"Lent 01: Temptation in the Wilderness" - Tim Suttle

"Lent 01: Temptation in the Wilderness"

by Tim Suttle


2017.03.05 – Lent 01
Mt 4:1-11 – Temptation in the Wilderness

There’s a parable in the book of Mt. about a rich landowner who is going away on a long trip & he called 3 servants together to delegate responsibilities.
1st – gave $5k        2nd – gave $2k        3rd – gave $1k
The 1st two doubled the master’s money.
But the 3rd one dug a hole & buried the money.
When the master came home from his journey he asked for a report.
1st two were in good shape & invited to continue working w/him.
3rd one was fired for wasting what was entrusted to him …  

PT: Over the years the church has read this as a story about stewardship. We have been charged with the stewardship of our lives & of creation; and God is very interested in how you and I steward those things. I don't mean have to learn how to turn a profit, or make tons of $$.

I mean that God is very interested in how we treat the GIFTS God has given us
Have we been good stewards of them?
Or have we buried them, or squandered them?
And there are all kinds of GIFTS that we’ve been entrusted with:

Our bodies: what are you doing w/your body?
Do you care for it? Exercise & eat right.
Or do you abuse it; cram it full of too much sugar & soda pop?

Our lives: are you investing your life in things that matter?
Have you learned to serve others & God’s kingdom?
Or are you squandering your life binge-watching sitcoms …

Our friends & enemies: both of whom God has commanded us to love… how are we stewarding those relationships?

We’ve been given the Earth: to care for as God’s image bearing creatures. 
Are we good stewards of it (is it flourishing)? Or are we exploiting the earth? 
We are the stewards of creation, we all are. 
What kind of earth are we leaving for our children? 

This parable isn’t just about being a good employee. It involves the question of what we do with gifts… divine gifts.
Your body, your life, your friends, your enemies.
The land, the water, the air, the creatures.
As human beings we are obliged to call those things gifts because WE can’t make any of those things… can’t generate those things.
We can only take care of them, or not… that’s our only choice.
We can’t make the land, the water, the air, the creatures.
We can only take care of them (or not) … 
We can’t generate our own life or the life of your neighbor.
We can only take care of them (or not) … that’s stewardship.
And stewardship is essential to what it means to be a human being.

And a good part of what it means to be a good steward involves what the writer Wendell Berry calls knowledgeable attention.
And he puts emphasis on knowledgeable … on knowing.
Berry’s interesting because he’s not just a great writer … he’s a farmer.
He says, even among the farming community: knowledge about how to care for the ground, for the land, is slowly disappearing.
Berry said: “The people who ought to know about land use, and ought to know the difference between good & bad land use are just gone … we don’t have many of them left.”
EX: most of us could pass through the state of Iowa at the height of the growing season & see those vast green cornfields…
And assume it’s a picture of abundance.
Without knowing the toxins flowing out of the fields into the waterways & seeping into the groundwater.
Without knowing the gullies wearing out under those cornstalks.
Without knowing the erosion of the topsoil and the depletion of the soil that comes when farmers push the land beyond what it can bear.
I cannot pay knowledgeable attention to the land because I don’t have the knowledge… I can pay attention, but not knowledgeable attention.

PT: Part of stewardship involves knowledge… knowing … stewardship isn’t just about paying attention, it means paying knowledgeable attention … that we are learning … changing … growing as human beings and as stewards of the gifts God has given us: our bodies, lives, friends, enemies, & the earth.

In America we take certain things for granted, & not all of them are good. We live with a whole lot of assumptions we’re unaware of, but they are there…
EX: the assumption that comes along w/ materialism & consumerism:
You can have as much as you want of anything you want…
And that you should be able to use any means to get it. 
That the ends (having as much as you want of anything you want)…
Justify the means (even violence, injustice, or exploitation of the earth).
The only thing that stands between those assumptions & the unfettered exploitation of other humans & the earth is stewardship.
A sense that we are responsible for how we use the gifts God’s given.
And not just any stewardship, but stewardship in the way of Jesus… who paid knowledgeable attention to the human condition.

