The Wilderness Temptation and the Coronavirus Pandemic (Part 2)
Reading: Matthew 4:1-11
In the previous post, I noted that Christ’s wilderness testing in the Gospels can teach us much for a time such as this. While this pandemic is generating temptations in seemingly new forms, they are the same temptations in new packaging. The things that tempt us as humans have not changed much, nor the truths necessary to overcome those temptations. In part two of this multi-part post I will explore what we can learn from Jesus’ first temptation and His response.
2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt. 4:3-4)
After Fasting Forty Days and Forty Nights
I certainly hope that we soon hear an announcement that this pandemic is over and to return to life as usual. However, it does not seem likely that will happen. Jesus was hungry after 40 days and nights. Now I am sure He felt hungry from time to time during the 40 days, of course. After 40 days He had reached the point of necessary hunger—eating was necessary for survival.
In a staff meeting today, Peter (one of our pastors) said, “I don’t know of a single person in our church that has coronavirus yet.” The emphasis is on the word yet. We’ve likely just gotten started on what will be at least 40 days. And what we’ve felt so far will be felt more acutely. We will hunger. Then how will we deal with temptation in that wilderness?
How do we respond now in order to be ready for the hunger when it comes upon us? By putting the Word of God in our souls now. Jesus didn’t suddenly start thinking about the Word of God when He got hungry. It was stored up in Him and was, therefore, a source of life for Him.
Jesus didn’t suddenly start thinking about the Word of God when He got hungry.
What Kind of Messiah (anointed King) Would He Be?
Jesus had the power to turn stones into bread. What would have been wrong with Him doing so? It has to do with what kind of king He was going to be. Was He going to use his power to feed himself? Was his kingdom ultimately about his power, his authority, his rights, his needs? Or, was his kingdom going to be a different kind of kingdom?
Jesus’ answer comes from Deuteronomy 8, a text which reflects on Israel’s wilderness wanderings. In that text, Israel was tested to see if they would keep God’s command, and in order to teach them that “man does not live on bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” What kind of people would they be? They were called to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. How would they respond in a time of crisis, of hunger? Israel did not do well in this test and so it was a time of discipline for her (Deut. 8:5).
What Kind of Messiah’s People Will We Be?
Given the kind of King we have, what kind of people should we be? How will we use whatever power we possess at a time like this?
- Am I exercising my freedom to indulge the flesh or to serve one another humbly in love (Gal. 5:13)? As Christians and as Americans we have freedom. Are we therefore flouting authority because we are not afraid of getting the virus? How does this serve those who might get infected as a result of our own carelessness? What are some of the ways we might indulge our flesh during this time rather than serve one another in love?
- Am I using my power (money, time, and energy) to stockpile for my own needs, out of fear, or am I trusting that the Father knows my needs and will provide for tomorrow? We learned in our series in Matthew, that when Jesus tells us not to worry about how we will be provided for, it is in the context of telling us to be generous. (For that message click here.)
- Am I turning to God’s word in order to comfort my soul, or am I turning to more noise, more food, or more drink? Although we are not called to give up eating and just read our Bibles, this time will test what we turn to in our times of fear or limitations. We are not generally used to limitations. Like Israel and like Jesus in the wilderness, there are now limitations. To what do we turn during this time? Is God’s word a primary place we turn? I trust for many of you that it is. Of course, we might add prayer to this question as well.
How will we use whatever power we possess at a time like this?
Do not think that I write as one who has perfected all of this. I don’t. I am writing as one who recognizes in myself the temptations that we face. Some of us may need course corrections, while others are walking this out well. But each of us should regularly do some self-evaluation.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,