This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
Jesus faces temptation alone in the desert
4 1-2 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit up into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. After a fast of forty days and nights he was very hungry.
3 “If you really are the Son of God,” said the tempter, coming to him, “tell these stones to turn into loaves.”
4 Jesus answered, “The scripture says ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’.”
5-6 Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the highest ledge of the Temple. “If you really are the Son of God,” he said, “Throw yourself down. For the scripture says—‘He shall give his angels charge concerning you,’ and ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone’.”
7 “Yes,” retorted Jesus, “and the scripture also says ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’.”
8-9 Once again the devil took him to a very high mountain, and from there showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their magnificence. “Everything there I will give you,” he said to him, “if you will fall down and worship me.”
10 “Away with you, Satan!” replied Jesus, “the scripture says, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve’.”
The temptations of Jesus reflect common doubts about him, as well as perhaps his own doubts.
“How can Jesus be the son of God if he didn’t provide food for the world’s hungry?”
“How can Jesus be the son of God, if he performed no spectacular miracles (and couldn’t even come down from his own cross)?
“How can Jesus be the son of God if he doesn’t rule the kingdoms of the world?”
The answer to all these questions is that Jesus is the human son of God with no miraculous powers, but utterly devoted to the rule of God, which comes by goodness rather than force. This answer is founded on Jesus’ own faith and practice. It is sober and profound enough to disappoint the demands of most religious people for privilege and certainty. What’s the point of being a son of God, or a follower of the son of God if it confers no advantage? As John Osborne asked in one of his angry plays, ” What’s the point of a vacuum cleaner if it not only fails to beat as it sweeps as it cleans, but actually blows the bloody dust in your eyes?”
The story of the temptations tells the reader that the faith of Jesus will not please the pious or the powerful.
1 Corinthians 1:10-19
Now I’m asking you, my friends, in the name of the Lord Jesus, all of you, to speak with one voice and to have no divisions amongst you, so that you may be settled in the same understanding and opinion.
For it’s been made clear to me, by some of Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels amongst you
I mean, some of you say, we belong to Paul; others, we belong to Apollos; others, we belong to Cephas, others again, we belong to Christ.
Is the Messiah divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised into the name of Paul?
I’m thankful that I baptised none of you, except, that is, Crispus and Gaius.
so that no one can say you were baptised into my name-
– oh, I did baptise Stephanos’ household-I’m not sure if I baptised anyone else.
For Messiah did not send me to baptise, but to announce good news without words of wisdom, in case his cross should be made empty.
For the message of the cross is daftness to those who are dying, but to those who are being rescued, it is the power of God.
For Scripture says, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the opinion of the pundit I will disregard.
Paul moves very quickly from the fact of cliques amongst his converts, to their underlying cause: the use of religious wisdom to gain power and prestige. The “good news” announced by Paul is that Jesus Messiah has suffered crucifixion so that mortal men and women should know the love of God and be freed from the power of death. In this world, Messiah’s followers will trust and practice that love (which will not free them from suffering) and will hope for resurrection (which will not save them from physical death). It’s easy to see why many people might think that this message was daft. I’ve used the Scottish word “daft” because think it translates the Greek moros from which we derive our word “moron”. The average Corinthian, even perhaps the average Corinthian convert, might well think that Paul’s message for designed for “dafties.” We could say that the Corinthians are giving in to the very temptations of the devil which Jesus resisted.
Christian faith confers no privilege not even the privilege of thinking you’re right and everyone else is wrong.