Stepping off the Ledge - Jesus' Temptation 1

I've always been a little troubled reading Matthew 4. I never liked the subtitle in my Bible--"The Temptation of Jesus". Mainly because I don't like the idea of Jesus being tempted. I know he resisted, but I've always kind of thought, what if he didn't? So much of what I think and believe becomes irrelevant if he was not perfect.

But there is also a great comfort in these temptations. Scripture offers an embrace to those of us facing struggles by suggesting that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, and thus understands what it means to be fully human. We have to imagine that he not only faced Satan in the three areas mentioned in Matthew 4, but time and again through his life.

So what makes Matthew 4 different? Why does the writer capture these temptations, along with the obvious statement that after Jesus fasted forty days and nights, "he was hungry"?

I believe the temptations of Christ Matthew covers are full of meaning for all of us--and perhaps cover every area of human struggles we could imagine. I want to explore each of them here, but we will start with the second temptation.

Jesus is tempted three times from Satan. The second time the devil takes him to the "highest point of the temple" and says, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down..." and then quotes Scripture about God's provision and rescue.

This temptation is about identity. "If you are the Son of God..." Satan wants Christ to defend his identity. Prove it. Prove that you are what you say you are.

This resonates so strongly in my soul because it is often the heart of the human struggle.

As I've been working at Chick-Fil-A, after 8 years of full-time vocational ministry, I have day in and day out wrestled against the struggle of identity. I have a friend who recently left his job at a church and became a salesman. He warned me that I would feel "out of the ministry club" and he was right. In the back of my heads are thoughts and questions of who I am and what this all means. Not because it's meaningless work, but because it's not who I have been for eight years.

I've seen my ugliness through this. I've seen that my identity, as a pastor, was wrapped up in my day to day functions. "If you are really a servant of God..." then prove it, is the echo in my head.

It is a great comfort to find myself being stripped of these things. To be torn down and find myself desperate for identity and running to God to find it is a blessing.

Jesus' response to Satan is simple: "Do not put the Lord your God to the test."

Jesus doesn't have to prove his identity. He is not about doing, but about being. He lives fully from his identity as God's son and doesn't seek to earn favor by his functions.

Last week I had a great conversation at camp with someone wrestling with God. She shared a bit of her struggles with Christian community and her deep desire to just "find people who will admit that they want to be loved." I've been thinking about this conversation all week and I think she's getting at the heart of our identity struggles. We are terrified to admit our longing to be loved just as we are. We are trying to impress those around us with our jobs, relationships, wealth, and so much more. And in the end, we are sewing our own fig leaves and hiding as well as we know how.

In Christ, we are set free. Disciples can rest. Leaders can lead from their being, and not from their success. It is an act of the kingdom to step off the ledge of our own temples and stop trying to prove our worth. We are the children of God--and that is enough.



July 22, 2010 at 8:28 PM

You're still one of my heroes Justin!


July 23, 2010 at 10:13 AM

Well said, Justin. I have been thinking a lot about my identity lately, and was reminded while reading in Romans, about how we are all parts of one body,

3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his[a]faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (romans 12:3-8)

What I often fail to remember, in this world where we often desperately seek the approval and recognition from others, is that my identity is in CHRIST. Period. no one else's opinion of who or what I am matters. My identity rests only in who he is shaping me to be and all else is just a false sense of self. Sadly, the false sense of who I am , is often far easier to embrace than the truth. Why do we chase and embrace what we know to be a lie?... In this way, I believe Satan tempts us all, we want to answer that question of "who are you" by laying out all of our accomplishments and accolades achieved and received from man, and in this way, we back up from that ledge and miss the point entirely. We fail the 'test'. Thank God Christ didn't. Thank God that it IS in him we find our true worth and identity, if only we would embrace it!