Four More Days


Nine long months, and the baby Jesus arrived, instantly turning the unwed Mary and Joseph into a family of four. Four? Apparently so. We learn from the gospels that the pre-teen Jesus told Mary and Joseph that He needed to be about His Father’s business. This was no surprise to them. They knew all along that Joseph wasn’t Jesus’s biological dad. He was, in fact, His step-father. So their family was blended in the most absolute meaning of the term: true Father, God; natural mother, Mary; step-father, Joseph; and the Son who didn’t really feel as though He belonged apprenticing as a carpenter.

Later, of course, Jesus would also have step-brothers and sisters, but in thinking about His family unit those first hours and days and months, I am mindful of what it meant for Emmanuel, God with us, to take up residence outside of glory. He was subject to all the stuff of Mankind — the passions and joys and hopes and successes, but also the dreams cut short, the sadnesses, the temptations.

Indeed, the temptations. Scripture says He was tempted in every way we are, yet without sin:

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. (Heb. 4:15)

Impossible, some may think. How could He be tempted to OD on computer games or look at dirty pictures?

We know He lived life among us for over thirty years. At different junctures during His public ministry, the religious leaders laid traps for Him, trying to trip Him up so they could catch Him in an offense they could prosecute by law.

But what about those years before He began preaching and healing? Isn’t it likely that the strains of His blended family created temptations? Perhaps He also faced noisy neighbors during those years or the abuse of a bully. Because of the wedding in Cana, we know He had to deal with the expectations of His mother. Perhaps He also dealt with jealous brothers.

Later He may have had to deal with the temptation to abandon His life work to fit in with the role His family likely expected Him to fill — that of elder brother, settling down, marrying, and caring for their widowed mother.

Unfortunately we too often reduce Jesus’s temptations to three — the notorious ones recorded in the gospels for us where Satan entices Him to made bread from stones, to swap worship for power, and to test God’s promise. Lots of people have lots to say about these temptations — the kinds, the depth, the significance. Meanwhile, we’re overlooking a little clause in Mark 1:13.

And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him. (Emphasis mine)

So on top of the thirty years of temptations Jesus encountered by living life among us, he also had an intense forty days of Satan throwing whatever he could at Jesus. Whatever we face today, Jesus faced a comparable temptation.

But His coming among us served two greater purposes than offering us an understanding heart to turn to when temptations crowd in upon us.

First, He showed us God. If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father, He told His disciples. Paul said, “He is the image of the invisible God,” and “In Him all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form.” We look at Jesus, we see God — which makes sense, of course, because He IS God.

However, without the second reason, His coming would have amounted to cruel taunting. Here’s God, a-ha-ha-ha-hah, you can see but you can’t approach. Jesus came precisely for the reason that we needed what only a perfect man could give — His blood, for the remission of sins. Not for His own sins, because He had none. He poured out His life’s blood so that our sins could be forgiven.

In so doing, He opened up the way for us to be reconciled to God:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

God with us — to show us Himself, but even more, to live resisting temptation so that He could die a perfect, sinless sacrifice, the only kind His justice could accept, the one His mercy enabled Him to make.

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Published in: on December 21, 2011 at 6:25 pm  Comments (2)  
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