And the problem, in Berry’s estimation, is not so much that people are awful & cruel, but that they lack the knowledge re: what it takes to be good stewards.
About what makes for the wise use of the world. 
We can’t pay knowledgeable attention because we lack knowledge.
There’s a basic lack of knowledge about our lives & the world.
In the example of Jesus, we can see what it looks like to be a faithful steward of our lives… he’s a phenomenal source of knowledge.

And in the story of Jesus in the wilderness, we see that JS had to settle the question (before he ever gets started) of how he would steward his life. 
Would he use it for the KOG and live it in obedience to God? 
Or would he act selfishly in accordance w/the Kingdoms of the Earth?
Perhaps exploiting it to gain political or social power & wealth? 
In Mt.’s gospel we find out the answer to this question for the first time as Jesus spends his 40 days in the wilderness & his testing.

Now, when a Jewish writer uses the number 40 & talks about the wilderness – everyone would immediately know:
This is an Exodus thing happening here.
He’s re-enacting Moses & the 40 yrs. in the wilderness.

When God led Moses & the people out of Egypt, they had just spent the previous 400 years in slavery. 
They had no imagination for how to live as free people.
They trusted Pharaoh so long, they didn’t know how to trust God. 
So God led them into the wilderness, to place of utter vulnerability, to teach them how to trust.
Need food – eat some Manna.
Need water – strike this rock.
Need directions – follow the cloud by day, & fire by night. 

PT: 40 years it took for God to give them a new orientation, so they’d stop thinking like slaves, and start thinking like children of God. Jesus does his 40 days & is revealed to be the bread of life, the living water, & the way.

But first there was the testing in the wilderness. (I think testing is a better translation here than tempting).
God isn’t trying to trick JS, see if he’ll take the bait.
It’s a testing: he’s fasting… no meals, little water.
He’s going to have to go w/out all the things he is used to relying on to get him through the day.
And w/out those things, he’s going to start asking different questions, much deeper questions … he’s going to learn some things

This is the intersection between the TEXT & the season of LENT.
Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness learning to trust in God
Elijah spend 40 days learning to hear the still small voice of God
Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, tested by the devil.
Each year we spend 40 days in the wilderness during Lent

And we go into the wilderness in order to put ourselves in a position where God can get to us… & mess with us.
Our hope is to learn more about who GOD is…
And to learn more about who WE are… & how those two relate. 

Frederick Buechner says it this way, “After being baptized, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness where he spent 40 days asking himself the question what does it mean to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask what it means to be themselves.”
This is part of what we do during Lent, we ask: what does it mean to be who God made me to be … to steward my life as God intended?
And the story of JS’s temptation in the wilderness can be helpful.

Henri Nouwen was a Catholic theologian & priest. He wrote a book called “In the Name of Jesus”
It’s a leadership book, based on this story.
Nouwen says the 3 tests Jesus faced were: would he bring about the KOG by trying to be RELEVANT, or SPECTACULAR, or POWERFUL.
I want to use those three words to look at this story closely.
The first thing the tempter says to Jesus is: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.”
1) Nouwen calls this: temptation to be RELEVANT (stones to bread)
Jesus was fasting for weeks: only thing matter = FOOD!
To turn stones into bread was to address the pressing concerns of the moment – to be RELEVANT
One of the worst things you can say about someone in our culture is that they are no longer relevant. 
You have to be up on all of the pressing issues of the day.
Much of what drives social media is this need to prove one’s relevance.

So, Jesus is hungry – he’s suffering… vulnerable… And the first thing the devil offers him is a quick way out of the suffering & vulnerability.
Jesus doesn’t take it.
He refuses to step out of his own vulnerability.
Cuz he knows the kingdom only comes through vulnerability
It seems to be a small temptation… just alleviate the hunger!
“Look, you’re not thinking straight Jesus. It’s no wonder, look how hungry you are. Just turn this rock into bread & you're your suffering go away!! You are too weak right now; too vulnerable. Let’s get you shored up & then we’ll worry about the big picture later on.”
That’s the temptation.
To let the RELEVANT concerns of the moment derail the mission by alleviating our own vulnerability.

