Bible Study January 28 for Worship February 17

Bible Study January 28 for Worship February 17

Luke 4:1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit
2 for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry.
3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'”
5 And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time,
6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.
7 If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.”
8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'”
9 And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here;
10 for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,’
11 and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'”
12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'”
13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

COMMENTARY

The first Sunday of Lent we focus on the temptations of Jesus. Lent is a time of testing, when we try to deny some of our appetites in order to develop some spiritual discipline. Jesus’ temptations are not our temptations, but maybe if we examine them closely we can see ourselves in Jesus’ struggle.

The temptation to change stones into bread can be seen as our tendency to experience everything through the lens of our material desires. God knows we need bread, but we need more than bread to sustain us spiritually. We complain we don’t have enough time for spiritual matters, but the truth is we Americans are working fools. We work longer work weeks, have shorter vacations and fewer holidays than any other force work in the developed world. And we do this in order to afford the affluent life style to which we would like to be accustomed. We make tremendous sacrifices to acquire material things, because we think they will make us happy, missing the point that true happiness is a condition of the spirit.

Our God is gracious and generous and gives us enough each day for our need. “Give us this day our daily bread.” But the abundant generosity of God is not enough for us. We want tomorrow’s bread too, and next week’s bread, and next month’s bread, until we become like the rich fool who pulls down his barns and builds bigger barns to store his stuff (or he rents at an off-site storage facility), not knowing that he is scheduled to die that very night, and his spiritual account is meager. And how do we make deposits into our spiritual accounts: prayer, worship, mission, charity, cultivating love in relationships. Perhaps in the simple act of fasting God can help to re-direct our concerns from our material stuff to our spiritual needs.

The temptation to power may not seem relevant to many of us, but over and over again, at work, at church even in our families and relationships there is struggle over power and control. We may not aspire to play out our power needs on a large stage, but we play them out all the same.

You doubt your own need for power? Consider this, the number one reason for fighting in marriage is money. Money is monetized power – a symbol. Money is a symbol that can tell us, who is in charge, who controls the purse strings. Right now, what are the two parties in Congress and the President fighting about? Money, but more than money they are fighting over power. Who is in charge? Who controls the purse strings? What kind of government and society are we becoming? Who can be married and who can’t?

Some people have more need for power and control than others. But we all have some need for power and control in our own lives, and in relationship to others. What are our needs for power, and what temptations do our needs for power bring?

The temptation to play God, to assume we are immortal, that the universe should make exceptions for us is something with which we might all identify. We put off doing what we really want, because we assume there will be a tomorrow. Bob Neuschaefer kept warning us travel, when you are able. Yet many of us live as if we will be able to travel and perform feats of physical strength, when we are old. We put off making health and lifestyle changes willing ourselves to remain ignorant of the abuse to which we are subjecting our bodies. Perhaps we are seldom confronted with the stark decision Jesus faced to jump from the pinnacle of the Temple. Our pinnacles are lower and the consequences are further in the future, and so we believe we can have our cake and eat it too. But sooner or later the consequences catch up to us, and too late we realize we will not survive the fall.

Another more subtle way of playing God is in our judgments of other people. We have no idea the path that another human being has walked, but we reserve for ourselves the right to judge them. We also make decisions for other people, when we choose not to confront them. We are in a sense withholding information from them and judging their behavior. We are also playing God, when we manipulate people or withhold information to take away their right and responsibility to make decisions for themselves.

Another sign that we may be playing God is the question why me? Often the answer is why not me! We often go through life believing we should be immune to life’s accidents. One of my favorite ways of playing God is to hope that cars, mechanical equipment, or household items will somehow heal themselves. God didn’t make the world to work that way, and I had better get over it.

What we might identify with the most is in verse 13: “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.” Understanding when we are most vulnerable to temptation can be a great aid in surviving enticements without surrendering. Nikos Kazantzakis in his novel The Last Temptation of Christ explores the theme of the devil returning to Jesus at an opportune time, when Jesus was suffering on the cross. The story is really about Kazantzakis rather than Jesus, but it might prompt all of us to examine the “opportune moments” of temptation in our own lives.

My greatest temptation is overeating. And there are times when I am feeling good about myself, when my appetites are well regulated, my ego is under control, and I am well rested. At times like that I can most of the time resist temptation. But when I am over busy, tired, distracted, depressed, or alternatively when I am elated and full of myself, then I am most likely to over indulge. We need to know ourselves, because the truth will set us free.

Part of knowing ourselves is to understand all of the disparate parts of our personalities. A couple of years ago, using this very passage I was preaching about how Jesus was seeking to embrace and integrate the dark side of his personality. A visitor got up and walked out. Carol Howie went after him to see if he was O.K. When she called to him and asked if he was alright, he turned and vehemently said, “Jesus didn’t have a dark side!”

Bill Green wrote a Still Speaking Devotional that addresses our need for integration. We can’t know God’s love if we overlook parts of ourselves we’d rather weren’t true. Sooner or later that trips us up. “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” (Luke 8:17) We’re a blessing to God and one another when we’re open and honest.

LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT

1. How many days did Jesus spend in the wilderness?

2. According to the text how much did Jesus eat, while he was in the wilderness?

3. According to the text what was the source of Jesus’ temptations?

4. In the text what is the first temptation of Jesus?

5. How did Jesus respond?

6. What is the second temptation of Jesus?

7. How did he respond?

8. What is the third temptation of Jesus?

9. How did he respond?

10. After the temptations were over, what happened?

LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US

1. What appetite do you have the most difficulty controlling?

2. When do you feel most vulnerable to temptation?

3. How many different parts of your personality have you identified?

4. Are there any parts of yourself or aspects of your personality you don’t like?

5. Can you recognize any ways that you play God?

6. What would you most like to be able to control in your environment or in your life?

7. If you had unlimited wealth or power or both, what would you change?

8. If Jesus said to you, “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free,” what do you think he would mean by that statement?

9. What is most difficult for you in trying to embrace your dark side?

10. What do you imagine might have been the greatest temptation for Jesus on the cross?

Week of February 11 – February 17: First Sunday of Lent – Luke 4:1-13 – Wilderness Companions – Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16, Romans 10:8b-13.

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