Christ in the Valley of the Shadow of Death (Devotional)

Today’s Reading: Matthew 4

(Context: After fasting 40 days and nights, the physical limit, Jesus Christ is tempted by Satan. Three assaults are withstood and Jesus is finally left in peace)

I have been teaching in Trujillo, Peru over these last few weeks in a couple Bible Schools here. It is such a privilege to learn new things in order to teach them, as my classes include Church History and Christology.

Christology especially has been a challenge for me, as I have never taken a class on the subject, much less taught it. This drove me to look into God’s Word, from Old to New Testament, also forcing me to look at a variety of books and commentaries. By the way, I would highly recommend Alister McGrath’s work on this, Heresy, as he delves into the historical side of the great and ancient debate.

Tomorrow morning I will be delving into Matthew 4, Christ’s impeccability, as Theologians call it. It just so happens that my daily reading leads me to this very passage. I’d like to point out a few things briefly, to bring you to be thankful for Christ’s humanity.

“…one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

A lot is made in Theology of Christ’s Divinity, as we often discount his complete humanity. Part of orthodoxy is holding on to both truths with equal passion, as the Nicene Creed so clearly states:

“We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being (literally: of the same likeness) with the Father; through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary and became truly human.”

Heresies in the 300’s and 400’s attempted, either willfully or accidentally, to strip Christ of either His Divinity or humanity, or to try to reinterpret Him as a person who was less one part and more another (as in 1% human and 99% Divine, as with the heresy of Monophysitism).

In my study of Christology, I have come to once again appreciate the humanity of Christ, without depreciating His Deity. He was 100% human, entirely human in every sense. He was identical to us, except for being without sin. He cried, He “filled His diapers”, He grew, He learned to walk, He went to school and learned to read and write, He hungered and thirsted, He grew tired, He had longings and emotions, He prayed, He learned to wait, He suffered, He was rejected and felt lonely, and He even died.

He was also tempted. God Incarnate was tempted just as we are.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Why?

“…He had to be made like his brothers (us!) in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17)

No place better do we see him being tempted, as we are. He withstood Satan’s “best shot”. He was fully tempted and did not sin. Here Theologians like to ask, well “could He sin?” That leads to a discussion on His impeccability or peccability. I agree that He could not sin, yet I think the discussion misses the point. He did not sin, it doesn’t matter if He could have or couldn’t have, because it’s a “what if”. A “what if” that never happened.

The point that God is making, through John, is that God the Son understands us, He was there, He lived through the worst level of temptation known to man. He was hungry, thirsty, tired, waiting for God the Father to end His torture, and then He was terribly tempted in such a desperate state. 

He did it to prove to us that it can be done. That victory can be won by those who 1. trust in God to be better than sin, and 2. use Scripture to attain strength. The argument can be made that since Jesus was God, this temptation was just “for show”, since it couldn’t actually affect Him. That seems useless then, and it also seems to make the author of Hebrews a liar.

Jesus willingly put aside His Divine abilities, according to Philippians 2, and allowed God to lead and direct Him, like sheep behind its master. Christ was like us in every respect. That means He understands when I am tired, hungry, stressed-out, and tempted. He knows we all have different weaknesses. Satan offered Jesus the Kingdom, “now”. Satan offers us money, sex, gluttony, self-pity, pride, etc. He knows us, he studies us, and wants us to fail. Are you not thankful that Jesus also knows you. He knows our weaknesses, our points where we most easily fall, and He promises to help us. For He who is in us is greater than Satan’s greatest temptations.

He is in us, for us, and with us:

“…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Thank you Jesus. Not only do you save me in the future, you want to save me now. Here in my weakness. Here in our sins. Here in the darkness and depression of this world. Here in our “valley of the shadow of death”.

You are with us. You are with me. Thank you Jesus. 

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