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Hebrews 4:14-16 – NT

03.22.2011

Matt 4:1-11

As we’ll see on Thursday, Jesus’ resistance to temptation enables Him to sympathize with our weaknesses.  This temptation occurred throughout His life, but most prominently at the beginning of His ministry, during the 40 days He spent in the wilderness, and in Gethsemane.  That first period of temptation at the opening of His ministry serves to project both forward and backward, encapsulating the types of temptation He would face on His way to the cross and linking Him with the Israelites to set Him up to undo their sins.

Satan first tempted Christ to use His Sonship to His own benefit.  Jesus had put aside His heavenly powers so as to fully take on humanness.*  If Jesus were to use His powers to feed Himself just because He was hungry, not only would He be showing an unworthy lack of faith in the Father’s provision, but He would undermine His humanity and thus His standing to pay the penalty of sin.  It would have derailed His mission on earth, which, of course, Satan fully knew.  This temptation also recalls the Israelites’ demand for manna in the wilderness.  Jesus thus faced the same temptation they did and conquered where they could not.

Satan then** tempted Jesus to fling Himself from the heights of the Temple to make God fulfill His promise to save Him.  This would have been an act of disobedience, as Jesus mentions.  It also would have undermined the power of the Resurrection (I think) because if He were to get in the habit of courting death only to have God save Him each time, it would have made the Resurrection seem like a parlor trick or a stunt rather than the turning point of history that it was.  Again, this temptation recalls the Israelites in that they tested God’s ability/willingness to provide water in the desert.

The last temptation was for Jesus to submit to Satan in exchange for rulership over all the world.  This, of course, was not Satan’s to give, which Jesus knew.  It was also the very substance of the promise that God had made regarding the Son, and so Satan was trying to give Jesus a shortcut to the reward without the penalty of the cross.  Like the first temptation, this was an invitation for Jesus to use His position for His own gain and not in the role of a loving servant.  It also recalls the temptation to which the Israelites fell when they tried to circumvent God’s 40-year plan for them by attacking the Amalekites and Canaanites on their own; it ended in disaster for them.

Thus we see Jesus adhere to the Incarnation be refusing to misappropriate His powers, remain focused on the will of God and the service to God’s people rather than selfishness, obey the Scriptures and respect His mission, and submit to the pain of the cross instead of pursuing a shortcut to glory.  Further, we see Him symbolically undo the failings of God’s people as demonstrated with the manna, the water, and the battle with the Amalekites and Canaanites.  Having faced the same temptations as us, then, and having overcome, He is able to sympathize with us and be a bridge over the chasm that exists between our limitations and the holiness of God.

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* This suggests, then, that His miracles were instances not of Jesus using His divine powers but submitting to the will of the Father and allowing the Father to work through Him.  Like most things I say, the only authority I have for that interpretation is that it seems to make sense.  Check for corroborating analysis before you fold it into your theology.

** The account in Luke has the second and third temptations switched in order, for what it’s worth.

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