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Devotional Part 13

13 May 2021

Matthew 4:1-11

We return to the scene of Jesus temptation in the wilderness, this time from the recollections of Matthew.

Here we have the detail we lacked in Mark’s account, so we can begin to answer that question regarding how Jesus was tempted in the flesh?

Jesus has been fasting forty days and nights, and Scripture tells us, in what can only be considered a dramatic understatement, that He was hungry.

The Devil appears to Jesus and says, “if you’re so hungry, why not simply turn these stones into bread. You’ve got the power to do it, so why not use it?”

The Devil tempts Jesus to eat. Now nothing wrong withering, nothing wrong with satisfying His hunger. It is the way in which the Devil urges Jesus to satisfy what is a right hunger by illegitimate means, by an illegitimate use of His power.

The temptation is to satisfy a right hunger/desire by illegitimate means.

Surely there is something important here.

What so often happens is that we have a right and natural desire, desires for a right thing that we wish to satisfy. However, the flesh takes that which is a right desire and perverts it by tempting us to pursue the satisfaction of that desire through illegitimate means.

So we have whatever faculty that gives rise to the desire, in this instance it is the stomach aching for food. That desire then passes through some sort of processing plant where it is recognised but which then continually comes up with illegitimate means by which to fulfil those desires.

Whatever that processing plant is, it is constantly spitting out lemons instead of cherries. It’s in desperate need of recalibration. It takes right desires and mangles them so that we no longer recognise the proper means by which those desires ought to be fulfilled. Instead it bombards us with illegitimate means by which to fulfil those desires, producing in us attitudes and actions in line with its mangled perception. We then look at the attitudes and actions manifested in our lives, point to our mangled perceptions produced by that processing plant, and say our actions are justified.

Surely, this processing plant is what the Scripture refers to as ‘the flesh’.

The flesh takes our right desires and mangles them so that they become so distorted that we no longer recognise them for what they are, for what they were intended to be, for what purpose the originally were to serve, or the proper context into which those dishes ought to be understood. We only see what the flesh allows us to see.

We are then bombarded by illegitimate means of satisfying those desires, and act according to the means proscribed by the flesh.

We only see what the fallen twisted nature of the flesh lets us see, and we act in accordance with its dictates because we find it so easy to justify our actions, our sins, because of our flesh. There’s always a perfectly good reasonable explanation for why I did what I did, and I was justified in my own eyes for doing so.

We are always right in our own eyes because we only see what the flesh lets us see, we can’t see it any other way.

As such, we never see rightly, always see slanted, always skewed towards the self. We can’t see reality as it actually stands or ourselves as we actually are.

We are blind and in need of healing, of having our sight restored, of having our hearts and minds recalibrated at the most fundamental level.

Jesus, on the other hand, rebuffs the attempts of the enemy to skew His vision of what is right and appropriate.

You are hungry. Make bread from the stones.

Jesus replies, “Man cannot live on bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Jesus refuses to use His power to satisfy His desires. Instead He rightly frames reality under God’s revelation. Bread and the belly are important, but only when you understand what they are and what their proper use is to be. He gives context to food, His hunger, His life, and all reality under the authoritative revelation that comes through Gods’ Word.

In doing so, He is also stating His trust in reality and His place within it, as it has been revealed by The Father. He is stating His commitment to and trust in the Father to supply all His needs.

This calls to mind Jesus words elsewhere “I have food that you know not of, to do the will of my Father”.

The Word is essential in overcoming the flesh. It frames reality as it truely is, giving us a context for who we are, His purpose in creating us, the natural and right desires that are a part of our embodied reality as human beings, and how those desires ought to properly be satisfied.

However, it is not only in knowing the Word that we can overcome the temptations presented to us by the flesh, but it is in entrusting ourselves to the One who has given us His word and so much more.

Q: Are the flesh and the will the same thing, or is the will a product of the flesh?

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