A Test of Identity

As we come toward the end of this Lenten Journey and step into Holy Week, how are you doing?

Writers of the good news story, Matthew & Luke , tell us that as Jesus ended his forty days in the wilderness he was hungry and vulnerable and that Satan tried to take advantage of his vulnerability and shift Jesus’ worldview.

LIfe this last year has been so very difficult for all of us. Stating it like that seems to diminish it and makes it sound trite but know that I have lived the difficulty with you: relationships upended, financial stability disrupted, physical health threatened, feelings of isolation and abandonment, betrayal and distrust on both personal and societal levels.

And, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that In our vulnerability Jesus stands with us to keep our eyes focused by God’s Kingdom.

In the Temptation story, Satan tries to get Jesus to take his eyes off of the Kingdom. We put a lot of heavy negative connotation on the word ‘temptation’ as if the test itself were the sin, but to tempt is just that: to test or to try out. The key point is our response. When we ask God to save us from the time of trial, we are asking God keep our eyes on the Kingdom so that we make Jesus-centered and other-focused decisions and choices.

In this test Jesus is being asked to reveal his true identity – is he truly of God’s Kingdom or is he willing to accept something less for himself to relieve his own suffering.

The first test seems like a simple, even innocent, idea: you are so very hungry, so why not turn some stones into bread to relieve that hunger. I mean, a key part of Jesus ministry to come is feeding people. What’s so bad about wanting to feed himself? And, the good news writer John tells us that Jesus’ first miracle is to turn water into wine at a wedding, so changing one thing into another isn’t it either.

This temptation, this test, is about Jesus living into who he is. Satan says, “since you are God’s son, turn these stones to bread.” In other words, take advantage of who you are for your own benefit, you’re entitled, you deserve it. Go for it. And Jesus’ response puts things into proper Kingdom perspective: Life, real life, life as God intends it, isn’t about getting what we deserve or taking what we want because we think we are entitled. Life is a gracious gift from our loving Creator and Jesus doesn’t accept anything less.

Our life is a balance of physical and spiritual and we need to feed and care for our whole and holy humanness. Even if we were to feast regularly on the finest of foods, we would not be fully alive without also regularly feeding on God’s word so that we are equipped to see through a Kingdom lens.

How has spending more time reading and reflecting on God’s Word this Lent strengthened you? Are you discovering your true identity as Kingdom people, beloved children of God? Is your vision changing?

We’ll spend the next two days talking about the other two tests of Jesus’ identity before we return to Jerusalem on Thursday for the final meal Jesus has with his closest followers. For today, let’s pray together with Jesus:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge! You can do anything you want!

You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.”

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