Nouwen says, “I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self.”
I am convinced that he is right.
And it’s not just for Christian leaders
This is true for all followers of Jesus.

PT: Think of it this way. If all Jesus had to offer was his own vulnerability, what makes us think we have something more than that to give?
Vulnerability is essential to the love of God.
This is the HOW for Jesus… God’s love is always vulnerable.

EX: This is something Kristin & I have learned to embrace over the years.
We almost never get to the end of a fight anymore.
Because we have become trained over the years:
In the middle of the fight, we’re both looking for our own vulnerability.
As soon as we spot it, we confess it, & the fight is over.

We’ll just say, “ You know what? I’m not even really upset about this small thing. I’m feeling vulnerable right now: There was this thing somebody said to me today … or money’s tight right now & I’m worried about that.”

The other day we were having a pretty heated moment.
In the middle of the fight I just stopped .
And it wasn’t just because I was losing… although I was totally losing!
Confessed this vulnerability I was feeling
Kristin was on it… fight over… put her arms @ me
Made MY vulnerability HER vulnerability
And all of the selfishness, conflict, all the evil vanished.
Why is this important? Here’s why … because:

PT: Vulnerability has way more power than force or argument. Vulnerability is more powerful than strength. It’s so powerful that God chose vulnerability as the means for bringing about the kingdom. The cross is the ultimate in vulnerability! Jesus had a choice – would he bring about the KOG by addressing all of the hot-button issues of the day… the political fights & factions? Or would he bring it through vulnerability. 

Jesus simply says, “Man does not live by bread alone.” It’s a line from the prophets… Deuteronomy. Just a simple response.
He’s saying there’s more to the KOG than the relevant thing.
 …the issue of the day.
This is about the HOW of the KOG
The KOG doesn’t come by being relevant… smart… clever
It comes through vulnerability.
Jesus is being tested here… & he stays in his vulnerability.

Next test: “Then the devil took him to the holy city, had him stand on the highest point of the temple, 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; then he quotes Ps 91 & how God will send angels to protect him.

2) Nouwen calls this the temptation to be SPECTACULAR
To do something that would win him great applause. 
Jesus was completely capable jumping, why didn’t he do it? 
He refuses to entertain us with miracles. 
He is calling us beyond those things. 
Miracles are not shortcuts or labor saving devices. 
There are no shortcuts in the KOG… can’t snap fingers – mature

This is an important question for us because we live in a bigger is better world
If you can buy a bigger house, you should.
If you can get a better job, or a promotion, you should.
The goal is bigger, better, higher, stronger, faster.

God has a different perspective. I don’t think God’s asking “who will do great things for me?” … God’s asking who will dare to do a small thing faithfully? 
Our culture will constantly dare you to attempt the spectacular. 
But the real challenge is not to be spectacular,
The real challenge to risk being faithful in obscurity.
Who will dare to follow Jesus when no one is looking?
Not when it’s spectacular – that’s actually pretty easy.
What’s hard is to follow Jesus in obscurity.
Who will dare to do the small thing faithfully… w/out recognitn?

Anybody who has been married has had to bump into this. Anybody whose had a job for any length of time has too.    
The challenge isn’t the crisis or the SPECTACULAR feat
The challenge is the day to day… moment to moment…
To live in fidelity to a spouse who is less than perfect.
To work hard even when the boss is out of the office.
Get up and go to work wondering if it matters
Because you have to live, feed your kids, do something.

PT: Our culture loves the Spectacular and ignores the ordinary. Jesus seemed to know the ordinary was the good stuff. “Don’t put the Lord to the test.” He said. “I’m not even going to go there,” was his response.
And so the kingdom would come through an ordinary Jewish Carpenter… a vulnerable man...

