Twenty-eight Days With Jesus, Day 28

Famous Last Words.

Great ironies often describe our lives. A healthy-eating resolution is forgotten at the sight of a tasty but fattening treat; promises of a newly elected politician are either neglected or exploited to satisfy a personal agenda; a marriage vow dissolves under the pressures of daily living. Our pledges are often merely ‘famous last words.’

Famous last words of legendary people, though, are something different. They tell us what that person was thinking at the culmination of a distinguished and famous life. Groucho Marx is said to have quipped on his deathbed, “This is no way to live!”

Winston Churchill merely growled, “I’m bored with it all.”

And of course Julius Caesar’s final words at his assassination pled, “Et tu, Brute?”

As the gospel writer, Matthew, concludes the last chapter of his biography of Christ’s life, he quotes Jesus—after Christ’s resurrection, but just prior to His ascension—in what is often referred to as ‘The Great Commission.’

He recounts Jesus as saying, “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (The Message).

Jesus has packed an abundance of depth into His famous last words.

He starts by assuring His followers that He has the backing of the Father in His plan and process for making true followers. He has the authority, jurisdiction and prerogative to speak into the lives of all those who are willing to have their lives turned upside-down by Him. With this mandate, He commands the eleven disciples to disciple others just as they themselves were discipled under the tutelage of Christ’s commands.

Did you notice the twofold plan of how this will be achieved in the lives of Christ-followers? Jesus says He wants to see His followers marked by a Trinity-inspired baptism and an obedience-based practice of godly living. Both are external exercises representing internal effects occurring in a life given over to God.

The baptism Jesus describes is to be a mark—a sign, symbol, and imprint—revealing a follower’s choice to be a different person than she or he was before choosing to follow Christ. It is a public act that boldly declares her new identity to be inextricably tied to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. No other identity will supersede this one. It is a one-time gesture signifying a new beginning.

The practice of godly living is the ongoing application of the Christ-follower’s new outlook on life. It is the daily work of living with integrity so that the outward signs of a follower’s Christianity mirror the inward realities. It is conformity to the very clear expectations and commands Jesus spoke first to His twelve disciples but by which He expects all true followers to abide. And of course it culminates in obeying Christ’s command to share this two-fold offer to others.

Learn one, do one, teach one. These were Christ’s famous last words. They are about how we must live our lives if we want to truly love God, love our neighbours, and thus love ourselves in the only way that really works for human lives. So the ending of Matthew’s biography of the life of Christ really brings us back to the beginning of Matthew’s gospel. It calls us to reapply ourselves to studying Christ’s life, and especially His commands. This is the essence, the heart and soul of the way in which Christ comes to live within us, not figuratively but literally; the Word becomes flesh in you and me. That, according to Matthew, is the whole reason the Son of God came to earth. The miraculous birth, the perfect life, the healing touch, the sacrificial death, and the victorious resurrection are all about inviting us to be back in right relationship with God. “And surely I am with you always,” comes the promise, “to the very end of the age.” Those are amazing last words.

(Photo Credits: By Zahrairani74 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36580049; By Unknown – Mikó Árpád – Sinkó Katalin (szerk): Történelem-Kép, Szemelvények múlt és művészet kapcsolatáról Magyarországon, A Magyar Nemzeti Galéria kiadványai 2000/3, cat. no.: V-11 (Magyar Digitális Múzeumi Könyvtár), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19342018; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ivan_Ohienko_Bible.djvu; By Wesley Fryer from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA – Cherokee Heritage Museum, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40556270)

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Twenty-eight Days With Jesus, Day 24

Alert to Deception

The orchid mantis deftly reaches out, snagging a bee for brunch. The hapless nectar-gatherer is easy game for the orchid mantis of Southeast Asia for one reason: this mantis looks and smells like a delicate nectar-producing orchid blossom. One can hardly blame the countless bees and butterflies deceived by this clever hunter—even the mantis’ own predators would never imagine that behind the cloak of its petal-like body parts lurks a living beast.

