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Here’s another fine mess (4) - overcome...

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days. When they were ended, he was hungry. (1) The accuser said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” (2) The accuser took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’ ” (3) He took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said 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 guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” And when the accuser had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. Luke 4: 1-13

The 3,000+-year-old book of Genesis contains a thought-provoking statement about the genesis of harm, hurt, mess and wrong in this world of ours. The created woman had been warned. But she saw that (1) “the tree was good for food”. She saw (2) “it was a delight to the eyes”. She “saw” (3) “the tree was to be desired to make one wise”. She and her husband were already well-filled, enjoying the whole of creation, and intelligent. But they wanted what they thought was wrongly being withheld from them both. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  They wanted to be autonomous, in general and with regard to what was right and what was wrong.

One of the contemporaries of Jesus Christ named John wrote his biography of Jesus towards the end of the first century AD. In it he stated: All that is in the world—(1) the desires of the flesh and (2) the desires of the eyes and (3) pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

‘Love does not say “Give me”, but “Let me give you”.’ (Jill Briscoe)

Do these three desires provide the deepest reason behind the messes we’ve gotten into? Do all have (1) desires “to eat” including “to experience” leading to lies and cheating; (2) desires “to own” including “to be seen to have”, leading to stealing and fraud; (3) desires “to get ahead” including “to be the one who decides what’s right and wrong”.

Take a look now at (1) (2) and (3) in the extract, in bold above, from Luke’s first century biography of Jesus.  This incident occurred immediately before Jesus started his public life. It seems that these tests were necessary in order to see whether he, like all other human beings, was in thrall to desires.

In (1) Jesus was terribly hungry. “The tree was good for food.” Why shouldn’t he change some stones into bread to satisfy his own hunger? What would you have done? This man would not use the power he possessed for the “me”. Among 100 starving people the one last bread roll would never be his. Unlike Eve, it would always be “my Father’s word first.”

In (2) Jesus could have all the authority and glory of all the world’s nations. For sure - “It was a delight to the eyes.” Unimaginable riches and all that went with them. Again, had Jesus taken this offer he would have been “self-serving”. The price was that he would “worship” the accuser. But Jesus was committed to the worship of his Father above, to obeying his Father’s word.

In (3) Jesus was perched in a slippery place. The temple was the highest building in Jerusalem. The pinnacle was dizzyingly high – so easy to slip and fall. Jesus’ accuser twice uses God’s word. Would Jesus become religious? Will he take the matter of his own safety out of the hands of his Father by slipping off the pinnacle, thus forcing his Father to save him? “The pride of life.” Surely he wants to be in charge? Surely, like so many of us, he must be boss – boss over his Father God? But No. He’s not in captivity to autonomy.

‘The man who clings to his own desires is like a man who clings to a millstone to prevent himself from sinking in the flood.’  (Anon.)

This world is in a fine mess. All have succumbed to their own desires. Those desires mess up everything for others. My desires also (think addictions) mess up everything for “me” – even, in fact especially , when my desires are achieved.

Our desires have gotten the better of us - and gotten us, autonomously, into this mess. And the world is now passing away along with its desires… I can’t get rid of my desires. Tell me. Is it possible that this singular man from AD 0-30 might have the way out – in particular for paralyzed “me”?

Richard Syvret

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