Last one: ”The devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their grandeur. 9 And he said to him, “I will give you all these things if you throw yourself to the ground and worship me.”

3) This is the temptation to be POWERFUL to have the kingdoms of this world
Will Jesus power up? Raise an army? Kill Romans? Become King?
The devil says, “Let me save you some time… I’ll just give it all to you. All you have to do is worship me.”
The temptation is to gain power without suffering. Illegitimate power.

Nouwen says this, “What makes the temptation of power so seemingly irresistible … is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life.”

I think that’s profound: What makes the temptation to power so irresistible is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. 
It’s so much easier to control people than to love them. 
It’s easier to try and be God than to love God and wait on God. 
Control = easier than love cuz love makes you vulnerable
Love means people can reject you / take advantage of you
So much easier to try and control than to love.

EX: I see this a lot as I watch people parenting their kids. How will you lead your kids when you no longer hold all the power? 
When they are young it works fine to power up & control.
If that’s all you go w/teenagers, you are going to struggle! 
When parents only know how to use power & control. 
They don’t know how to lead through love. 
It’s going to get rough later on…
Because Love is about vulnerability. 
We have to learn this as parents, friends, co-workers, neighbors
The way of Christ is the way of vulnerability.

It’s interesting to me what Jesus says. ‘It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” ’

JS Response here is from the shema, (Hear O Israel, lord…). To say “Worship the Lord your God, & serve only him.” ’ is a shorthand shema.
Jesus is saying that even playing the world’s power game for a good purpose would be to risk serving some other authority.
Jesus recognizes no other authority in his mission.
His response is to first love God wholeheartedly.
HOW he goes about his mission is everything
He refuses to become POWERFUL to bring the Kingdom.

PT: Essentially what he is saying here is, “It’s a lie and I know it! You don’t have power over the kingdoms of the world. It might look like you do, but you don’t. You might control things. But you can only lead through control. The nature of my heavenly father is LOVE. God will lead thru LOVE; which means God will lead through VULNERABILITY.”

How often do we all face this same temptation… to be POWERFUL. In our profession, in our families, friendships, relationships…
This is kingdom power 101
Paul said it this way, “Your power is made perfect in weakness… and when I am weak, then I am strong.”
There were no shortcuts for Jesus.
He had to face this test … And we face it too, every single day.
Our culture will give us endless chances to be RELEVANT, to be SPECTACULAR, to be POWERFUL.
But the KOG doesn’t come through those things
And our pathway to good stewardship doesn’t come thru them either.

These are the temptations that Jesus faced, they’re the temptations we face everyday as a community. 
In the stewardship of our lives, which path will we choose?
Vulnerability or the relevant, spectacular, and powerful?

I'm convinced that vulnerability is a KEY VIRTUE for the Christian faith because vulnerability is required for love… ever think about that?
Love means you make yourself vulnerable to someone/thing.
If you love someone, they can hurt you… that’s vulnerability.
There is no love w/out vulnerability.
And here’s the crazy part… in God’s economy this isn’t a weakness, this is actually an essential strength!

Barbara Brown Taylor has this famous line. 
She says that to be a Christian is to agree to undergo life w/out the benefit of anesthesia… we’re gonna feel everything.
Lent is the invitation to learn some essential knowledge about what it means to confess Jesus as Lord of your life.
This knowledge won’t come thru the relevant, spectacular, powerful.
It comes when we put ourselves in a place where God can get to us.
It comes thru vulnerability … 
The wise stewardship of our lives requires vulnerability.
Is there any relationship in your life that wouldn’t get better if you’d just be a little more vulnerable w/that person?

Lent is the invitation to undergo our lives in the world without the benefit of anesthesia. To become VULNERABLE…
W/out the crutches we use to prop up our emotional instability.
W/out artificial fillers we use to fill the space reserved for God alone
W/out Spiritual pacifiers that don’t nourish us, but just keep us quiet
In Lent we go without these things. 