Discovering the intricacies of this world’s creatures is fascinating—especially since we ourselves are not the unlucky targets of deadly predators like the orchid mantis. But what if there was a predator in our world camouflaging itself to appear not just hidden, but actually attractive and even life-giving?

Matthew records Jesus offering counsel to His followers after His public contretemps with the religious ruling powers of the day “Watch out that no one deceives you,” He warns His disciples. Two more times in the chapter he refers to the existence of predators whose purpose it is to deceive people. And twice more Jesus advises, “keep watch” and “be ready.” We get the sense that something is afoot, something dangerous—perhaps even deadly—something cleverly disguised and attractive.

Jesus calls the danger “false prophets”; it’s a term used throughout Scripture to describe purveyors of ideas that sound good but contain anti-God sentiments. Those representing these false ideas may themselves not even be aware of the dangerous territory they inhabit; the force behind the ideas, though, is intent on trapping naïve and gullible individuals with the nectar of the gods—it will use any minion who volunteers for the task.

How can people like you and me protect ourselves from something as insidious as Jesus predicts will enslave so many? With truth and vigilance.

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus claims twice in the chapter. It is a favourite phrase Jesus regularly uses to precede His teachings. The phrase isn’t just a nicety, though, a euphemism repeated in monotony like Eastern religion’s empty “OM.” Jesus is claiming to know truth. More than that, He is claiming to embody and even be the source of truth—all Truth. Think about that for a moment. Is the man lying? Or is He crazy?

The only other option is that Jesus is telling the truth. His greatest claim would be to assert that following His death at the hands of powerfully evil people He would resurrect—come back to life. That claim is enough to determine whether the man is a liar, a lunatic, or Lord of all creation. The fact is, He did rise from the dead. His resurrection is better documented than the existence of Shakespeare or you or me.

Those who accept Jesus and all He taught as ultimate truth—and are willing to live by those truths—are given what we might call an unfair advantage. They will be furnished with the ability to see beneath the attractive façade of the dangerous lies abounding in this world. They will have a sort of night vision warning of ideas and activities that house soul-dangers.

In contrast, those who reject Jesus and the way of life He models will be drawn like moths to the glitter of every whim of dangerous attraction. They are fair game for deception. Truth will no longer be important to them, will be unable to protect them.

“Be ready,” Jesus advises. Be alert. Be vigilant to our own naïve tendencies to be swayed by any wind of an idea that attracts us. Jesus is the only one who truly longs for our ultimate good, who will not prey upon us but is able, rather, to lift us up to become fuller, freer, truer people than we could ever become on our own. Do you believe it, or has deception already drawn you into its grasp?

(Photo Credit: Dr. James O’Hanlon, Macquarie University. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/41605-predator-lures-prey-by-mimicking-flowers.html)

Twenty-eight Days With Jesus, Day 23

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Reprimand.

William took the reprimand from his grandmother gracefully. Apparently leaning down to chat with his young son during the Royal Air Force demonstration could be construed as disrespectful. So William straightened up when he saw the flick of his grandmother’s hand, and all was well again. It’s not everyone, of course, whose grandmother is the Queen of England.

When Matthew records Jesus speaking to a crowd, we get a chance to eavesdrop in on a reprimand. It would have been an unforgivably embarrassing rebuke because it was directed at the religious rulers of Jerusalem of the day. They had clout. Their control over the Jewish people was undisputed. No one challenged the Pharisees and the teachers of the law because the people assumed their leaders had the backing of God. But Jesus saw things differently.

“Do not do what they (the Pharisees) do,” Jesus warned the people publicly, “for they do not practice what they preach.” Ouch. That was a public reprimand no one had ever dared to deliver to the Pharisees before.

“Everything they do is done for men to see.” But Jesus was not content to warn only the crowd. Seeing a band of Pharisees striding toward Him, Jesus began a scathing chastisement that would make Queen Elizabeth’s reprimand of William look like gentle kindness.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” Jesus began. Imagine how that went over. The crowd would have hushed. The Pharisees would have stopped dead in their tracks. There was no doubt the people were watching a delightful contest of power where the bullies were being put in their place for once.

