I am so glad to see that I was listening to Jesus in planning out the Month of Dedication reading schedule. So far at least, it’s been a good message for me each day. I love today’s reading prompt of Matthew 4, especially in light of the hard day I had yesterday. Because in this passage, Jesus was having a really hard day. He had just been baptized and then “was led out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted there by the Devil.” Wait, what? The plan was that he be tempted? What?! Oy vey.
I believe God is loving, and kind, wants what is best for us. But there are a lot of things that don’t quite make sense to me in the Bible. Apparent contradictions that I have to get kind of deep into before I can see what is actually going on. And sending Jesus out to be tempted kind of sounds like setting him up to fail, which is something I don’t think God does.
So what is going on here?
The way I reconcile this hard verse is like this. First, I connect it back to what happened in chapter 3, Jesus baptism. John was baptizing people for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Jesus didn’t need that. So why was Jesus baptized? Even John the Baptist was a little confused.
One of the very important purposes for Jesus’ life on earth was to make a pathway for us. To show us what to do. Jesus never sinned. He was human, but he never disconnected from His Heavenly Father. Jesus came to show us how to have the kind of relationship with God that He enjoyed: one of open communication and enjoyment. Baptism gives us a path back into relationship, not just because of repentance, but because we align ourselves with God.
If He was baptized in part to show us an important part of the path, then maybe temptation is also an important part of the path. An unavoidable part of this world, so getting through it successfully is an essential skill for this life. So if The Father knew Jesus could make it through temptation just fine, since they were connected, then it wasn’t really unkind to send him out to face temptation. Oh, it was a real challenge, human Jesus really had been fasting for 40 days and nights when the Devil came, and He really was hungry, and bread would have been really good, and He really could have done it. But He didn’t. Because Jesus said, “I need Truth more” (the Word).
Most of the time when I make an unhealthy move, it’s not a conscious choice to do something that will hurt myself or someone else. It’s just a reaction. But when I am purposely connecting myself to God and The Word, those unconscious reactions tend to be more healthy, patient, joyful, kind… You know “fruit of the Spirit” type of stuff.
I don’t know what temptations you and I will face today, but at least I am starting the day right, with some Jesus. Yesterday was a hard day, but I ended it with one of the wonderful songs on our playlist for the week: Jason Gray’s “Remind Me Who I Am.” That song, and Third Day’s “Cry Out to Jesus” are some amazing songs if you feel sad and need some hope. Seriously. Go watch the videos right now and keep them in your head today. You are the Beloved, and our God can get you through anything, and turn the situations around for good. Even when you are not as successful in facing temptation as Jesus was.