Summary: Read the Scriptures the way they were meant to be read, and use them to recommit yourself to following the Father.

First Sunday of Lent

21 Feb 2010

Our family has always thought that buying American products is a sensible thing to do, so when Studebaker folded back in the fifties, my dad began buying GM products. After all, GM had been around a long time, was well-managed and looked to be viable for many generations. In time, once my wife and I could afford to buy a new car, we began buying Oldsmobiles. Then, looking for more fuel efficiency, we were attracted to and researched a brand-new GM company, and we eventually bought for ourselves and our daughters a series of Saturns. When the research suggested that brand was not as reliable as it was in the beginning, I undertook to find an American-built car that was sturdy, safe, and reliable, and with the help of Consumer Reports and the advice of a dealer-friend–you guessed it–I bought a new Toyota Camry.

This is not to suggest that Pat Cunningham’s buying of an auto brand spells eventual doom for that company. What it means is that Robert Burns was right–the best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglay, and bring us naught but grief and pain for promised joy. We forgot that in the heady days after World War II when the new technologies of semiconductors, integrated circuits, electronic ignitions and bioengineered drugs seemed to promise everlasting economic growth and universal prosperity. We said “we’ll take control of our fertility,” and used the Pill and abortion to drive down the birthrate so far that Social Security is even this year in the red, and family formation has fallen so far that our whole economy is imperiled. We gave cell phones to our children so we’d always know where their bodies are, and now they are so closed in on themselves and their circle of ten thousand intimate Facebook friends that they don’t know how to conduct a normal conversation.

What it means is when weakened, sin-laden human beings get control, our self-serving and self-absorbed individualities rapidly lose all control, and become enslaved to the very habits that our technology enables. Without the guiding hand of God, human hands become entangled in ever-more-sophisticated games of vice. My careful research was unable to keep me from buying into once successful auto brands that human stupidity, greed and carelessness eventually sloughed off into oblivion. We are, in the end, pathetic foils for the one that Scripture calls “Satan,” which just means, “Our Adversary.”

So when that Adversary learned of the new guy on the Jordan, whom John had baptized amid some sort of theophany, he did his own research. All these human messiahs had come and gone with a few carefully- placed temptation. Even the great King David had succumbed to a foreign woman bathing next door, and had committed both adultery and murder, with ensuing civil war and fratricide. Oh, what a party that was for the kingdom of hell! So he investigated, and used the same old come-ons that had worked on so many political hacks. After all, haven’t all of us fallen for the temptations of economic security, fame and glory, and power over others?

Look carefully at the response of Jesus to every temptation. He never gave the Adversary a millimeter of room, and even cleverly left out some of the Scripture that referred to Himself. So, in the end, the Old Worm knew no more than he did at the beginning, except that this would be a leader unlike any politician he had ever seduced.

Jesus, responding to the suggestion that He use His powers to attract the mob with free food, says “It is written, man does not live on bread alone.” But the rest of the statement has the power–but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. And He, Jesus, would be the living bread and the Word of God that would nourish us to eternal life. He is the Bread we take here, by listening to the Gospel and taking the Bread of Life in faith.

To the temptation to power–and it would be power to do good, or at least good as a politician would see it–Jesus responded sharply that if getting power means worshiping someone or something other than the Father, you can keep it. Every real leader for good must be a leader who serves God first, and cares not a whit about pandering to the passions of the people.

And when the Adversary quotes Scripture, to suggest that Jesus could throw Himself from the temple to gain attention and show the people His powers, Jesus quotes from the Law of God–you shall not tempt the Lord your God. Note that this statement had two meanings in the mouth of Jesus: first, Jesus must not put the Father to the test. Second, there is a suggestion that Satan is tempting Jesus, who is Lord and God. Remember that the Adversary is a creature, not a god. He must have left this encounter confused.

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