“You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence,” Jesus challenged them. “Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”

Jesus said much more of that sort of thing in that moment. Read Matthew 23 and gloat to hear the status quo being challenged by a voice of real authority. But we cannot read too far before we notice something beginning to happen. The relish with which we hear someone else being reprimanded begins to turn to dust in our mouths. Our smugness evaporates.

We, too, live much of our lives “for men to see.” We are experts at presenting our best face, going out in public looking the part, wearing a façade to make ourselves appear as we want to be seen: trendy, intelligent, exclusive, ethical, self-assured. Choose the adjective that fits.

But Jesus calls this fraud (see Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of “Woe to you…you hypocrites!” in The Message). God sees the interior. He knows each of us for who we really are, and He sees the mess we hide deep inside our hearts and minds. He is telling not only the Pharisees but us too that something must be done to clean up our interior or we’ll become nothing more than “whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones…”

“Keep me from deceitful ways,” penned the psalmist David, “be gracious to me through your law. I have chosen the way of truth; I have set my heart on your laws.” The psalmist is not talking about the external law of Judaism, or about social laws, or about politically correct conventions. He is referring to God’s moral requirements for us as humans that we be authentically honest with ourselves and with Him. It means accepting the truth of God’s sovereignty not only in the vastness of this universe but also in our day-to-day lives. It means recognizing that we don’t make reality and we don’t make the rules. It means seeing ourselves through His eyes, humbling ourselves and asking His forgiveness for our misplaced pride.

Ultimately only God can clean the inside of our ‘cups’ and keep them clean. It takes the daily work of Christ’s once-for-all redemption and the Holy Spirit’s transforming power in us to do the otherwise impossible task. The reprimand is not intended to bring humiliation, but humility. Are we willing to listen to it? What better time than this to have an honest conversation with God…

Twenty-eight Days With Jesus, Day 21

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Den-cleaning

Robber’s Roost was considered impregnable. Conveniently hidden by a maze of canyons and rocky bluffs, the natural cavernous fortress was hideout to Butch Cassidy and his infamous Wild Bunch gang of the late 1800s. For more than thirty years the cattle-rustling, bank-robbing outlaws used the cave as headquarters for their clandestine operations. It served their purposes allowing them to avoid detection, interference or capture by authorities. Yet eventually pressure from sheriffs and lawmen of the day forced the roost’s colourful inhabitants to abandon their rocky hideaway. Some escaped to South America, some were captured and incarcerated, and many met their end in classic Wild West shoot-outs of the day.

Robber’s Roost is not the only den to experience a figurative disinfecting. Mathew records for us in the twenty-first chapter of his biography of Jesus a dramatic incident of den cleaning. It was the last week of Jesus’ earthly life, and He had entered Jerusalem that day amid cheering, palm branch-waving crowds. Rumor had it that this man from Nazareth might become the political leader to free the Jews from Roman Empirical domination.

As He approached the Jewish temple that day, a strong smell of livestock pervaded the air. The jingling of coins changing hands and grumbling of bartering voices replaced the usual prayerful murmur heard in the outer courts. Walking through the gate, an array of lenders and moneychangers at their tables bombarded Jesus’ senses, opportunists capitalizing on the influx of travellers in town for the sacred festival of Passover. The livestock brokers were tendering for sale birds and animals at exorbitant prices for the required sacrifices. The opportunity for profit was tremendous.

It was obvious that the Jewish religious leaders were in league with these opportunists. They were using the temple culture to line their own pockets and the commotion resulting from the business was music to their ears.

But Jesus was appalled; He moved swiftly into the courts and surveyed the chaotic scene. Something must be done to clear out the courts and return the temple to its intended purpose. Driving out the buyers and sellers of merchandise with a voice of authority, Jesus moved from stall to stall, overturning moneychangers’ tables and upending livestock vendors’ benches.

“My house,” he quoted from centuries-old Scripture, “will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” The vendors grabbed up their equipment and scurried away like cockroaches at daybreak. As the clamor and odour of the temple-market began to dissipate, wounded and disenfranchised townsfolk began to return, shuffling and limping into the courts, searching for the Man of Wonders. With them came children chanting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” repeating the rally cry they had heard outside the city gates. With gentle tenderness, Jesus healed all who came to him.

