A meditation of sorts

Genesis 2:15-17,  3:1-7

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made.  He said to the woman, Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'”  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God [or gods], knowing good and evil.”  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.  Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.  The tempter came and said to him, “If yo are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  But he answered, “It is written,

‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and

‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Again the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of th world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”

Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

—————————————–

I think those are pretty cool readings.  In Genesis we hear the story of Eve’s temptation by the serpent in the garden; in Matthew we hear the story of Jesus’ temptation by the devil in the wilderness.  It just seems so fitting to hear these stories as the season of Lent kicks off, since this is the time of year in we we tend to be most reflective about our need to repent and to reconcile with God.  It makes us think about the many temptations we encounter in our daily lives.

What are some of the things that we (well, surely not *I* but we as humans in the broad sense – ahem) find ourselves tempted by?  Money, sexual gratification, material goods, food, power…

All of these have something in common.  Well, they have a few things in common but let me focus that a bit differently.  When was the last time you were tempted to drive a fork through your hand into the table?  Or how about this: have you ever been tempted to dive into the deep end of an empty swimming pool, or to stick your finger into an electrical socket?  How often are you tempted to drive at 80 mph into a highway divider?

It doesn’t happen!  Well, I’m not saying that those thoughts haven’t crossed my mind, but really it’s been more in line with morbidly curious thoughts than with actual temptation.  I’m not tempted to do those things because there are clear, ugly, immediate consequences.  The real temptations that I mentioned earlier – not to speak of the tempations Adam & Eve and even Jesus faced – are tempting because the consequences aren’t as immediately clear. 

In fact, giving into those temptations could be quite pleasurable.  The forbidden fruit, whether you regard it literally or figuratively, is pleasing to the eye and promises to be quite delicious.  Jesus’ temptation to create food from the stones following 40 days in the wilderness also had to be pretty alluring.

Cranking things up a notch, those temptations are just as powerfully attractive in the long-term as in the short.  If Adam and Eve – or Jesus for that matter – gave in to their temptations, they could be wise and could weild great power for good.  (It’s almost like that scene in Fellowship of the Rings where Frodo tries to get Gandalf to take the Ring.)  Can you imagine a more benevelent ruler than Jesus?  He could turn all the stones into bread and feed the hungry… The possibilities were enormous.

But in both the Genesis story and the story from Matthew, as well as in our own lives, we know that the so-called promises offered by these temptations are checks written on an empty bank account.  Giving in means disobedience and the consequences are just as real and ugly as driving into that traffic barrier.

The bad news is that temptation seems always to be with us, everywhere we go.  In the human story, temptation is kind of like a cultural handrail that runs from the origins of humanity, right through Jesus’ time, straight into our present and it’s hard to see the end.

But the good news, well, it’s literally the Good News!  In Jesus, God has taken on our form and has faced our temptations.  In Jesus, God has given us both a role model of extreme obedience and discipleship and a sacrificial lamb whose blood washes away all the times we screw up.  In Jesus, God grants us the promise of His steadfast love and of His gracious mercy.

Let us pray:  Heavenly Father, you are the God of the Universe, and you are God Among Us.  We confess that we’ve sinned against you – that we’ve given into temptation more times than we’d care to admit.  Like Adam & Eve, and even like Jesus, we face the temptations of this world – and we face them a lot, to be quite honest.  We pray that you wtir within our hearts the power of your Holy Spirit, and grant us the strength to be more like your obedient servant Jesus.  Help us to resist temptation, no matter how appealing it may be on the surface.  These things we ask of you in Jesus’ name and for his sake.  Amen.

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One Response to “A meditation of sorts”

  1. Nicely put. A good meditation.

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