Sep 28, 2006

the poverty gospel - pt. 4

Who is Jesus?

This is a question that can cause a lot of debate because everyone seems to have an opinion about it. Some conclusions may have education behind them whereas others are purely experiential. Of course, many of us "feel" (or "want to feel") that he is this or was that, whether "this" is "forgiving" or "that" is "laid back" because we long to do life guilt-free. Isn't it interesting how in so many ways Jesus Christ is the stranger we all seem to know?

Perhaps in this final thought on the Poverty Gospel, it might be worth examining what Jesus thought of himself.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."

Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man doe
s not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: " 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"

Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

Again, the devil took him to a very hig
h mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." (Matthew 4:1-9)

Have you ever noticed that in this verbal sparring match between satan and Jesus that there is a subtle difference in the referred identity of Christ? Consider how satan refers to him as the “Son of God” - a title that Jesus never articulated to describe Himself. He certainly inferred it throughout his ministry, but only when he was pressed in by the High Priests and Pilate during His trial did He affirm it using softer language.

I think we need to pay attention to what Jesus called Himself.

While we rightfully refer to Jesus as the "Son of God," he chose to consider his working title the “Son of Man.” He inferred to His divinity all throughout His ministry, but only when He was pressed under trial did He articulate it. This didn’t deny his godhood, for there is no separating his two natures that he simultaneously lived in. In choosing to unwaveringly refer to himself as the "Son of Man," he was referring to his promise to be human for us - human all the way - while at the same time maintaining his fully credentialed divine nature. In short, God is so powerful that he can even embrace weakness without ceasing to be powerful (for the two are not mutually exclusive).

So basically satan tries to tempt Jesus by appealing to his sense of entitlement.

Seems like that’s how he attacks us, too, isn’t it?

In all of the temptations satan threw at Jesus the goal was for him to buy into his maximized identity and do something magical and flashy in the spirit of goodness. After all, would temptations for a selfless being be temptations just for him alone?

"If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."

What would it be like if the Lord's ministry involved turning a desert of stones into a paradise of food? Wouldn't that be tempting in a world full of hunger?

"If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: " 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"

In an existence that often involves death, pain, and suffering, could it have been slightly tempting for Jesus to prematurely eliminate the consequences of the ways we hurt ourselves?

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."

How easier would Jesus' job on earth have been if he reigned over every culture in a way that they couldn't deny him?

But he didn't. He didn't proclaim out loud that people were to call him "Son of God" but chose the humble title "Son of Man."

And I have to ask… why?

And what does this tell us about God?

And what does this tell us about you and I?

And what does this tell us about God’s love for you and I?

So let’s not go to the victory just yet where he kicks satan's tail out of the desert. Let’s admit the temptation of entitlement for a moment.

If Satan were to appeal to a sense of entitlement in your life, where would that show up?

  • In a relationship with someone?
  • In the time you spend at work doing other things?
  • In the downloads on your computer?
  • In the speed you drive down backroads?
  • In the things muttered under your breath?
  • In the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in your freezer?

And the devil whispers the same lie he approached Adam & Eve with, “Did God really say that was all that bad? Is it a big deal if you do this? Come on… you deserve it. Everyone else is always cheating you, so why not relax and take advantage of the position you’re in right now?”

Feel that temptation… because this is the same temptation Jesus felt and chose to overcome with Truth and humility.

This picture to th right is called "Destiny" and its painter is "anonymous."

Stare at the boy Jesus playing with a nail in Joseph's shop. Consider the shadow cast on the floor.

What does this image mean to you?

Why did Jesus choose to become like us? Like me? Like you?

And what does this tell us about God?

And what does this tell us about you and I?

And what does this tell us about God’s love for you and I?

"Earthly love, I mean the stuff I was trying to get by sounding smart, is temporal and slight so that it has to be given again and again in order for us to feel any sense of security; but God's love, God's voice and presence, would instill our souls with such affirmation we would need nothing more and would cause us to love other people so much we would be willing to die for them. Perhaps this is what the apostles stumbled upon." - Donald
Miller, Searching For God Knows What (p. 46-47)

Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Matthew 4:10-11)

7 comments:

DJG said...

I am loving this series. Thanks!

bjk said...

This makes things harder, definitely more interesting and .....just thanks for a timely series......THANKS

Stephanie said...

This was an awesome read!

L.L. Barkat said...

If I remember correctly, the Son of Man is a title that plays on OT expectations (maybe just in the rabbinic tradition--not sure). Nevertheless, I like how you suggest that Jesus chose the title as one more example of "made himself nothing"... he passed on entitlement.

Entitlement is a biggie. Aren't we all so concerned about our rights? And maybe this is partly the learning we receive about our political system... but maybe it's more about continuing the illusion of that first bite in the garden.

Katie said...

Tony - I've been reading along on this and let me just say it has been amazing. So much truth packed into these posts, so much honesty of the heart, so many challenges and yet so many encouragements, so many questions that come to my mind and make me take a deeper look at this God I love and this child He loved first. It's made me think, I've taken it with me to chew on in my mind long after reading each post.

Tony Myles said...

l.l. - You're right that it is an Old Testament reference. To me this just digs in even more that Jesus aligned himself into the history of man instead of sitting above it transcendent and beyond reach. How cool is it that Jesus defines himself first by coming alongside us in culture and then showing us a next step of thought about his identity and ours?

Everyone else - I'm glad these thoughts have sounded coherent enough for you to take something away. It's still a work in progress within me... which I hope it always is. Maybe we can all help each other out on this journey.

BarBarA said...

I used to read here all the time! A friend gave me your link today and I can see I've been missiong out big time. Looking forward to catching up on all your great posts!