The description of Jesus clearing the temple is a delightful one. Stories of wrongs being righted satisfy our sense of justice, gratify our desire for chaos to be transformed into peace and calm. But let’s not think that this narration is merely historical. God’s Word is “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword…it judges the thoughts attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12,13).

Our hearts are like that temple of Jesus’ day. God intended each of us to serve a holy purpose; our lives are meant to be a setting where He is honoured, where dialogue with Him enhances our life experience, and where we feast on His goodness daily.

But alas, we’ve turned the sacred into the profane. We’ve desecrated the temple of our lives by making it a robber’s roost of opportunism. Our interior lives have become chaotic, pleasure-driven marketplaces to one extent or another. Is this not true? What can be done? Who can help us?

Only Jesus can clean out thieves’ dens, repair desecrated temples, and restore damaged hearts. Only He makes a place where we can find the healing of heart and soul we long for. The stench and the clamour do not need to define us. We have a resource in Jesus. Let’s invite Him into our temple-courts today to do what only He can do for us—make us what we were intended to be: people whose lives bring God delight and glory.

(Photo Credit: [[File:Ambrogio Bon – Izgon trgovcev iz templja.jpg|thumb|Ambrogio Bon – Izgon trgovcev iz templja]])

Twenty-eight Days With Jesus, Day 13

Gartenkresse

Growth.

The jar was beginning to stink. Germinating alfalfa sprouts on the kitchen window sill usually produce quick and tasty results; a spoonful of seeds kept moist, rinsed daily and drained through a cheesecloth lid can grow into a jarful of crisp green sprouts in four or five days. But this batch had become stunted at only millimetres in length. The feeble sprouts looked like they were better suited for the compost than my sandwich. What had gone wrong?

Jesus observes a similar scenario in chapter thirteen of our survey of the gospel of Matthew. He tells a crowd of listeners a parable about seed being broadcast throughout a farmer’s field. Being a parable, though, means He is presenting a truth about something much deeper and more significant than what appears on the surface. It’s not about farming methods, land use, or profit margins. Jesus is describing a scenario, like my alfalfa-sprout-letdown, where the returns on a planting take a surprising turn. Listen.

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 13:3-9).

Did you notice how many different areas of the farmer’s field Jesus describes? There are the pathway areas—heavily trodden and as hard as baked clay; there are the rocky outcrops—uneven surfaces thinly covered with topsoil; there are the sections where only a hint of disturbance in the soil is apparent at seed-planting but where thorny perennials dominate and drain the soil’s nutrients. We are beginning to feel sorry for the farmer whose field, it seems, is less than ideal for a harvest. Finally, though, Jesus describes an area of good soil—where seeds germinate, grow, reach their full potential as plants, and produce a crop up to a hundred times greater than the seed from which they grew.

Did you feel the tension ease as the farmer finally gets a return for all his hard work? There is something fulfilling, a sense of justice satisfied, a strain relieved, when some seed accomplishes what it was designed to do. Seeds are supposed to grow.

What is Jesus really describing in this parable, this mini-story that is meant to cause people to think about some core realities of life? That’s exactly what His disciples asked Jesus after He had told them the parable.

Jesus explained that soil is a metaphor for a person’s heart of hearts—the inner core of a person that is either open to God or puts up barriers between itself and God; Jesus describes hearts with barriers against God as being hardened, shallow, and distracted. He pictures hearts open to God as a rich and healthy environment for growth. The seed is the message of God’s kingdom revealed by the Word of God. The core of the seed (it’s germ) is the assertion that all people are separated from their Creator by sin, but that Jesus Himself is our Redeemer—the Giver of the second chance. For the seed to both germinate and grow to maturity, individuals must accept the message of the seed and entrust themselves daily to God. They must allow God to cultivate their heart to free them from hardness of heart, shallowness of purpose, and distraction by things of lesser value. True and lasting personal growth can only happen this way.

