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Monday, 3 October 2011

Day 277: The Temptation of Jesus

The adult Jesus is about to make his entrance.
John the Baptist’s ministry begins AD 25
John the Baptist’s message
Matthew 3:7--10, Luke 3:7-14
His introduction of Christ
Matthew 3:11-12, Mark 1:7-8, Luke 3:15-18, John 1:19-28
The baptism of Jesus
Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22
John’s declaration
John 1:29-34
The temptation in the wilderness
Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13
The first three disciples
John 1:35-42
Philip and Nathanael
John 1:43-51

John the Baptist sounds just like a prophet - calling people to repent, warning them of coming judgement. What’s different about him is his insistence that after hi is coming someone else, someone far greater. Partly this theme of his message comes in response to people’s questions - their messiah desire seems very strong.
Then it happens. An unprepossessing man joins the queue of people asking to be baptised by John. He refuses at first, wanting the tables to be turned, but Jesus insists. And at the moment of his baptism, or very shortly after it, two remarkable things happen. First, God’s spirit descends on him in bodily form, like a dove, and second, a voice speaks from heaven, affirming that this man is indeed “my Son.”
At once, Jesus does the unexpected. After an entrance like this, we might at least expect a sermon or two. Here’s a ready made audience, primed and ready thanks to John. But Jesus ignores the opportunity and departs into the one place where no one will follow - the desert. The gospel writers say that it was the spirit leading Jesus into the desert, Mark puts it more strongly, saying the spirit drove him into the desert. No one would go there willingly. Jesus has an ordeal to face, both physical and spiritual.
I’ve never been sure why it happened,. or what the ordeal in the desert signifies. It’s become legendary, even archetypal - the new young leader must prove himself stronger than temptation before he is worthy to begin his work. Jesus must learn not to use his powers for the wrong reasons. But actually, that’s not the thrust of the temptations that Satan throws at him. They’re designed instead to sow doubt in his mind, to contradict the voice that declared him to be “my Son.”
“If you are the Son of God,” Satan says, “prove it.” Prove it to me, prove it to yourself.His other temptation is more obvious - “I’ll give you anything you like if you worship me.” But this also is an attack at the relationship Jesus has with God. The one thing that always let Israel down was that they couldn’t make their relationship with God deep enough and strong enough to be all they needed. They always turned to other gods. They always trusted in military help, not just God alone. Satan is trying to make Jesus just like them.
Coming back from the desert, John the Baptist reaffirms that this man is the One. But what a surprising name he gives him - Lamb of God. It’s enough for two of his own disciples to detach themselves from their master and follow a new rabbi. They in turn fetch a friend - Simon, who Jesus immediately renames Peter. Philip and Nathanael come next, with Jesus teasing the earnest Nathanael and promising him wonders to come.

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