Temptations part 1

Jesus gives away power

Lent 2023

Power is not ours to keep, nor ours to wield over people. As Christians, our job is to follow the example of Jesus Christ in not holding on to power but giving it away. On Fridays this Lent, I shall be looking at the example of Jesus both in the temptations he faced and in his empowering of his disciples.

“With great power comes great responsibility,” said Voltaire, although most attribute it to Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben in the Spiderman series of comics by Marvel. In these comics superheroes and supervillains are given their power to use as they wish for good and evil, and many of the characters are compromised by the effects of their power.

With Jesus this seems to be different, Jesus seems to avoid using his power except as a sign that the kingdom of heaven has arrived, and on several occasions seems more content to give it away than to use it.

Electricity pylon
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Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan River. The Spirit led him into the desert. There the devil tempted him for 40 days. Jesus ate nothing during that time. At the end of the 40 days, he was hungry.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Man must not live only on bread.’ ” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Luke 4:1-4 NIRV


Jesus called together the 12 disciples. He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to heal sicknesses. Then he sent them out to announce God’s kingdom and to heal those who were sick. He told them, “Don’t take anything for the journey. Do not take a walking stick or a bag. Do not take any bread, money or extra clothes. When you are invited into a house, stay there until you leave town. Some people may not welcome you. If they don’t, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet. This will be a witness against the people living there.” So the 12 disciples left. They went from village to village. They announced the good news and healed people everywhere.

Luke 9:1-6 NIRV

God’s power is persuasive rather than coercive. Jesus’ miracles are signs that the kingdom of God is here. But before Jesus had healed anyone, he is prompted to use his power by the Devil. At first sight, it seems innocent enough, but the devil asked Jesus to separate the physical from the spiritual.

There is no divide between spiritual and spiritual activities. In Christian life eating is a spiritual activity, and we can use even our daily food to glorify God (Rom. 14:20–21; 1 Cor. 10:31). Whenever we label different spheres of our lives “physical,” “material,” “financial,” or “spiritual,” we leave God out of areas where he rightfully belongs.

There are two notable examples of Jesus refusing to perform miracles in the gospels. The first is in Mark chapter 1, the other I am leaving until the end of the post.

It was early in Jesus’ ministry. He had cast an evil spirit out of a man in the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath and word got out around Galilee. After sunset, so no longer on the Sabbath which is sunset to sunset, lots of people gathered where Jesus was, he healed many and drove out many demons. This is what happened next:

35 It was very early in the morning and still dark. Jesus got up and left the house. He went to a place where he could be alone. There he prayed. 36 Simon and his friends went to look for Jesus. 37 When they found him, they called out, “Everyone is looking for you!”

38 Jesus replied, “Let’s go somewhere else. I want to go to the nearby towns. I must preach there also. That is why I have come.”

Mark 1:35-38

Imagine the disappointment of those who had brought sick friends and family to see Jesus that morning. Imagine also the difficulty Jesus had in making that decision of leaving the people in Capernaum who had come that morning and moving on to other towns. But that was not what Jesus had come to do.

Unlike some fellow Evangelicals, I am not going to jump straight to the cross, Jesus had other jobs to do first, which is why several months after he had ordained the 12 apostles and they had been travelling with him as his helpers, Jesus sent them out. But first, he equips them with the power to heal, cast out demons and preach and also with the authority to do so. Jesus gives his followers power and authority. We do not work in our own power or by our own authority, but by that of Jesus.

John chapter 6 has the other example of Jesus refusing to perform a miracle. Jesus has returned across the sea of Galilee after feeding 5,000 people with a small amount of food, news has got around and now the people are demanding that he gives them this bread also. Jesus refuses, but in his answer replies that he, Jesus, is the bread of life. But the people react to his teaching by leaving. (John 6:66).

What is your reaction? Are you in this Christianity thing for what you can get out of it yourself? Or are you in it for Jesus alone? Are you willing to give yourself fully to Jesus? Please ponder this.

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