Jesus couldn’t be tempted to hurt a flea but the truth is, temptation to do something good in your own steam is every bit as dangerous as temptation to do something bad — even more so because the danger is so subtle!
Temptation wears many faces but the essence of every temptation is the same: to trust, favor, rely on Self more than God. That this is true even when Self is pure — so long as there is evil to cope with — is a realization that is well over-due.
Self, all His pure and innocent desires to help people, was what Jesus asked God to bury in the Jordan River. (Matthew 3:13-17) It was essential for all to see this is THE way righteousness is fulfilled. Is it possible that the purer the heart’s desire the harder it is to deny — the stronger the temptation?
Jesus didn’t have to know what it is like to crave caffeine or cocaine, retaliation or revenge, ill-gotten gain or illicit sex to know how hard it is to deny Self in favor of God’s timing and way.
To trust good intentions more than God’s providence is a strong temptation for anyone — even Jesus. To trust God’s providence more than His impulse to intervene when a soldier struck a woman; to trust God’s love more than His own when a grandad suffered on and on and on without relief; to trust God was paying attention every time His mother’s reputation was dragged through the mud; to trust God in spite of all feelings and appearances and even logic was His victory over temptation.
He didn’t work up this trust. He didn’t contrive it with grit and backbone. He got it as a gift of Grace as “every man” does. (Luke 2:40; Romans 12:3) He retained it by intimate communion with His Father in deep contemplation of scripture and creation every day. He learned it in the school of experience coping with everything from the mundane to the excruciating. “Jesus was God’s Son. But by suffering He learned what it means to obey.” Hebrews 5:8, NIRV
Bearing and overcoming temptation from the manger to the tomb was the cornerstone of His process for seeking, restoring, and reclaiming all He lost in Eden. Living and dying as the victorious Lamb of God earned Him the right to become Advocate and Judge for humanity. Living and dying victoriously as human earned Jesus the right to reclaim dominion of Earth for humanity.
The victorious life and death of Jesus exposed the Tempter’s lies about God’s justice and mercy. But after the cross the enemy came up with a new lie. He peddled the idea that Jesus’ victory made obedience to God’s law unnecessary for the rest of us. He even went so far as to convince many that Jesus gave church councils and governments authority to alter God’s law.
Jesus understood from the first that the dullness of humanity, of even His church, would make rebuilding trust in divinity slow and difficult. But He has been willing to persevere in cultivating His priceless crop of faith for as long as it takes. “But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:29
What distinguishes the ripened wheat from all previous stages of church development is unfailing obedience of God’s perfect law by the love and faith of Jesus. The same love and trust in His Father that sustained Jesus converts and transforms sinners.
A gospel message borne by four mighty angels is certain to ripen the fruit of the Spirit in spite of all the Tempter can do. (Revelation 14; 18) It proclaims Christ ever lives to provide grace so that we too may consistently, constantly, unreservedly rely on the Power from above rather than the power from within! It’s a call to come out of the belief that God’s law can be changed to fit popular conventions but it’s impossible for sinful characters to be entirely transformed and fit for heaven. In a loud voice it cries, “Stop relying on penance and performance by back-bone!”
Through the centuries many heard the everlasting gospel but it has yet to be fully grasped by a critical mass. The seeds were planted and cultivated in Old Testament times but the crop wasn’t ready for harvest. It didn’t ripen in New Testament times or Reformation times or Millerite times. But God’s investment in humanity is destined to yield bountiful returns! His blood, sweat, and tears cannot fail to produce full, fat, golden heads of grain!
His ripening message is about to illuminate the whole world with His glory! Soon after expect word to come that the character of every person alive has been fully developed — wholly good or evil! Now it’s time for the sickle! (Revelation 14:14-20; 22:11-12)
What joy it will be for Jesus to present the universe with the fruit of faith ripened through the power of His unfailing, persevering, transforming love! (Revelation 7)
What grief it will be for Him to step aside and let those who want to do it their way have their way without divine intervention.
The contrast between the fruit of lies and the fruit of faith will be universally undeniable. The ultimate reality check before the Great White Throne brings even the old Tempter to his knees. He rises to find his lies just don’t get traction with even his demonic cohorts anymore. (Isaiah 45:22-24; Romans 14:11)
This is when Jesus executes the final phase of salvation. The first phase delivered relief from the penalty of sin. The next phase delivers relief from the power of the world, the flesh, and the devil for every trusting soul. This final phase will finally deliver eternal and universal relief from even the presence of evil.
Is there any better news to eagerly read about or listen for? Is there any more important news to pass along with a passion? Is this not reason enough to proclaim Jesus is above all?