Luke tells us that Jesus was thirty years old when He started His ministry, one wonders what had
been going on in His earlier adult life. He was chosen/sent by God with a message for the world,
a message that had not been understood, or perhaps rejected, when delivered by the prophets,
so now God was sending His son.
Jesus must have known all too well that what He had to say- That God is a loving Father of ALL
mankind, and wants all to love and care for each other, regardless of race,- would not be well received
by His fellow Jews. They were hoping for an all powerful general who would raise an army, destroy
the Romans who occupied their land and establish a mighty kingdom for the Jews-on earth. This
was the description of God and His purpose that runs through the Hebrew bible.
No wonder Jesus hesitated- tried to plan ahead-took His time; but then , when the moment came,
Jesus went to be baptised in the Jordan, baptism- a new start-His ministry.
Then, what joy and surprise, as He emerged from the water, the voice of God, ‘This is my Son,
with whom I am well pleased’.
As we heard from Luke today, Jesus went into the desert to fast, to pray and of course to think out how
He should proceed. How should He deliver that message, accomplish His mission.
While in the desert we know that Jesus thought a lot about what was written in Deuteronomy. We
Know because each of His responses to the temptations He faced were quotations from Deuteronomy.
Although, as was the custom, what was written was ascribed to Moses, Deuteronomy was almost certainly
written during the reign of King Josiah, about a hundred years after the northern Kingdom, Israel, had
been overrun and destroyed by the Assyrian empire.
Those hundred years had been really hard times for the tiny kingdom of Judah. They had had to kowtow
to the mighty Assyrians- fall in line- sign treaties which limited their choices, weaken the position
of Jerusalem as their religious centre. They had to accept many Assyrian customs ,laws and even tolerate their gods.
But Assyria had weakened considerably and Josiah was determined to bring back Judah’s independence, restore
Jerusalem as the centre of worship and ,above all confirm that their one God was supreme.
Deuteronomy is full of laws that must be strictly obeyed, reminders of the power and purpose of God, that
His people should be pure, be powerful and ,in earthly terms be a dominant society.
This was a message that would appeal to the Jews of Jesus’ generation and in terms of adherence to God was right ,
but Jesus had a message about God’s hopes for mankind that was very different..hopes that all people could love God
as a caring father and love one another ,across the whole world , as children of that father, one family.
Delivery of Gods message would put Jesus on a collision course with the Jewish establishment. In the desert we hear
nothing of what Jesus plans to do but we hears quite clearly what earthly forces He will absolutely resist.
Earthly powers are characterised by domination and violence, they seek to have their way even to the point
of crucifixions. Jesus’ obedience and faithfulness to Gods’ will takes the form of resistance to these earthly
attempts at domination.
The devil suggests that Jesus can have comfort and wealth- stones turned to bread, comfort and wealth
perhaps also for those that might follow Jesus, if He accepted the offer. Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy
‘man does not live by bread alone’. Dependence and obedience to God is more important than worldly
Had Jesus failed here, there would have been no cross.
Secondly the devil offers supreme power on earth, power to conquer and rule, domination by force
of all the kingdoms of the world. Again Jesus resists, no worship for the devil, -again from Deuteronomy Jesus quotes
‘Worship the Lord your God, serve only Him.’
Jesus says ‘no’ to violence and domination, had He said ‘yes’ there would have been no cross.
Finally the devil temps Jesus to demonstrate that He is God; use God as a weapon to dominate and subdue.
How many warlords have claimed to have God on their side, justified evil acts by persuading their troops that
they have God in their pocket .
Again Jesus resists ‘ Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’
In refusing to employ earthly powers Jesus chose a hard path to follow. The cross lies ahead.
We who try to follow Jesus should also expect the way to be hard. We too should reject the earthly temptations.
We too should not have wealth or power as our goals. Nor should we be complacent that we are already ‘saved’.
We have the comfort of knowing that God loves each of us, and that the cross is not the end of the story, but we need to
repeatedly ask ourselves what is it that God is leading us to do. Amen.