. He faced them down each time with the word of God.
This week, at work, the living word is within your soul facing opposition down, empowering you to choose the authentic path. He did not fail.
Matthew 4: 1-11
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
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