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Stones or bread (2)

It would be a mistake to think there was anything arbitrary about this (or any other) temptation that Satan puts before anyone.  Scripture indicates that he is shrewd and cunning (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11).  To think anything less is exactly what he wishes us to think.  Luke concluded his narrative of the temptations by saying that Satan left Jesus until an “opportune” time.  Satan is a calculating opportunist.  That is his modus operandi.

Turning stones into bread was tempting for Jesus at a physical level.  After forty days without food, who wouldn’t want to eat?  Can you imagine the delirium a person could work themselves into over food?  In such a sensitized state, wouldn’t every stone remind you of bread?  Add to this the fact that Jesus possessed the power (and with Satan’s challenge a justifying reason), He very easily could have caved. 

But there was more than just the physical dimension to Jesus' temptation.  If at His baptism Jesus was acknowledged to Israel as the Son of God, in the desert  Satan lays charge to that identity.  It’s not that he didn’t believe that Jesus was who God said He was, it was more that he wanted to diminish and destroy what it meant to be the Son of God.  As with all of us, he wants to subvert and twist our identity so that we are less than what our Father intended us to be.  So with Jesus, he wanted to get Him to act in a manner that was inconsistent with being the Son of God.

In many ways, Jesus was entering into a ministry of stones.  His ministry previously was with wood; wood that was cut, smoothed, and fashioned into implements and furniture which made living easier.  Now He was in the wilderness among the stones.  He possessed the power to rid Himself of these stones.  He could have taken away their hardness and transformed them into bread that was tasteful and nourishing.  He could call out to His Father and ask Him to provide as He had for His sons and daughters centuries before when He sent them manna.  Surely Jesus was worth the same blessing.  How could He not be?  Like them, He had just passed through the water.  Like them, He had been publicly acknowledged by God.  What could be wrong with He or His Father turning some stones into manna-like bread?

The answer was that beyond His physical desire, familial privileges, and personal power, there loomed the larger issue of rightness.  Anything proposed by the Tempter was to be viewed with complete suspicion.  In the case at hand, he was trying to get Jesus to show the same lack of faith in His Father that Israel has shown by their complaining.  Would He be a Messiah who catered to the people’s whims or One who led them to truly know the Father?

Jesus’ response to Satan was the response of a son.  Turn stones into bread?  Yes, I am the Son of God and yes, I can do that.  But I am also a man who has subjected Himself to the reign of God in My life rather that My own rule.  As such, I have chosen God’s agenda for My life rather than My own.  As Son of God I have the power, as Son of man, I choose not to use it.  I choose stones.  I choose not just to live by the bread that comes from the mouth of God, but by every word.  I choose what Israel didn’t choose --- to trust in My Father in the midst of wilderness and desert.

This is how stones and bread speak to us.  Like Israel, we have been liberated and are headed toward promised land.  As we make our way through the wilderness/desert, there are stones along the way.  To the unbelieving, they are harsh obstacles to be avoided at all costs.  When encountered, we immediately cry out to our Father and ask Him to turn them into sweet bread.

To the discerning, they are part and parcel of our wilderness experience that the Spirit has brought us to and our Father will see us through.  Our stones are not without reason or purpose though their immediate meaning may be unknown.  They are our stones and we trust Him to help us live with them.  Choosing stones over bread is the corresponding reply to “This is My Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  Choosing stones announces to the world, “This is My Father, I love Him and trust Him with my stones.”

May the redeemed of the Lord say so.
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