PT: And nothing is too small to give up because anything you give up will eventually point out to you the way your soul so often turns to something other than God to fill the void, and you are offered a choice: will I take the shortcut? The easy way out? Or stay in the vulnerability I feel when I go without & learn to rely on God in that moment … in every moment.
Lent is about learning to pay knowledgeable attention to our lives.
It doesn’t matter that you gave up chocolate or sugar or soda.
There’s nothing wrong with those things.
In fact we give them up because in some sense they are blessings.
What matters, is that we pay attention to what happens in us when we choose to go without something.
It brings out all kinds of primal instincts to have our needs met.
And it can teach us to pay knowledgeable attention to our lives… the kind of attention that is necessary for good stewardship.

It’s really interesting to me to just see how these three temptations or tests that Jesus faced that day played out in his later life & ministry. 

Although he refused to turn the stones into bread that day // Later on he did feed the hungry – sometimes miraculously producing bread...

Although he refused political power that day // He did proclaim the rule and reign of God. It’s just that this kingdom comes not at the tip of the sword, but through the wise practice of justice & peace,

Although he refused to be spectacular, to jump off the temple to see if God would catch him // he did go to the cross trusting that God would raise him from the dead… In a way he did take the leap, but not as a way of testing God, but rather in obedience to God’s calling for his life.

PT: Everything that the devil tested him with that day, Jesus would get to eventually. The WHAT turned out to be exactly the same stuff, it was always the HOW that mattered most...
And it’s the HOW that matters most for us.
In our lives personally & In our common life as a church.
The HOW matters.
It’s not just THAT we pursue the kingdom.
If we pursue the kingdom in illegitimate ways, we’ll miss it.
The HOW matters.
And the central HOW is vulnerability that leads to love.

That’s why we do LENT. We choose to give up a thing or two to make ourselves vulnerable… we purposely expose our own weakness… Lent is an assault on our need to be relevant, in powerful, spectacular… and to choose to be weak instead…

We have been given gifts… by God.
Our bodies, our minds, our lives, our friends, our enemies, this earth.
These are gifts that have been entrusted to us.
We are invited to be wise stewards of those gifts…
To organize our common life together in such a way that we image God to all creation.
And this story contrasts 2 options that are open to us.
How will we steward the gifts we have been given?
This is essential knowledge for the xian because, in E Peterson’s words:

“We cannot do the Lord’s work in the devil’s ways. The devil has great ideas – brilliant ideas! The devil is the consummate ideologue, but he is incapable of incarnation. He uses people to embody his projects in functional rather than personal relationships. The devil is the ultimate in disincarnation.” E. Peterson.

I love that… the devil is incapable of incarnation. That’s what Jesus is after.
We are meant to be the hands and feet of Christ… that’s stewardship.
We are his vulnerable people binding up the wounds of the world.
Spreading the good news of the kingdom w/our very lives.

Lent is a season of testing… find out what we really believe, love…We take things away in order to see what happens… in order to learn about ourselves… to pay knowledgeable attention to our lives, in the hopes that we might all be good stewards…

Sermon: start off by everybody to slow down close your eyes take a few deep breaths and be still. This is Lent. 

Apparently God did not want JS going directly from his baptism to his ministry. Before JS was allowed to continue with teaching & healing, he had to spend 40 days in the wilderness as a means of testing. 

Talk about the difference between testing and examination? 

Nobody knows what he did in the wilderness, but one can presume not much. 

Could talk about Israel, show some pictures, talk about what I learned about wilderness and faith, desert. Circles of righteousness…

Talk about times of intentionally going into the wilderness getting a little bit lost. The importance of solitude & silence, and how rare that is in our world. You are going to need silence if you're going to open up room in your imagination for resurrection. 

Something is going to happen after Easter that you are simply not equipped to understand. Nothing in the natural world, nothing in our science, nothing in our education can prepare us for what is going to happen at the end of lent Jesus is going to die and be raised again, we are going to need to create some space for a new imagination because Jesus is going to ask us to believe in the impossible.

