Matthew 4: 1-11
In today’s passage, the voices of seduction and temptation and invitation that want us to cheat on our God-given identity are not new at all. What interests us is the capacity of Jesus—perhaps the capacity of the church and our capacity—to resist such voices.
In the passage, Jesus, of course, has his strategies at hand, almost as if he had rehearsed them and was ready when then voices started. Jesus says, “Man does not live by bread alone.” It means that there is more to us than bread, more than money, more than profit, more than commodity, more than exchange value.
Then, Jesus says, “do not test God.” It means, do not use your faith to find out the limits of God’s reliability. In that statement, Jesus refutes the voice by a quote from another sermon in Deuteronomy—“obey what you know; do not test what you do not know…obey the core commands of God that are readily at hand…love God and love neighbor.”
Jesus’s answer reminds us that it is not our business to make God into a miracle performer. Our part is not managing miracles. Our part is obedience and that is enough—obeying what we know; do not test God about what we do not know; just obeying the great commandments—loving God and neighbors as ourselves.
The last voice says, “cheat a little, split your loyalty, worship me a little on the side and I will give you everything.” But Jesus has Moses’s message from Sinai ringing in his ears—Worship only the Lord your God and serve God alone. No more the gold calf; no more compromise; no more half-way faith; no more divided loyalty. Divided loyalty may give us everything in the world we want, but we may gradually drift farther apart from God-given self.
Today is a time of cheapening and thinning and forgetting and accommodating. I believe today’s story is still pertinent to our time, especially as we have begun our journey to the foot of the cross. The voices with many faces come and say to us—“it is time for making more bread for only ourselves; it is time for testing God, and seeing how far we can move God beyond our rational understating rather than trusting; and it is time for seeking and taking a wide path, like an expressway and a highway, rather than a narrow path.”
Let us keep refusing the voices of temptation and seduction that that would have robbed our God-given identity, away from the junk food, but come to the bread of life as we are still hungry and still fasting. Let us keep choosing a better way of living and being—that will ultimately help in the ministry of God’s community here on earth as in heaven through the ministry of FCC. Let us keep shaping our habits of prayer and action to reflect a journey of self-examination in the light of the hope and peace as the person of Jesus Christ. Let us keep checking our choices whether those promote or hinder the love of God being made real to the world and to our neighbors.
Thanks be to God. Amen.