MySpiritualAdvisor.com present Mark Kurowski’s reflection, “Awkward Teen: A Reflection on Matthew 4:1-11.” Kurowski investigates how the selfcenteredness that we feel as a teen is part of what we need to shed and face to become like Jesus who faces satan in the desert.
Please stop this audio or stop reading the blog and read the Gospel of Matthew 4.1-11.
How many of us thought that we were somehow different than everyone else when we were teenagers? We have a penchant for focusing on all the things which we perceive to be wrong with us when we are teenagers, don’t we? I think that part of that is that we are beginning to think of being attractive to the opposite sex. When we begin to evaluate ourselves, we want to be ‘hot’ or ‘sexy’ for the opposite sex. How many of us felt attractive when we were in our teenage or junior high bodies?
I remember Buddy from High School. Buddy thought he was all that. Buddy was an athlete. Buddy was big. Buddy was loud. Buddy had sufficiently quaffed 1980s hair. Buddy thought he was the center of the universe. Unfortunately, Buddy ended up having no friends because no one could stand to be in Buddy’s presence. Of course, I am not sure that mattered to Buddy. Nonetheless, Buddy is an exaggeration of how we all were as teenagers: self absorbed with how we talked, how looked and how we stood in relation to others in high school. In a way, this making ourselves the center of the world is something common to all of us. This is nothing out of the ordinary.
The original sin of humanity is that we try to be like God. We are still participating in the original sin, thinking we can fudge a little here and maybe give ourselves a little slack there in keeping God’s word. It’s OK, we have determined, because God is up there and we are the ones who live the day to day thing. Since the time of Adam, who decided the fruit was good to eat, we have been continuing in that same line of thinking.
When we sit there and say, “Oh, no one will know the difference,” “No one will miss it.” “The good I can achieve with this is better than anything that my not obeying God could hurt. So I am going to do it anyway,” we say to ourselves. As teenagers we said, “I am too fat. I have too many freckles. I don’t like the way God made me look, etc.” We are thinking that God made a mistake with us. This Adam’s temptation says that we know better than God how things ought to be. We are not the only one who has been tempted with putting ourselves and our opinions before the will of God.
Jesus himself, in the Gospel Lesson for this first Sunday of Lent, is tempted by Satan, too. Yet, instead of going along with the sin of Adam, Jesus rights the wrongs of Adam. He corrects the things that Adam did wrong. He does not assume that a plan that benefits him personally is better than the plan that the Father in Heaven has for all of humanity.
That is why it is that he says, “No, no, and no,” to the devil.
Here we have Jesus in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights, similar to the forty years that the Israelites spent in the wilderness. They wandered because they did not trust the plan that God had set for them to take the Promised Land. They did not believe that God was powerful enough to deliver the Promised Land into their hands.
Both Israel’s lack of trust in God’s plan and Adam’s lack of trust in God’s commandments puts us above God in judgment. These are the temptations that Jesus undoes in his encounter in the wilderness. Though hungry, he does not use his divinity to satisfy himself. Though divine, he does not try to show off his power. Though the Son of God, he does not seek to place himself above the Father. In all of these things, Jesus is obedient to God’s plan and purpose. By doing so, he restores all things to their proper place.
I appreciate what Christ has done for us, but if I had my druthers, I wouldn’t be going out to a wild, dark and unforgiving place like the deserts of Palestine for the express purpose of facing down satan. That is what this text says!
Some of us handle the problem of temptation by saying that the devil doesn’t exist. In Greek, the Gospel refers to him as “the one who tempts”. The grand angel who fell from the sky is the One Who Tempts. We may not want to face it, so we deny it.
I remember when my oldest was a little boy, we used to play hide and seek. He would hide in the closet and yell really loudly, “I’m hiding!” I would creep through the house and say, “Son, where are you?” He would shout really loudly, “I’m hiding – in the closet!”
Well, we can try to hide from the idea of the devil because we don’t want to face him, but as long as there is temptation, that means that there is the one who is the tempter tempting us. It is like saying, ‘I’m hiding in the closet:” I’m tempted but there is no tempter. In fact, there are many tempters. This is why Jesus is able to say to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan.”
It may make us feel a little better if we reflect on the fact that the tempter is one who cannot overcome Jesus. He is not able to overpower the one who reverses the failures of Adam and the failures of the Israelites. Our passage today shows us that Jesus is the One who restores humanity through his obedience even before he gets to the Cross.
Since all of us have been made a part of Christ in our baptism into him, then we are restored and we have the power to resist temptation ourselves through Christ. Whether a teenager on adult, we have the power to resist temptation in the hallways, on the factory floor or in the office or home by trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit given us in our baptism.
So, in the time of Lent, we are in the process of restoring our faith in God. Unlike the Israelites and Adam, we do not want to fall to the temptation of being satisfied with bread or whatever. Nor do we want to fall to the temptation thinking that our aggrandizement is better than God’s plan. Nor do we want to be tempted into following some other God. Whether a teenager or adult, we want to follow Jesus Christ as The way, the truth and the life. We want to follow him and be enthused about our faith. The only way to that is to follow Jesus into the wilderness of Lent, empty ourselves of our self absorption and be filled with the Holy Spirit in our prayers and Bible readings. Amen? Amen.
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