Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. Matthew 4:1-11
The Tempted Messiah
In the Evangelical tradition, we tend to overly spiritualize Christ or, at least, overemphasize his divinity to the point that he ceases to function as human. A clear example is how we typically gloss over the temptation of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness. Blah. Blah. Blah. Satan tried to trick Jesus, but Jesus was much too smart! He just waved the devil away and that’s that.
But if we believe that Jesus was fully God and fully human, then we also have to believe that when Jesus was tempted to turn rocks into bread because he was starving, it was really a temptation, a strong one at that. I remember hearing on the local Christian talk radio station a pastor say that we as humans rarely feel much temptation because we too quickly give into sin. Temptation actually tends to get stronger the more we deny it. The implication being that Christ’s temptation was perhaps the worst temptation ever felt by a human being.
I imagine what made the temptation to have all the kingdoms of the world and their glory so strong was that this was something that was already promised to Jesus. Jesus was already prophesied to be the Messiah, the one who would save the people of Israel from their sin. Mary had already spoken to him about his birth and the word she received from the Lord. He knew that he was essentially destined to be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. For it to be a real temptation, the devil would legitimately have to be able to offer him in some ways the kingdoms of the world. The devil would somehow have to have the power to make such a claim.
Therefore, why not take what was rightfully his now?
Because in the context of the current brokenness of this world, it could never be. Because giving into the devil would mean compromising his relationship with God, with his fellow brothers and sisters, and with himself. Because while the devil might have been able to offer him something, it would always and forever be broken (because the character of Satan dictates that he is not generous or caring, nor does he have the power to gift without cursing it first).
While it might in the abstract seem okay (Jesus was promised authority over this world. The devil is offering it to him. No cross, no suffering necessary. Deal.), within the context of God the Father’s greater plan of redemption for his lost children, salvation for this world, atonement for humanity, and suffering for joy, it could never be.
Because Christ waited on the Lord, denied himself, and bore his cross, he was not only blessed with authority over the kingdoms of this world but also holiness and exaltation that the devil could never have given him.
The Call to Celibacy
Sometimes, in the bitter loneliness of the night, I think to myself, “But, Lord, I just want to be loved. I just want to be held by someone. I just want to love another intimately and passionately. Why would you deny me that?”
In this fallen world, the homosexual relationship that I want can never be. Or at least, it will always be something broken, never truly satisfying the deep longing of my heart.
But God has promised us a truest intimacy and the Lord is faithful. He will give in His own time. Until then, we are washed in the Blood of the Lamb, have communion with our brothers and sisters, and wait for glorification where God will satisfy our every need.