And why had my alfalfa sprout project aborted? I had inadvertently placed the seed-filled jar in a way that blocked any air from entering or leaving the jar. In the same way, unless we allow the Spirit of God to blow truth into our lives our faith will become stunted and we will lose the crisp, fresh texture of a life being changed by God.

Our take-home thought is Jesus’ recommendation at the end of His parable. Remember it? He counsels, “He who has ears, let him hear.” We’ve been given ears. We ought to use them to really hear what Jesus has explained. Do we want to grow and flourish as humans?—then attend to the issue Jesus has described. If not, we ought not to be surprised seeing our lives gradually deteriorating, shriveling, becoming stunted and frustrated. The time for planting and growing is at hand.

(Photo Credit: [Rainer Zenz.File:Gartenkresse.jpg|Gartenkresse]

Twenty-eight Days With Jesus; Day 5

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Perfect.

We’ve heard some strange laws in our time and read of bizarre rules in other places. Apparently in Thailand it is illegal to step on money; in Samoa it is illegal to forget your wife’s birthday; and in France it is illegal to name a pig Napoleon. Every culture, every country and every club has its profusion of laws. The list, in fact, is endless. Have you ever wondered why?—why we need to have any laws at all?—why we can’t all get along?

When we spend time with other people we begin to notice something about ourselves: we don’t always see eye to eye on issues, and, (generally speaking, of course) in issues of differences, we tend to think our way is best. Think of an example—like, what should I wear today? That’s simple enough. If we were to ask a hundred people that question, we would likely get a hundred different answers. But in the end, we would choose for ourselves what to wear. Why? Because we fundamentally believe we are our own bosses. But of course it only takes multiplying ‘we’ by the billions of people that live and have lived on planet earth over its history and multiplying that by the number of possible conflicting ideas and we come up with nothing less than chaos if a consensus is required.

As Jesus began His public ministry in a tiny corner of earth under domination of the powerful Roman Empire, he started by talking about this fundamental state of mind we all have. He was speaking to Jews, primarily, because he was one Himself. The Jews were a people solidified through their law. Rather than being created by a committee, the law was God-given, inscribed by the divine finger on stone tablets. Remember them?

1.Worship no gods but God alone; 2.Neither make nor worship idols; 3.Do not misuse God’s name or reputation; 4.Rest every seventh day; 5.Honour your parents; 6.Do not murder; 7.Do not have extramarital sex; 8.Do not steal; 9.Do not slander others; 10.Do not crave others’ property or relationships.

That sounds clear. No one could mistake the meaning of the Big Ten. Yet fifteen hundred years later Jesus stood among the descendants of those who had received the Law. He saw the moral bankruptcy of the race He had been born into. Every command had been broken countless times over the centuries. Not one person had been able to keep the Law with the impeccable integrity it required. And it wasn’t only the Jews who had failed. They simply typified the common experience of every person on this planet.

What the teachers of the Jewish Law had engineered, though, was a means of twisting the true intent of the Law by adding a plethora of traditions to veil the deficiency. Instead of loving God with their whole heart, soul, strength and mind, and loving others as those made in the image of God, the Law had become legalistic. It had become a form for maintaining the status quo and perpetuating the hierarchy of power among the people.

Jesus enters this milieu and says something entirely different. Does He say ‘drop the façade and just do what feels right’? That’s what would make us all feel much better about the way we live our lives. No. The fifth chapter of the gospel of Matthew records Jesus saying something that turns our world upside down.

“Be perfect,” he instructs, “as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

What? That’s impossible! No one is perfect. No can attain that standard. Is Jesus a madman to even suggest the possibility?

No again. Jesus is the ultimate realist. He’s laying the cards on the table to show us our true reality. We are all far from perfect. We cannot get anywhere near pleasing God by keeping even the most rigorous of laws. What Jesus is saying is that He will transform people from the inside out by His indwelling Spirit. We cannot keep any law perfectly, but the Law of Christ—His perfect and powerful law of grace and love—can keep us.

