Until recently, I never saw temptation and identity so entwined as I do now. When most of us think of temptation, we think of temptation to do something super bad like cheating on your spouse or killing someone. But temptation is far much subtle and yet incredibly so powerful.
It starts with a thought, not an action.
It starts with our pride and insecurities.
And as fears, lack and pain flourish, so does our negative behavior. We are powerless to stop the cascading tsunami of thoughts that cause us to question ourselves, others and God.
We cheat. We lie. We cut people down. We steal what’s not ours. We compare. We hurt people. It’s ugly.
Jesus gets it. Seriously. Jesus, the perfect Son of God gets what it is to be bombarded with insecurity and pain. I have read the story of the temptation of Jesus many times. I have heard people preach and teach on this passage. But it wasn’t until I was having a conversation with a dear and trusted friend recently, did the light suddenly illuminate in me.
In Luke 4 it is recorded, “Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.” (V3). Then a few verses later, “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.” (V6-7). And then finally the devil says “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” (V9-11).
The enemy wasn’t just tempting Jesus to do something, he was tempting Jesus to BELIEVE something.
Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus knew it and the enemy knew it. And then he did what he’s being doing since the Garden of Eden… He whispered a question. “If you are the Son of God” (V3 and V9) and then tempted Jesus with something He didn’t have - the praise of man.
Identity and lack.
Who are you Jesus? Are you who you say you are? Prove it. And wouldn’t you want this life rather than the one you are called to live?
Doesn’t this sound familiar? As we journey through life, our circumstances cause us to question ourselves. Am I enough? Am I loved? Does God listen to me? Why was I rejected?
The difference between us and Jesus is that He was perfect and we are flawed human beings. He might have been tempted to believe the whispered lies, but He knew His true identity and was able to overcome.
But we too can overcome! We can let go of the tempting pride, fears and insecurities and embrace the truth of who we are. Before we are anything else in life, we are sons and daughters of the living God. We are loved, heard, seen and known by the God of all creation. In 2 Corinthians 6:18 the bible says, “‘I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters.’ Says the Lord Almighty.” We are loved. We are accepted. We are seen and heard by the Father. He knows us. He delights in us. We belong with Him. Like an empty chair around the dining room table, there’s a void when we don’t turn up, and we are missed.
I find it interesting that in all three accounts of the temptation of Jesus, what follows is His rejection by the religious leaders, He forms His community of disciples, He begins to heal the sick and He begins to preach. Interesting….