Temptations part 3

Jesus gives away control

Lent 2023

Power is not ours to keep, nor ours to wield over people. Neither have we been called to control them. 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.

When trying to find a suitable image I searched for temptation. Most of the images were either a woman’s hand stretching for cake of chocolate of of a young woman in a seductive pose. I noticed how the popular ideas of temptation is sexualised, women to food and men to sex. I chose not to use those images.

A picture of jerusalem. showing a cross in fromt of a minaret.
picture from Openverse

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 to Jerusalem. He had Jesus stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 It is written,

“ ‘The Lord will command his angels to take good care of you.
11 They will lift you up in their hands.
    Then you won’t trip over a stone.’ ” (Psalm 91:11,12)

12 Jesus answered, “Scripture says, ‘Do not test the Lord your God.’ ” (Deuteronomy 6:16)

13 When the devil finished all this tempting, he left Jesus until a better time.

Luke 4:1-2, 9-13.

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written. The Messiah will suffer. He will rise from the dead on the third day. 47 His followers will preach in his name. They will tell others to turn away from their sins and be forgiven. People from every nation will hear it, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You have seen these things with your own eyes. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised. But for now, stay in the city. Stay there until you have received power from heaven.”

Luke 24: 45-49

The devil has already questioned the Father’s love when he tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread. He questioned Jesus’ hope when he offered Jesus the world’s kingdoms on this side of the cross. Satan questioned the Father’s faithfulness when he asked Jesus to jump from the temple and prove that the Father would keep His promise (Psalm 91:11–12). The devil has therefore attacked the three basic virtues of the Christian life—faith, hope, and love.

Jesus has answered the temptations with scripture, always from the book of Deuteronomy, but how does he react when scripture is quoted at him?

The devil is still the one who is in control. Even though the devil lost the previous round, even though he was the one in control, he tries again. This time he uses scripture.

What happens next is not the text tennis of internet discussions on Christianity, where Bible verses are used to try to pound the other party into submission, it is over after the first round. The devil quotes Psalm 91:11-12, and does a good job of doing it. The passage is about trusting God, but it is not a case of taking a leap. A leap of faith is about trusting God in something God is leading you to do, the sort of action the devil is suggesting, even though it is from scripture, is forcing God’s hand, it is tempting God. God does not promise to be with you in reckless action. Jesus again answers with scripture. The devil has lost because Jesus uses scripture with authority. For scripture to have authority it depends on the person using it. The Holy Spirit will use scripture in the right way, to build people up. The Holy Spirit does not use clobber verses.

Bear this in mind the next time you hear someone using the Bible to keep others down. I have to be careful, it might be me.

Jesus gave control away to Satan and still won through, he hung on to the faith, hope and love he had in the Father and used the Bible in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus gave control away again. After three years of ministry, he gave away his power, his authority and his control to his disciples. The most important instruction here is wait. Wait until the Holy Spirit has come. The Apostles were not to go and preach in their own power and they were not to healings and miracles in their own authority. They have to wait. Wait for the Holy Spirit to give them power to preach and heal in the authority of the name of Jesus.

But the Holy Spirit did not control them, they have the choice to do as they pleased. They were never God’s puppets, and on occasion they got it wrong.

Like them we have the same authority that the Apostles had, the same Spirit that the Apostles had, but the Holy Spirit does not control us unless we decide to give her control. Like the Apostles too, the role of Christians in a role of leadership is not to exert any power over people rather it is to empower other people. Power, authority and control are not ours to exert over people. Instead in faith in the Father who loves us, in the Hope of Jesus Christ who died for us and rose to give us new life and in faithfulness to the Holy Spirit we are supposed to give our power, authority and control away.

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