He speaks to the Jews to show them that their law had become distorted; He speaks to us to show us that our own attempts at social and political and moral law have all become distorted too. Only He can redeem the shadow of what we call law to become the perfect solution of restored relationship with God and people. As we invite Jesus to rule in us we learn what that means in ways more relevant to each of our lives than any external law was ever able to do.

“To him who is able to keep you from falling,” invokes Jude, another New Testament writer, “and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

(Picture Credit: [[File:Rembrandt – Moses with the Ten Commandments – Google Art Project.jpg|thumb|Rembrandt – Moses with the Ten Commandments – Google Art Project]])

Twenty-eight Days with Jesus, Day 4

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OBEDIENT.

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit,” documents Matthew in his fourth chapter of the gospel named after him. We’ve encountered Jesus a chapter earlier explaining His life purpose to the sage, John, that He must “fulfill all righteousness.” There He was active and intentional. The integrity that would come to characterize everything we know about this amazing Man was first revealed there.

But now we see Jesus allowing Himself to be led. This is an important concept, and Matthew does not flinch from recording it. To be led is to follow the direction and orders of another. It is to deliberately put oneself at the mercy of another’s plans, to fulfill their purposes for you. This is what Jesus did.

Now, we ought to take note that His obedience was not a weak passivity that allowed Himself to be used by any and all. His obedience was focused wholly on the Father’s will as communicated to Him by the Holy Spirit. He was purposing to accomplish the task that He, as one of the three members of the triune God, had determined before time needed to be accomplished.

But His role of Immanuel, God with us in the flesh, meant that this determination to fulfill what He intended would come crashing head first against a barrier. He would need to personally experience the daunting interference of the devil—fallen angel, disobedient messenger and tempter of humans.

The ‘temptation of Jesus’, as recorded here in Matthew’s account is famous. We know the devil presents to Jesus three opportunities for a quick fix for Jesus’ situation as earthbound God-man: the tempter points out that stones could become warm bread at a word from the fasting Jesus—why should the Son of God (said with a sneer) be hungry? He then challenges Jesus to fling Himself off the peak of the temple of Jerusalem whereupon obedient angels would surely rescue Him—why should His minions not serve the Son of God? Satan’s grand finale is to offer Jesus the wealth and splendor of the world’s kingdoms if only Jesus would worship him for a moment—why should the creator of all not enjoy the wealth of His creation?

Yet Jesus is not daunted. He walks through barriers with an ease that belies the strength it takes to remain obedient to a true cause when every voice seems to point the other way. His answers to the tempter reflect His commitment to obey His Father, Truth itself. He points back to the Word of God, truths and commands recorded in Scriptures. And with that, the devil sullenly leaves Him.

C.S. Lewis offers us a useful thought on what this temptation would have meant for Jesus: “A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.”

So as we observe Jesus in this record of the devil’s attempt to tempt Him, we may recognize the epiphany we’ve been given. It’s a two-fold revelation. It’s an epiphany in terms of it revealing a moment when ‘you suddenly feel you understand or become conscious of something that is very important to you’ (credit to Cambridge Dictionaries Online for this definition). We realize that even when we are weakened by the strongest reasons tempting us to disown Him, the strength to remain true to God is accessible to us through Jesus’ own strength living in us. There is no temptation that is beyond Christ’s ability to help us spurn. Because of His obedience, we can be obedient too.

And secondly, it’s an epiphany in the more literal sense: a manifestation of the divine nature of Christ there in the dust and dirt of life on troubled planet earth. It wasn’t the end of the story, though. The writer of another segment of Scripture tells us about the attitude of Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

That is what obedience results in when rightly placed. This is Jesus. And this is what God wants for us.

(Photo Credit: “Jules Guérin. The Wilderness of Judea . 1910” by Jules Guérin (1866-1946)Book author: Robert Smythe Hichens – Robert Smythe Hichens, The Holy Land, 1910 p.175. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jules_Gu%C3%A9rin._The_Wilderness_of_Judea_._1910.jpg#/media/File:Jules_Gu%C3%A9rin._The_Wilderness_of_Judea_._1910.jpg)