02252023 – Matthew 4. 1-11

The Temptation narrative is AMAZING! And WAY before it’s time. It is Way ahead of its time. Strangely, oddly so.

It sounds like two “Marvel characters” going at it, toe-to-toe and head-to-head…

Both are bigger than life. Both have superhuman powers.

Today it’s all about those big movie franchises, you know…

Thanks to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the MARVEL UNIVERSE movie franchise has now “raked in” a staggering $11 billion worldwide. Can you imagine that…11 billion dollars, from cartoon comics!

This means that the Marvel Cinematic Universe grossed more than movie franchises like the James Bond series, Harry Potter films, or the Star Wars franchise.

It is amazing…But it’s not just about the big bucks.

The Marvel Universe is more than that. It is about the “fictional universe” that is shared by some of the world’s most famous superheroes based on Marvel Comics.

They have created a whole new world to imagine, full of metallic suits, super-soldiers, demi-gods, assassins, and some extremely sharp wit.

Some of the most “critically acclaimed” superhero movies belong to the Marvel Universe.

We’re talking about guys like Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, The Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, and Spiderman.

But long before any of them were ever around or even conceived of…there was “the squaring off” that took place between Jesus of Nazareth and the Tempter of the UNDERWORLD.

The Battle between “good and evil” even predates revelation…and it seemingly happens on some kind of a cosmic level.

Matthew identifies the devil as being “the TEMPTER” one of only two uses in the Early Christian Writings.

And Matthew gives us a well-rounded portrait of “this tempter”…he variously refers to him as being…the devil, Satan, “the evil one,” “the enemy,” “the Prince of Demons,” and Beelzebul.

We are told that Jesus spent time with God for 40 days and 40 nights.

And after that intense period of time, of wilderness living, and constant on-going conversation with God, Jesus was hungry, and no doubt, tired and maybe a little thirsty.

The EXACT moment that Jesus shows any sign of vulnerability – is when the “evil one” challenges him and pounces.

Talk about “pulling out all the stops” and being “overly dramatic”…surely even Satan himself would agree…

The “drama,” the “special effects,” the “number and the magnitude of the temptations,” it was all just too much, way over the top…

The Devil simply had OVERPLAYED his hand.

For sure, Satan would not have attempted the temptations, the testings, unless he thought he could win…

He thought he had “an edge.”

He thought he had “a chance.”

He was wrong.

Jesus was fortified with prayer. He had a strong prayer life. Prayer for Jesus was important. He was considered to be a “man of prayer.”

He was also fortified by his knowledge of the scriptures. He did not quote scripture, just to quote it. He quoted scripture because he believed it spoke the truth.

He was also fortified by the Spirit. The same spirit that drove him originally out into the wilderness—was the self-same spirit that attended to him.

God was with him. He did not battle alone.

Jesus was also focused. The ancient words of the Shema, no doubt sustained and encouraged him.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.”

Jesus was centered on God. You do not test the Lord, your God, EVER. EVER!

The first two temptations dealt with Jesus’ sonship…IF YOU ARE THE SON OF GOD…if, if, if, ever attempting to sow the seeds of doubt.

You know a little bit of uncertainty goes a long way.  Just a little lack of conviction is all that is necessary. Any apprehension or skepticism, Jesus? How about a little bit, just a little bit of hesitancy, on your part?

So you think you are, you are pretty sure you are…but are you CERTAIN?

IF YOU ARE…the Son of God…

As the stakes get higher, the drama increases.

So, in the second temptation, the devil takes Jesus to the HOLY CITY, it isn’t stated, but we ASSUME, we are talking about Jerusalem. And Jesus is placed on the pinnacle of the Temple – the height of religious power.

Just how exactly do they get up there?

Is it with a single bound? Is it a vision? Or, is it splashy side effects? And the drama increases.

But saving the best for the last is the FINALE! The Climax, the finish, the culmination, the grand ending…

On another HIGH LOFTY MOUNTAIN TOP in some cosmic location, Jesus is shown ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE UNIVERSE AND THEIR GLORY….

Worship me, and it will ALL be yours…as if, it ever BELONGED to the evil one, to begin with…

Lies…lies…and more…lies…the Great Deceiver will lie and lie some more, he will quote scripture like an old Baptist preacher…and he will twist his word ever so cautiously…

Even the OSCAR CALIBER SPECIAL EFFECTS could not help him…

His was a lost cause.

Jesus had prayed all of his days, he was steeped in scripture, wisdom, and stamina, and came from the presence and the power of the MOST HIGH GOD.

The temptation narrative points us toward what can happen when we do not pray when we need no one else when we believe in our own strength, our own power, and fortitude when we do not know the scripture nor need to know them. When we are enough. We are more than enough. When we become our own superheroes. And when we do not love the Lord our God. And when we negate his spirit, for that of our own.

Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.