When it comes to understanding power, the last temptation that Jesus faced in the desert (at least in Luke), is the greatest show of strength and power by doing absolutely nothing at all. It was a challenge from the devil to Jesus, to prove that he truly was the Son of God by jumping off the highest parapet of the temple. If he truly was God’s son, God, “would command his angels concerning you, to guard you lest you dash your foot against a stone.” To which, Jesus, unimpressed that the Devil can quote scripture, responds: “It also says you should not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” Booyah! Oh yeah! Take that sucka (gestures included)…That, of course, is what I would have said as the Devil skulked away, because Jesus is that hefty of an adversary even after starving in the desert for 40 days! Most of all, though, it tells me real power is not defined by or proven by show and tell. Think about it, I don’t know anyone who even has a tiny bit of that kind of power and doesn’t use it…including the Son of God because he chose not to. The conundrum for me is this: Since no one else was there, how do we know that the devil wasn’t just a figment of delirium resulting from starvation, and none of these tests ever happened…should it even matter? Even if the story is pure conjecture, it did affect how Jesus understood and utilized God’s power throughout his ministry. Obviously, history tells us of his great miracles and his great authority and ability to command a crowd. Most important to me, however, was that he remained true to all three lessons. He is the most powerful figure in human history because he satiated our spiritual hunger first, showed us by example and parable that true power has nothing to do with amassing temporal kingdoms and controlling others, and most importantly, that trust in God is the true cornerstone, even if it means being subjected to torture and death.
I think about the temptations in the desert a lot, and I worry that as a Church, we are failing the three tests. I am worried that amassing worldly wealth far outweighs the need for spiritual fulfillment. I am worried that controlling the faithful by determining who is fit for everlasting life is more important than empowering people to be just who God created them to be…which is to be a part of the body of Christ, where every part is just as important as the next and not just the ones that hold a higher place. I am worried that we constantly put God to the test by demanding that he answer every prayer the way we want him to…and use the result as proof that he really does love us, or is punishing us for something. As a result of our failure, I’m worried that while the devil may have not been successful in tempting Jesus, he has been successful in tempting the Church…the whole Christian Church.