Use Wendell Berry's critique of industrialism to replace people with machines and to concentrate wealth in the hands of a few. Use his stuff about the aims of capitalism be into fold that you can have as much of you want anything you want, and that you should be able to use any means to get what you want. This is what Jesus was tempted with.

Do the ends justify the means.

Start with a quick reading of the parable of the 3 stewards... You have been entrusted with the care and the stewardship of your life what are you doing with it? I don't mean have you learned how to turn a profit. I mean have you invested it and things that last forever you have been entrusted with the care of the earth. You are a steward of creation, we all are. What are you doing to the earth? What kind of earth are we leaving for our children? You have been entrusted with friends and enemies both of whom the Bible commands you to love. How are you stewarding your friendships, how are you stewarding your relationships with your enemy? 

The story of Jesus in the wilderness is where Jesus has to settle the question (before he ever gets started) or how he will steward his life. Will he use it for the kingdom and live it in obedience to God? Or will steward his life to serve himself and to gain political or social power & wealth? It's a question that we all face in our own lives. Do we think we can just do whatever we want to do with our lives? Can we just have whatever we want and use any means to get it? Or is our life not actually our own? Have we been bought with a price? Then go to the text.

There are no sacred and unsacred places. There are only sacred and desecrated places. There are no sacred and on sacred professions they're only sacred and desecrated professions their own no sacred and on sacred lives there are only sacred and desecrated lives stewardship is about refusing to allow our lives to become desecrated de-sacred-ed

What Jesus chose to do instead was to keep faith with his father in heaven. To be obedient and faithful to God's vision for the kingdom, but also gods plan for how he would bring it about. This meant faithful even death to death on across. He chose to keep faith with his community, his disciples who watch his every move to try and discover the means and methods of the kingdom of God. He kept faith with the world who has always been mistaken about what makes for peace. That piece never comes and problems are never solved through in posing our will upon others. Peace comes and problems are solved as we live together in close community seeking harmony seeking the welfare of one another, living in the way of Jesus with a willingness to sacrifice what we want for the betterment of the community. It comes as we make ourselves wise stewards in the way of Jesus

We can't make our lives we can only take care of them. We can't make animals or land or this neighborhood we can only care for them. It's a question of how we treat things that are a gift. Those things are gifts. And as such they require that we treat them with a certain amount of thankfulness and stewardship

“We cannot do the Lord’s work in the devil’s ways. The devil has great ideas – brilliant ideas! The devil is the consummate ideologue, but he is incapable of incarnation. He uses people to embody his projects in functional rather than personal relationships. The devil is the ultimate in disincarnation.” E. Peterson. 36

“One way to define spiritual life is getting so tired and fed up with yourself you go on to something better, which is following Jesus.” – E. Peterson.

“Each of the temptations has to do with the way Jesus is the way, the
way he will go about his work. Will he reduce and depersonalize the way by imposing his will on the rocks, using them to provide for human needs…? Will he put on a circus spectacular, demonstrating the miraculous, ever-present providence of God to the people on the street but never dealing with them as persons? Will he rule the world by means of a faceless bureaucracy, efficiently enacting justice and prosperity without getting his hands dirty?” (or I might add, calling people to transform?) E. Peterson35

to try and be the Messiah without suffering. Temptation was to accomplish his mission without having to suffer and die. To employ the ways and means of the culture in order to bring about the reign and rule of God, instead of using the ways and means of God – humility, self-emptying, and eventually death.


PT: I think the questions JS faced in the wilderness are the same questions we all have to face in our lives. Do we think we can just do whatever we want to do with our lives? Or are we stewarding our lives for the KOG? Can we just have whatever we want and use any means to get it? Or is our life not actually our own? Have we been bought with a price? Well, if we take JS’s life as a model, then the place we go to find the answers to those questions is the wilderness.

