Luke 4:1-2 (CEV)
1When Jesus returned from the Jordan River, the power of the Holy Spirit was with him, and the Spirit led him into the desert. 2 For forty days Jesus was tested by the devil, and during that time he went without eating. When it was all over, he was hungry.
God In Flesh
No, the verses above aren’t a typo. I didn’t accidentally copy the wrong ones. I know we did these verses yesterday, but it turns out there was a lot to say about them, so we’re doing them some more today! 🙂
As a child I had eleven operations on my lower right leg, each one an attempt to correct the one before … to correct the one before … to correct the one before … to correct clubfoot. I lived in almost constant pain for the first 18 years of my life, and still have a fairly high level of pain most days. And one of the things I’ve learned about pain is that it isolates us. It makes us feel as though no one else could possibly understand. It makes us feel like there are walls and barriers between us and those around us that are impenetrable.
On Saturday we talked about Jesus as God in flesh. But this first part of Luke 4 is about the fact that Jesus is also God in flesh. Jesus is not some supernatural being who happens to have the visual appearance of a man. Jesus is also fully human. Whether the devil literally, actually shows up and talks to him, or whether “the devil” is just his own thoughts, Jesus is hungry enough to be tempted by the idea of turning the stones into bread. He is literally starving after forty days of not eating. Which is important for us humans, because we have this funny tendency (one might even say, temptation) to assume that God doesn’t “get” what it’s like to be human.
I think there is a temptation to think that it’s “easy” for Jesus to love and care and be just and honest and compassionate and generous and everything else we’re going to see him do because He’s God, but if it was easy, then Jesus wouldn’t have experienced temptation. If it was easy, Jesus would have just gone off into the wilderness and fasted for forty days and then gotten on with the next thing on his list. This temptation business? This is the proof that Jesus isn’t just God’s “own dear son”, but Jesus is also a person like you and me. He experiences hunger and drives and appetites and temptations and exhaustion and loneliness and anger and sadness and frustration and pain.
For some reason, in fact, Jesus is here because God has collectively decided that after spending eternity in this cosmic perfection of Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in what theologians call perichoresis or the Divine Dance – that this dance of unity and love and communion and joy is incomplete without humanity present in it, and that we, as humanity, are incomplete without experiencing all that God’s way of intimate communion has to offer.
And so they collectively decide to send Jesus to earth.
They collectively decide that although Jesus will bring all of the fullness of what God looks like to earth, he will do so like one of us (see Philippians 2:6-7) and because of that, will ultimately also become our representative in the Trinity.
Why does this matter? The writer of Hebrews tells us:
It was for people like us, children of Abraham. That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed. (Hebrews 2:16-18, The MSG)
Which means that today, when I’m sitting there feeling like this pain is too much for anyone to understand; or this temptation is too great not to give in to; or that I can’t possibly do the right thing because do you know how hard that would be?!?; then I actually have another choice.
I have the choice to realize that Jesus came in flesh so that he would know.
I have the choice to realize that Jesus came in flesh so that I wouldn’t have to do this on my own.
I have the choice to realize that Jesus came in flesh so that he would know exactly where help was needed.
Apparently, whatever it is we’re facing, we are not alone.Journal Questions:
- What “pain” isolates you?
- What “pain” do you hold on to that you think nobody else could understand?
- What “pain” puts up walls and barriers to community in your life?
- Take a few moments today to reflect:
- What if Jesus came to replace isolation with his presence? How could you invite him into your pain today?
- What if Jesus came to replace loneliness with community? What step could you take to reach out to community this week?
- What if Jesus came to replace hopelessness with help, exactly where it was needed? What would it mean to focus on the help that God is offering instead of the hopelessness of your current situation?