Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Forty Days in the Wilderness

Jesus is enjoying the wilderness, not because he’s an outdoors guy, but because he is full of the Spirit, and walking in the Spirit (Lk 4:1,2). The truth is, Jesus would be happy anywhere, full of the Spirit, walking in the pleasure of God. The environment and the hunger are real, but not so real as the reality of God.

The devil shows up in the wilderness. They size one another up. Their minds are worlds apart.

The devil must be puzzled by Jesus. Could this really be the Son of God? Sure, Satan was cast out of heaven for treason against the Most High. So what must the Son of God have done, to be cast as a human, bound by disgusting flesh? At least the devil was still an angel, but here is this Jesus, obviously lower than even angels.

If Jesus were only pretending to be the Son of God, then he would be extremely useful to the alMost High. Satan can always use pretenders, capitalizing on their pride.

But if Jesus is indeed the Son of God, then he must be destroyed. And it shouldn’t be hard, should it, since the devil had already proven that mere men were easily tempted and quickly turned.

Just a little shell game would do the trick. A little catering to the animal impulses. A little show and tell. The offering of a shortcut. The spectacle of a miracle. A seemingly noble way to put God in the service of man, as opposed to man in the service of God. This should be easy.

Jesus looks at the devil. Jesus has been training his mind and heart, his body and will, his emotions and spirit, to be satisfied with God, and with God alone. Whatever appearance the devil has, it finds no appeal in Jesus. His eyes are for God alone. His heart is for God alone. God alone. God alone. For thirty years, and for forty days, this has been his pattern and his life. God alone.

Jesus hears the devil, and knows Satan’s own self-deception, even as he attempts to begin his deceiving work. He observes the devil’s manipulation of the playing field, the re-framing of the rules, the altering of expectations, the reduction of all things important to this single moment in time. And Jesus knows.

He knows because he created this angel of light, now become the prince of darkness. He created his gifts and his abilities. The devil’s aptness for leadership did not arise from the abyss, and the span of his creativity did not evolve. It was given by God, through the handiwork of the Son.

When the devil spoke, he spoke through instruments designed by Jesus himself – instruments that were intended to sing “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts.” He created a will that was to bend and bow in constant subservience to the will of God Almighty. And he created an angel with the ability to assist in bringing a redeemed humanity to “the praise of His glory.”

So perhaps Jesus views the devil with sadness. Perhaps with the kind of righteous anger that one feels when one’s Father’s name has been disdained. But certainly Jesus knows that He will defeat this devil.

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