As I write this blog it is Fat Tuesday. Ugh! I’m tempted by sugar. Loads and loads of sweet donuts or cookies haunt my dreams. And a lot of people choose to give-in to their temptations on Fat Tuesday. Alas I will not. Instead I have ordered a roast beef sandwich called an “unwich” from Jimmy Johns. An unwich is a sandwich without any bread, wrapped in lettuce. Yes . . . its’ a salad you can eat with your hands. Why not give in? Because I want to be more like Jesus! Keep reading.
Forget my dietary habits. We need to talk about taking steps towards renewal. As a church we are taking 7 of those steps on the way to Easter, and the first one is facing temptations.
Get out your Bibles and read the following passages: Mark 1:9-15, Matthew 4:1-11, and Luke 4:1-13. All three cover the same ground: Jesus is tempted in the desert. All three occur directly after Jesus is baptized (but Matthew slips the genealogy of Jesus in between the baptism story and the temptation story). It is a vivid picture; is it not? Especially the Matthew and Luke accounts. One can easily imagine Jesus conversing with the devil as Jesus is tempted about three topics: wealth, religious authority, and political power. And those three topics are strangely relevant to today too! Everybody wants to be the one who gives the orders instead of taking them. Everybody wants to be the wise one. Everybody wants to have a life of leisure. Some even want to do all three . . . even though they might be mutually exclusive.
Nevertheless this is a scripture of hope to me. Why? Even Jesus experienced temptation–and he was baptized and everything! Legitimately, he felt the power of temptation. If he weren’t tempted by these things he would never have gone to the desert in the first place. He would have simply been baptized and straight ahead gone into his ministry. Instead he first needed to get his house in order. He needed to test his mettle. He needed to conquer the things that could potentially defeat him before he could save the rest of us. He needed to save himself first before he could become a savior for all.
We are taught from a very young age to be more like Jesus. This scripture is very encouraging to me because it’s one of those scriptures that tells me it is ok to focus on yourself sometimes. Each of us is tempted by something different. Some of those temptations can be truly life-threatening. Other temptations can do only spiritual damage. But to lead a holistic life, filled with blessings we must face our demons . . . whether those demons be cream-filled donuts or something more serious like hate or fear. Be strong. Do what Jesus did. Tell those temptations to leave you alone so you can focus on your life’s mission. Whatever that may be.