St Paul’s UCC
Sunday March 6, 2022
Scripture: Luke 4:1-13
Topic: Take Every Test
This scripture passage is usually referred to as the temptation of Christ. Temptation usually is a desire or being lured, enticed, or encouraged to do something even though we know it is wrong or may be wrong for us. Somewhat like the taking that extra slice of pie after a full meal and a healthy serving of dessert. However, the Greek work that describes what was happening to Jesus during the 40 days in the wilderness in “peirazō” which translates to ‘testing’ rather than temptation. When we think of testing most of our minds go back to school seated at a desk with a #2 pencil writing essays or filling in circles to help our teachers to determine what we know.
This “peirazō”is somewhat different. This is the kind of testing to determine what something is made of. It is the testing involved in determining if someone or something is truly what is said to be. Satan tested Jesus, He offered a hungry Jesus the opportunity to turn bread into stone just to prove that he was the son of God, to which Jesus responded, “man must not live by bread alone.”. The devil offered Jesus (a Jewish man for the poor and dusty town of Nazareth) the riches, power, and privilege of the great kingdoms of the world, if he would bow down and worship Satan. Jesus understood that God was greater than anything the devil could offer. So, Christ responded “‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ On the third time the devil took Jesus up to the top of the temple and told Jesus that if he jumped off the pinnacle, the angels of God would prevent him from harm. Jesus responded, ‘do not put the Lord your God to the test!’
In my travels, I have often been beckoned into jewelry shops on narrow cobblestone streets with offers of “we have the best gold, come I and see.” I am always leery of these invitations because I know that not all yellow metal is gold and not all gold is great quality. But how can you tell? Who can know for sure? It turns out there are several tests that can determine if a yellow metal is really gold. One way is the scratch test. By scratching a piece of gold against an unglazed ceramic plate and observing the color of the streak one can usually tell if this is real gold. Real gold will leave a yellow streak while other metals will leave a dark streak. The touchstone test is another way of testing the purity of real gold. This is done by rubbing the piece of gold against a touchstone until some of the metal makes a mark, then adding nitric acid (which dissolves non-precious metals). Since gold is resistant to oxidation and corrosion from acids, if the streak remains this is usually and indicator that the piece of jewelry is real. Another method is the spark test. The spark test is done by holding a sample of the gold against an abrasive wheel. By visually inspecting the spark stream an experienced jeweler can usually identify the metals accurately since the length, color, and form of the spark stream are different for different metals.
Each of these tests that the devil presented to Jesus was to see what He was made of. He was rubbed up again the physical hunger. Most people who are hungry would probably turn the bread to stone. But the reason the devil presented to Jesus was to prove he was the son of God. Doubts and insecurities can often make us do things to prove our worth. But that is never a good reason for us as followers of Christ. We are told in John 1:12 “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God”, therefore there is no need to let our egos “prove it”. Jesus was then pushed against the touchstone of wealth and power. The test of whether Jesus would succumb to the devil for wealth, power and privilege is not foreign to many of us. Many have sold their very soul and conscience and go against who God calls us to be just to enjoy the benefit that privilege, wealth, and power gives. We see it in the ways we care for the less fortunate or the ways we use our power to make the lives of others better, or not. Jesus did not take the bait. Instead, Jesus chose to put God first “and worship God only.” When given the spark tested by being tested to challenge God to prove Godself taking unnecessary risks, Jesus saw through the trick and responded, “do not tempt God!” I suspect Jesus was hangry by that time because the words used for his response sounded a bit harsh and dismissive.
Like Jesus, we too are presented with our “peirazō”, our tests as we go through life. May we like Jesus not make decisions to prove our worth, we are already the children of God; to seek wealth, power, and privilege at the expense of our souls; nor to do things that calls God to prove God’s self or God’s love for us. May we remember who we are and whose we are. We are children of the most high God and God loves each and every one of us.