February 29, 2004

Luke 4:1-13

[1] Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild. [2] For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by the Devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up he was hungry.

[3] The Devil, playing on his hunger, gave the first test: "Since you're God's Son, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread."

[4] Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: "It takes more than bread to really live."

[5] For the second test he led him up and spread out all the kingdoms of the earth on display at once. [6] Then the Devil said, "They're yours in all their splendor to serve your pleasure. I'm in charge of them all and can turn them over to whomever I wish. [7] Worship me and they're yours, the whole works."

[8] Jesus refused, again backing his refusal with Deuteronomy: "Worship the Lord your God and only the Lord your God. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness."

[9] For the third test the Devil took him to Jerusalem and put him on top of the Temple. He said, "If you are God's Son, jump. [10] It's written, isn't it, that 'he has placed you in the care of angels to protect you; [11] they will catch you; you won't so much as stub your toe on a stone'?"

[12] "Yes," said Jesus, "and it's also written, 'Don't you dare tempt the Lord your God.' "

[13] That completed the testing. The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity.

[The Message]


1. There are a lot of different models that play on the three temptations. They are all fun and all hold together for a little while. Any static system that tries to make sense of the world in trinities always seems to break down at some point. There is something about a tipsy threesome that desires a fourth for resolution. It is one of the reasons Jung like 4 better than 3. But even that finds its limit. To try to fit all temptations into one of these three reduces the reality of this part of life to a parlor game.

2. Most of us make an idol out of a peak experience, even in such a low down place as the Jordan Rift. How is baptism most honored? By carrying water from the stream (as though living water were a constant) as a magic talisman? By traipsing after that elusive spirit dove and finding yourself in a strange and desolate place?

It is almost as if we want either more confirmation or more clarity about what it means to be a beloved of GOD. Catch that dove so we can do some divinization from its entrails! Catch that dove and cage it as a souvenir of a wonderful moment! Catch that dove and make it talk; give more details! All of those desires, and more, eventually lead us to the wilderness. We can't make sense out of it. We find that familiarity does breed contempt. We tame the wild and wonder why it is just not the same.

3. From promise of belovedness to the wilderness of silence and being ignored we find the same journey as from the healings and miracles/signs to betrayal and death. In this model, the temptation moments that are overcome become new beginnings. Here we find the seeds of the rest of the story and thus the "Last Temptation of Christ" in the wilderness of betrayal and death as precursor to a new beginning.

From a review by Carol Iannone about the Last Temptation film come these words:

"The Last Temptation of Christ seems to me the effort of an ordinary man to understand Christ's sacrifice from the inside and to experience it as his own. In order to speak to modern man, arriving so late in the ages of belief, Jesus must be made to bear the infirmities of our age-the doubt, the angst, the fear and trembling, the existential dread, and yes, even the sexual obsessiveness. Moreover, in an age of complacent materialism Christ must be tempted not only by extraordinary evil but by the possibility of a life of ordinary pleasure as well-not only by lavish indulgence but also by the life of middle- class satisfactions.


"The unsaved world, the world without the Cross, although still part of Jesus' fantasy, is rendered convincingly bare and desolate. After his mostly satisfactory life as a , Jesus grows old and is near death. Forty years have passed and Jerusalem is burning-the march of history has continued without any change of course. Paul, because he feels that people need to believe in something, is preaching a false gospel based on the incomplete crucifixion that Jesus apparently underwent. The Apostles come to see Jesus and they are old, broken men. They reproach him for descending the Cross and leaving mankind without hope, kept going by lies and fictions during the brief, sometimes pleasant, sometimes miserable interlude before oblivion. It is then that Jesus sees Satan behind his fantasy and rejects it, begging the Father in a deeply affecting scene to take him back to the Cross, to "make a feast." In a moment, with complete and eager willingness, he is back, and 'it is accomplished.' The film memorably ends here, while the novel continues for one more sentence: 'And it was as though he had said: Everything has begun.' And one can believe that it has."