The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Someone forgot a meeting with us today.
It’s not a big deal. The person who forgot is busy with a lot of important, legitimately time-consuming things and we know that sometimes stuff slips through the cracks. We knew we should have confirmed the meeting again earlier in the week, but we forgot to do that. There was a lot of forgetting.
What this person definitely did not intend was to make us feel unimportant. But there was nonetheless a moment when we sat in our tidied living room and felt small and forgettable and even a little foolish. As I said above, it really isn’t a big deal—it’s just that we so often feel those things anyway. It’s easy to hear that message again. And it’s easy to hate it.
Lent is meant to mirror for Jesus’ followers His 40 days of temptation in the wilderness before beginning His public ministry. That’s why people fast and institute rigorous disciplines during this time. It was a period when Jesus powerfully felt the weakness of being human and the strength of temptation. That is why Lent is the one period in the Church’s liturgical calendar that consumer culture will never be able to colonize—and that’s why the season is so important to us.
I’ve been reading recently about Jesus’ temptations, and one thing stuck out to me very strongly. Everything Satan offers Jesus in the wilderness is a logical, practical route to saving the world. First comes food: turn this stone to bread. Jesus wasn’t the only person starving in Palestine in His day. Notice that the only time in His public ministry that crowds follow Him is when He gives them miraculous bread. He could have taken over the world that way.
Next comes politics: I’ll give you the kingdoms of this world in all their splendor. Jesus lived in a time of political unrest and violent oppression. He could have ended Rome and established something better, if He had wanted to.
Last comes miracles: throw yourself from the temple. Miracles were what everybody in Judea wanted to see. Look at how many times in the gospels the Jews come to Him asking for signs. He could have given them what they wanted.
The point of all this is, Jesus could have done things in the ways that make sense to us. He could have been His people’s hero, instead of the guy they crucified. He could have been famous, He could have been powerful—He could have done good things (fed the hungry, freed the oppressed, cheered the faithful) in all the familiar ways.
All the ways I want to do things.
But then He wouldn’t have been the Lamb of God.
Do you see it yet? Jesus chose to be ignored and scorned and oppressed and murdered. He had a way out, and He didn’t take it.
Most days I think I would.
There are a lot of influential, interesting, intelligent people in my twitter feed. I like to read what they say, but it leaves this ache in my chest—an ache of wanting to be just as influential and interesting as they are. I want people to take me seriously. I want to be important. Our work can sound pretty good on paper, but day to day it’s a lot of humdrum, ordinary, small and powerless . . . slogging along. It’s what faithfulness looks like for us right now, but my heart resents it.
This year I’m starting Lent with this confession: I wouldn’t have done what Jesus did. I would have sold out the Kingdom of God, in its tiny mustard-seed ways, for one of the sparkly, glamorous options Satan laid out for Him in that wilderness. I would have.
But I don’t like that. I want to follow Jesus, even in the wilderness. Especially in the wilderness. Despite my faithless heart, I want to see His Kingdom come. Don’t you?
Here’s to repentance.
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