READINGS: Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Romans 10:8b-13; Luke 4:1-13
God has sent this card to us. It’s much richer than a Valentine’s Day card. It doesn’t say “be my valentine”. It does invite us to a relationship though!
A love relationship.
What kills off a love relationship? (Apart from not working on your relationship as you get older – not dating – not saying you love her – withholding favours – not taking showers – bad financial habits – all that mundane helpful or unhelpful stuff depending where you are here?) Unfaithfulness is sure to kill it off!
Having your heart in other places – whether it be things or people or inappropriate individuals! Idolatry – is to substitute something else for the one you love. If the greatest commandment is about loving God with all your heart, mind, strength – Jesus clearly had to model that too! The trinity is key – God is love and Father, Son and Holy Spirit are fully united and connected in love!
Jesus’ testing – these temptations – (there’s a debate about which word is best) – imagine what it would have done to his Father’s heart had he succumbed to the deception!!
We can’t think like that because we have this superhero view of Jesus – forgetting that he was fully man. These were real temptations.So we should not see them as a cartoon scene – devil with horns and Jesus like Captain America with a shield – or Thor with his hammer! This is real temptation! Nope. I can see you don’t really believe me.
In all the readings today – the tragedy is that people who knew better turned away from God (who was utterly faithful) and whored after other things.
It’s not my language. It’s bible language. Read the prophets. It’s called harlotry if you want a politer sounding word. A best unfaithfulness. In Deuteronomy 26 the people who were given the promised land were told to bring the first fruits of that land as an offering to the Lord.
More than that they were to declare who they were. They were to declare what God had done to rescue them. And together the community were to celebrate the giving of the offering of the first fruits of the land. And the process culminated in this wonderful line:
Deu 26:9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey;
And the declaration: Deu 26:10 and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, O LORD, have given me.” Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before him.
Deu 26:11 And you and the Levites and the aliens among you shall rejoice in all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household.
The “milk and honey” phrase is not about a perfect utopia. Milk means there were cows or sheep or goats – and that meant grass – and rain – and nurture. Honey meant bees, and flowers, and colour, and germination – and pollination! It’s a great declaration of a beautiful gift which mirrors the whole gift of creation.
How can you declare these things in worship and then walk out ungrateful, behave like a cad, (a rogue or scoundrel if you don’t know what a cad is) and be unfaithful to God by letting the side down?
That’s unfaithfulness. That’s idolatry. That’s succumbing to the temptation to make yourself more important than God and his faithful love.
The four verses from Romans 10 in the lectionary this week might also seem odd.
What are they doing here in Lent?
How do they relate?
Remember where they are in Romans – in the middle of Paul agonising over the Jewish people and their place – and the overall message of Romans that all have sinned.
Rom 10:10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Rom 10:11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
Rom 10:12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,
Rom 10:13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
- We won’t be put to shame if we trust in Him (Jews or Gentiles)
- He richly blesses all who call on him (Jews or Gentiles)
- How can you be unfaithful to this God?
And so we come to Luke 4 – the temptations of Jesus.
He has to be a real human being to be tempted like this. In the words of Tom Wright: “There is a sense in this story of a deep wrestling, a heart-searching, a personal struggle with the powerful pull of bodily appetites, ambition and prestige. Most of us know only a little of that struggle, because we tend to give up and give in, early on in the process. Jesus went all the way through the tests and still didn’t break.”
But he made it. Like us, he two depended on God’s grace and strength. It is only Luke who says this: Luke 4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert,
He had to get through these tests on the mountain of temptation – so that on that grubby little hill called Golgotha (the place of the scull) he would see it through, knowing that he would be vindicated. How could He be unfaithful to the Father who loved him so? He was the beloved son! The chosen one. The only son. The voices from heaven had reminded him so clearly.
And he did it all for you. And for me. He was victorious here and on the cross – winning the battle for us. Because we don’t last the distance. Thankfully it’s all called Amazing Grace. Amen.