Summary: Many trials and temptations, but all too often we are not even aware of them.
We’ve been with Matthew’s passage many times in our Christian worship, we’ve heard the Word of God and we know all about temptation. In fact over the course of preaching, the trials of temptation come up in many forms, many ways.
After all, we all know about temptation – we’re experts at it! Think about that midnight raid on the fridge, especially after some of you have consumed small refreshment or two, or three…. There is always some form of temptation in our lives; the television adverts tempting us to buy, the clever marketing layout of a supermarket that puts the milk, bread, sugar and coffee furthest away in the store, whilst all the cereals aimed at kids are on the lowest shelves – in the line of vision with the wee ones and what about those sweets at the checkouts!
We’ve been exposed to stories about temptation and its effects; the American company Enron, which went belly up and caused chaos in the financial markets – cause by those who were tempted by greed. Yep, everywhere we look; everywhere we turn there is some form of temptation.
The sad fact is that despite our best intentions, we cannot escape the many temptations that lie ahead of us, we are human not divine. We are but flesh and blood and we tend to react to things instantly, instead of taking our time and thinking things through. Hence the reason why supermarkets make so much money, as they appeal to the impulse shopper, as do stores like Next, Gap and so many others – for they tempt us in with their wares prominently displayed in their windows.
A cautious reminder here ladies, the mannequins used in these stores are generally a perfect size 8 and unfortunately many of you, anyway…. come to think of it, I’ve never seen a fat mannequin in Slater’s menswear!
How many forms of temptation can you think of? (I am looking for answers from the congregation here). This so called ‘credit crunch’ the global credit crunch must surely create temptation for some? How many of you have gone into a supermarket and the bill has come to less than the amount in the trolley? It happened to the family last week in front of me, I saw her face as the cashier asked for around £80 and I saw his face as he beckoned her to get the thing paid and make a quick exit. Chances are they were a fairly ordinary couple, with kids, struggling to make ends meet and here was a golden opportunity and they took it but they also succumbed to temptation, they took the easy route.
It’s happened to me before, and I can honestly say with conviction that I too, took the easy route and yes there were pangs of guilt but they didn’t last that long, just to the store exit. I kind of consoled myself with the notion that it had happened in reverse to me so many times, because I had been charged for items twice or not in my trolley and so ‘all’s fair in love and war.’ I certainly wasn’t in a position to judge them, being flawed myself.
I guess this is where I failed the advice of Romans, “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”. I suppose I should have alerted the cashier to her mistake and paid the full price, as should that family who got a bargain but we are all human and we can justify anything we want with our own human thinking.
That’s the issue that Jesus addresses with Peter, he is trying to prevent Jesus from fulfilling his destiny and Jesus rebukes Peter in the strongest of terms, Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
Jesus is recapturing that moment in the wilderness when the first to recognise him as Messiah was not disciples, not followers or Jews, but Satan himself – to his credit Satan was the very first to recognise Jesus’ divinity as Son of God. Here is Jesus once again being tempted to give up his destiny, to give up the cross and to leave behind all his worries and concerns. I often wonder if the conversation with Peter was much deeper than is reported. One could almost imagine this…
Peter: “Look, leave all this behind, you don’t have to do this, your only human, go off and marry Mary Magdalene, start a family, build on the family business, enjoy life and live to a ripe old age.”
Jesus. “What’s that you say? Do you suggest that I abandon everything that I have been sent to do, ignore my heavenly Father’s will and do my own thing, like a wayward child?”