After Jesus was baptized by JTB we learn that, apparently, God did not want JS going directly into his ministry. 
Before JS was allowed to teach & heal & proclaim the kingdom;
He had to spend 40 days in the wilderness as a means of testing. 

We are in the season of Lent right now in the Church Year. One way to view Lent is that it is a reenactment of Jesus’s 40 days in the wilderness. 
Israel spent 40 days in the wilderness learning to trust in God
Elijah spend 40 days learning to hear the still small voice of God
Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, tested by the devil.
Each year we spend 40 days in the wilderness during Lent

The word Lent comes from the old German word Lenten – springtime. 
Lent is the invitation to springtime for the soul. 
40 days to open our eyes to what remains when all comfort is gone. 
40 days to live by the grace, & not by our own will & strength. 

You don’t have to take part in Lent, but if you do you will be tested… I mean: it’s such a counter-cultural thing to fast—in the midst of a society that says:
You can have as much as you want of anything you want…
And that you should be able to use any means to get it. 
If you do choose to partake in Lent, you put your life in the hands of people who will ask you to do crazy things like giving up:
Coffee, soda, gossip, cussing, late night tv or midnight snacks.
To voluntarily give up things we’re told we have a right to… feels weird
As we do we subvert the illusion that we’re in control of our live. 
And this is essential knowledge for the wise steward.

& I do mean essential. Even Jesus needed to be tested… needed to be led into places of hunger, & weakness, & despair.
I grew up calling this story: the temptation in the wilderness
The Greek word used there is peirasmos which is usually translated as testing (not temptation).
The same word is used several other times in Matt’s gospels & it’s always translated as “tested” not “tempted.”
(those times that the Pharisees tested JS w/difficult questions).
So I think it’s better to call this a test.
Jesus had to be tested to see what kind of steward he would be.

PT: And it wasn’t really so much a question of what he needed to do. Jesus was very clear that he was acting on God’s behalf to initiate, reveal, and embody the reign & rule of God… God’s power over sin & death & chaos. The question was never WHAT he would do, but there was a big question of HOW he would do it. 

The HOW is everything. How we go about doing something often says much more than what we actually do, doesn’t it?
This is one of the key things about the scriptures.
HOW Jesus does things = says as much as what he does
I mean… if JS is bringing about the KOG, why not raise an army?
Because the KOG is not like the kingdoms of this world.
In the wilderness, Jesus will be tested… to see if he is really committed to God’s way of bringing about the kingdom.
Tested to see if he’ll take a shortcut.
Tested to see if he’ll make it all about himself & not God.
Tested to see if he’s willing to let the HOW of his mission be in complete harmony with the Father’s Heart.



1. Tim quoted Henri Nouwen who said, “It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life.”  In what ways do you see any of these in your life? What intentional steps could you/we take to address these temptations? 

2.  Tim began with the parable of the Talents; two servants added to what they were entrusted with, while the third, buried the money he was entrusted to.  If we break with the traditional interpretation of this parable in a monetary sense and instead look it from the perspective of the “gifts” we have received from God, namely love, grace, mercy and forgiveness, then how can we live our lives to reflect these gifts to the world around us in order that love, grace, mercy and forgiveness increase?  Or, do we keep these for ourselves (only concerned with our own salvation), never sharing with those around us who need them?

3. What relationship(s) could you be called to be more vulnerable with to steward love and mercy more fully?  Who do you long to be more vulnerable to you? Someone you desire to grow in depth, love and mercy with?  Do any of these relationships overlap? If so, are you willing to make the first vulnerable move?

4.  Tim appealed to the Wendell Berry principle of "knowledgeable attention".  How does Jesus' response reflect knowledge and attentiveness to his situation?  Tim also pointed out that Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness reflected the Israelites' 40 years in the desert.  A later commentary on this, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, appealed to this example as a lesson for us.  How do both of these examples apply to times of testing in our lives?

6. What are some examples of having or using our power as a good thing or the right thing?