God moves into the desert

Published 10:59 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2019

By Charles Qualls

Jesus moved a lot. Ever try to follow Him in a geographic sense? He didn’t stay anywhere for very long.

Our local Faith on Draft group just took on recently the subject of Jesus’ human and divine realities. For an hour one night upstairs at Fred’s, we relaxed and trusted each other. We shared in honesty of what we’ve read, noticed, pondered and believed about whether Jesus was fully God or fully human, or some ambivalent mix of both at the same time.

God in Christ during the New Testament gospels was a whirlwind of movement into a fuller development of a world that could be. God in Christ was also moving toward a cataclysmic showdown with humanity at the Cross. This week we explore Luke 4: 1-13.

A theme we’ll be following for the next few weeks at our church, informed by the Lectionary, is “God on the move.” These Scripture texts will help us watch Jesus move from temptation to condemnation through his teaching and miracles and finally through the story of his death and resurrection.

As writer Jessica LaGrone points out about these Lectionary texts, Jesus will not only move from one place to the next, he will also move through every part of the human experience, encountering everything from temptation to joy, to suffering and even of course death.

Moving can always bring some uncertainty, questions and a period of reorientation. After what the Jews would describe as at least 400 years of God’s silence that turn of the page in your Bibles between the Old Testament and the New, God went on the move.

Then again, maybe we don’t understand how God had been moving during those quiet years. Readying humanity for the coming of the promised One.

Moving creates stress and uncertainty under the best of circumstances. When you begin an exciting new chapter, you close down in some ways a previous one. You make new friends, and add richness to your life. But, you leave behind friends and loved ones. Now, everything you do feels like it involves a decision.

Going on the move causes us to learn new things about ourselves. We seem to reinvent ourselves any time we move, even if it’s just across town.

The season of Lent brings us a chance to move inward as we watch God on the move. During Lent, we move deeper into the Biblical story of Jesus’ journey on earth, as well as into our own inward landscape to see things God wants to show us about ourselves.

When God took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, God moved into a whole new neighborhood. God came to be with us in human form. Finally experiencing what it was like to live as one of us.

The more I read the circumstances here, and the more I read the exchange between characters in our text, I am chilled at what happened. Jesus was following the Holy Spirit out into a time of retreat before the inevitable beginning of His own earthly ministry. There, He met temptation.

I am convinced that, however you choose to visualize the words we hear in this we need to understand that He was confronted by pure evil.

We all are, from time to time. It’s just that most of the evil that confronts us is so everyday, so familiar, so tempting that we don’t even see it coming.

God moved into the desert and immediately found a reminder of what it is to be human. Offers of power … food … glory … a failsafe life kept from harm. Jesus was offered anything that we could find appealing and good.

Truth is, at least as I read it, we don’t know what all was offered. We don’t really know for how long this went on. It appears that we only got the executive summary in this list of temptations the gospel of Luke records here. Verse 13 only gives a vague ending to it all, as if it had gone on for a while.

Lent demands that we eventually notice the story is only partly about the temptations. It is even more about Jesus’ choice and our choice, also to obey God. Because the way of God that is to be obeyed is also, in a strange and cosmic way, the way of freedom for our lives and for the lives of others all around us.

Or as one writer says, “Lent is our invitation to embrace an intentional way of life that is shaped and guided by God.”

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.