Summary: Set against the motif of a melodrama, the temptation of Jesus is examined through our temptation to be self-centered, to compromise Christian ideals, and to avoid self-sacrifice and suffering
Bibliography: Finding Christ, Finding Life: Temptation
When I was younger - much younger, I put all my energies into acting and the theater. I remember when I was 14 and my family moved from the metropolis of Pasadena, TX. to a small town in rural Arkansas. I was devastated that there were no performing arts electives in the high school.
Soon, someone else moved to town with an interest in the performing arts and started a community theatre. I was a part of their first production in town. You would think I would remember the name of the play, but I don’t. I do however, remember the kind of play it was. It was a melodrama.
Do you remember those? There was always some poor, fair damsel in distress who lived with an elderly widowed father. There was always a villain - a Simon le Gree sort who wanted to foreclose on the family farm and marry the pretty damsel. There was always a hero who rescued the damsel. She would either be chained to a log about to be sliced in two by a buzz saw, or tied to a chair in a remote cabin with a lit fuse attached to a powder keg of TNT. Do you remember those?
They were always so much fun. Often they had a wild west motif to them and this one I was in did also. I was one of eight girls who sat in costume on the front row, center and led the audience in their participation in the play (The eight of us also danced a Can-Can number during the intermission, but I won’t talk about that if you won’t ask).
If you remember, in a melodrama, the audience was a part of the play. When the hero comes on stage, everybody cheers. When the villain comes on stage, everybody boos and hisses. And just like the old westerns, we know the hero will be decked out in all white and the villain will be wearing all black.
Its easy to tell who is on the good side and who is on the bad side.
In some ways, the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness is like that for us. We read the story, knowing who the good guy is suppose to be and who the bad guy is suppose to be. We know what the devil - Satan - wants Jesus to do is wrong. We know he is trying to tempt, to persuade Jesus to do what he shouldn’t, to do evil instead of good. And because of who Jesus is - the guy in the white hat - we know that Jesus’ responses to Satan are correct and appropriate answers to Satan’s coaxing. We know Jesus’ responses are correct and good answers to Satan’s propositions
Yet I wonder if we perceive this story having any relevance to our life today. This story of temptation and trial fits into an understanding of what it means for Jesus to be fully human like us. This much we can understand and accept. We are assured Christ can understand our predicament in life because he’s been there. He has been tempted as we are tempted, and he rose above temptation. We can accept Jesus as Lord and Savior because he has faced difficult decisions as we have faced difficult decisions. As we have had to cope with temptation, Jesus also coped with temptation and has overcome.
However, I don’t think we see these particular temptations Jesus faced as being ones we face. In the first place, though Jesus is all human as we are human, Jesus is also all God. As the Son of God, can the temptations Satan poses to him truly apply to us as well?
Secondly, these temptations seem so like the melodrama. They seem within the story to be black and white issues, but life is complicated. Its not a list of questions with black and white answers. If that were the case, temptation would be so much easier for us to deal with. Were we only faced with whether to follow the 10 commandments as faithful Christians, most of us wouldn’t have any trouble. In fact, probably none of us have tried to kill anyone in our life time. Perhaps none of us have ever stolen anything. If the question of adultery comes up, we know what the definitive answer is. But temptation doesn’t work that way. Temptation is subtle and life is complicated.
Life brings us questions and decisions that seem to fit more in a gray area. Sometimes, the waters seem so muddy, the issue so confusing, we have difficulty determining what the motive for our decisions really are. When faced with such decisions, where lies temptation? Which answers are the right answers and which answers are the wrong answers? How do we know which way to go? Which is the faithful decision to choose?