Temptations part 2

Jesus gives away control

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.

One of the striking things about today’s passage is the use of the word ‘led’. It is used in today’s reading twice and in the whole story of Jesus’ temptations three times. The first is not straightforward, after his baptism, the Holy Spirit does not lead Jesus into ministry, but away from it into the desert. Before any period of action there is always a period of preparation.

If that is not straightforward, the next is shocking. Jesus is led by the devil to a high place. Jesus allows the devil to lead him. I bet you don’t hear that in many sermons.

Grey Wolves
Picture from Wikimedia Commons

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.

Then the devil led Jesus up to a high place. In an instant, he showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. He said to Jesus, “I will give you all their authority and glory. It has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God. He is the only one you should serve.’ ” (Deuteronomy 6:13)

Luke 4: 1-2 and 5-8

10 After this the Lord appointed 72 others. He sent them out two by two ahead of him. They went to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is huge, but the workers are few. So ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals. And don’t greet anyone on the road.

17 The 72 returned with joy. They said, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we speak in your name.”

Luke 10: 1-3, 17

Jesus does not lose control. It is clear by his answer to the devil that his authority is still there, yet he gives up his control and lets the devil lead. Jesus offers Jesus a shortcut. Instead of going through the suffering of the cross to win back the nations of the world, which will one day be given to him, he is offered the glory which is due to him now. Glory now without all the hard work is not God’s way. God’s way is to give yourself up for other people. We are supposed to follow Jesus’ example, we are supposed to live God’s sacrificial way.

It is the same as when Jesus sent out the 72 disciples to prepare the way for him to visit. Jesus did not give them authority over demons, but they came back celebrating that demons obeyed them when they spoke in Jesus’ name. Jesus tells them not to rejoice in that, rather he said:

20 But do not be glad when the evil spirits obey you. Instead, be glad that your names are written in heaven.

It would be easy for Jesus’ followers to set up healing ministries and become famous for their healing. But that was not Jesus’ role for these people, they were sent out as ambassadors of Jesus and later in this same chapter, also neighbours to the people they were sent to, looking for opportunities to help and care for them.

Seeing people healed and devils flee is no bad thing. The danger of seeing things happen in the name of Jesus Christ is that we start to idolise the person through which the miracle of God is worked, which is not a bad thing when Jesus was the miracle worker, but now with the 12 apostles and 72 other disciples working miracles we must be careful, the 72 were warned even when they rejoiced in the power of Jesus’ name. We also should be careful.

The privilege of being part of the work of Jesus Christ is something great, but we are working for the glory of God alone. When the 72 came back Jesus did not take away their authority to perform miracles and heal, Jesus saw their victories as part of the plan to dethrone Satan. But having our names written in heaven is a greater joy than this. the joy of salvation.

There are three joys in this passage (according to sermon notes I have seen), the joy of service, the joy of salvation and the joy of sovereignty. Jesus, overcome by the Holy Spirit, says, “I praise you, Father. You are Lord of heaven and earth. You have hidden these things from wise and educated people. But you have shown them to little children. Yes, Father. This is what you wanted to do.” (Luke 10:21). The greatest joy here is knowing in a close and intimate way the God who is Lord of heaven and earth.

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