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March 14, 2016
3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
In Scripture, as in life, things are always unfolding on multiple levels and with many layers. That’s why we keep reading together. We will never exhaust the meaning of Scripture because Scripture is a gift beyond mere human words. Human words most typically report or describe things. The Word of God, through the instrumentality of human language, creates new realities. The meaning of Scripture is not subject to change and yet the meaning carries a quality of inexhaustible newness.
The challenge with Scripture is how it will be interpreted. There are always two primary readings of any biblical text. To put it bluntly, there’s the satanic interpretation and the interpretation of Jesus. To be discipled by Jesus means first and most fundamentally to learn to read Scripture with Jesus and to follow his interpretation which is simultaneously through his words and his ways. This can only be done in the company of his followers through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is what the wilderness is all about—being instructed in the words and ways of God by the Son of God, who is the incarnate Word of God— and all of this in the loving power of the Spirit of God, who dwells within our very bodies to the end of transforming us together into one Body; the Body of Christ, the embodied presence of God at work for the eternal good of the world he loves.
Now go back and read that last doozy of a sentence three or four more times. That is my best summation of what this whole thing is all about.
“If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
First, Satan questions his core identity as the “Son of God,” and asks him to prove it through a demonstration of power. He is asking Jesus to deviate from the story of Israel’s wilderness training, take matters into his own hands, and rather than wait for the gift of bread (manna) to “make it happen.” Secondly, and even more interesting, Satan is commanding Jesus to speak—to “tell these stones to become bread.” Satan is seeking to shape the word of God through the words of the Son of God to get something done in a way contrary to the ways of God.
As we will see tomorrow, Satan reads scripture. He knows the story, and he will do anything in his power to cause confusion and chaos for the entire creation. (See also Genesis 3) The Word of God is the battlefield itself.
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
To read Scripture with Jesus is to ingest the Word of God, to depend on it as we depend on food. It means to read in a way that nourishes our true and deepest identity as the sons and daughters of God and to interpret it through our lives.
In closing, I want to give you an assignment. Do you remember the literal last word that “came from the mouth of God” prior to Jesus season in the wilderness? If you can’t remember, look it up. That’s what he was eating through those forty days. It’s the only thing that will ultimately satisfy and sustain you and me.
1. Do you know what it’s like to be asked to prove yourself or your worth through some kind of performance? How do you see that at work in today’s text? How does Jesus respond? How might that inform your response to such demands?
2. What does it mean to you to “read Scripture with Jesus?” Do you see the temptations, both subtle and plain, to read Scripture in ways contrary to the way Jesus reads and lives it?
3. What does it mean to you to “eat the Word of God;” to depend on it like food? How do you see that happening in your life?
4. How might this baptismal word of your worth and belovedness become a word you learn to feast on–in the face of the myriad of lies the world calls us to build our identity and life on?
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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. firstname.lastname@example.org.