One of the books I am reading on my sabbatical is the excellent book by Keith Warrington: Discovering Jesus in the New Testament. Highly recommended!
I listened to a lecture by Keith recently where he pointed out that the writer to the Hebrews knew about their trials yet instead of addressing their troubles directly the writer spoke of the excellence of Jesus. This understanding of the excellence of Jesus is very much needed by Western Christians today, as the seduction is to live a counterfeit faith that is lived through others or through the Christian media.
There is a great quote on page 12 of his book where Keith writes about the accounts of Jesus being led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
He begins by setting the scene:
After the divine endorsement of Jesus at his baptism. one would expect the result of his confrontation with the devil to be a foregone conclusion. Although the devil may hope for a knockout, he is in for a shock as his opponent stands before him. having received the affirmation of the Spirit and the applause of his Father. The battle commences but the odds are unfair, for Jesus has already been identified as supreme.
Keith goes on to set out the usual explanation that is commonly heard on the lips of preachers. It is the same explanation I have proclaimed.
Matthew (4: 1-1 1) and Luke (4: 1 – 13) record three temptations of Jesus. Although there are differences in the accounts, the main thrust is clear—-the devil is no match for Jesus. The devil attempts to diverts Jesus from his mission by suggesting that he could prove that he is the Son of God, demonstrate it publicly, and own the nations by following an agenda other than the divine one.
This is the familiar understanding, an attempt to get Jesus to follow a different strategy, one that avoided the cross.
The part I particularly love in this piece is the following, were Keith points out that it was more than crucifixion that was required and that the devil wanted him to miss experiencing:
The devil challenges Jesus to achieve his ambitions without the pain of life and the rejection of those he came to save, without the denials, betrayals, and the flight of his followers, without suffering crucifixion and separation from the Father.
I love this insight and how he portrays it. This reminds me of the statement by Moltmann I previously blogged about over a year ago:
“… a God who cannot suffer is poorer than any man. For a God who is incapable of suffering is a being who cannot be involved. Suffering and injustice do not affect him. And because he is so completely insensitive, he cannot be affected or shaken by anything. He cannot weep, for he has no tears. But the one who cannot suffer cannot love either.”
Jesus was determined to suffer, and he did it for me. Wonderful!