There’s a line from Nick Vujicic: “The biggest temptation, I believe, is to feel comfortable, to feel like you’ve worked through all of that here on Earth, and are satisfied with this life.”
That temptation -to be satisfied with less than God- was what Jesus faced in the wilderness. And “Jesus answered, ‘It is written: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’ “(Matthew 4:4)
“If you are the son of God .. ” Actually the text can equally mean, “Since you are the Son of God .. ” and that makes more sense here. The temptation was not for Jesus to prove he WAS the Son of God by performing the simple miracle of turning stones to bread. The test was more subtle. “You are the Son of God, the Divine Word through whom everything was created, who sustains everything. You’re the Son of God – YOU shouldn’t be hungry!”
It is so easy for us to assume that because Jesus was the Son of God his life on earth was somehow easier than our lives, or at least easier than the lives of people around Him. Somebody asked me, “Was Jesus ever sick?” We have no evidence either way – just the argument from silence that we do not have a record of a time when Jesus became ill. But he was certainly hungry, here in the wilderness. And at Jacob’s well where he met the woman of Samaria, we are told that Jesus was thirsty.
It would have been so easy for Jesus the Son of God to turn stones into bread. But that wasn’t what being Son of God was about! Jesus could have been guaranteed a comfortable life, even a life of luxury if He had chosen. And that was the temptation here – always to be comfortable. But that would be the devil’s way, not God’s way! This was the nature of Jesus’ rebuke of Peter in Matthew 16: “Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
This test was not about what form the ministry of Jesus would take – none of the temptations were. The issue was not whether Jesus would use miracles to prove who he was, first to himself and then to the watching world. The issue was whether as the Son of God, Jesus should have a comfortable easy life, or whether he should ever be hungry or thirsty or tired or suffer in any way.
And this is a temptation which every child of God can face. Bread is even more important in countries where drought or famine regularly strike, but for us, there is the assumption it should also have butter and jam on it! We nurse the sneaky thought that if we are Christians we will never be hungry or thirsty – never be sick, never be exhausted, never run out of money.
The challenge is to trust God when things seem to be going wrong – when all our needs are NOT being met! Grant Barnes put it this way: “In resisting this temptation, Jesus rebukes the lifestyle of comfort, ease, and instant gratification.”
Jesus had to experience suffering and pain and discomfort – because we all do. And Jesus had to learn to trust God even when there was no easy way out, no miracle, because that was what he would have to do on the cross. We have to learn the same. To trust God in the hard times as well as the easy times. Even when the miracle doesn’t come.
Lord, for our land in this our generation,
Spirits oppressed by pleasure, wealth and care:
Lord, for our world where men disown and doubt You,
Loveless in strength, and comfortless in pain,
Hungry and helpless, lost indeed without You:
Lord of the world, we pray that Christ may reign.
The thing is, as Calvin said, you either let go of the things of this world, or you are held by them forever.