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Monday, December 4, 2023

Pastor Nelda’s Notes

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This Week’s Notes – March 7, 2022

During Lent the church often focuses on resisting temptation, repentance and the passion of Jesus. This week’s text reminds us that our capacity to repent and resists temptation comes from our relationship with God and the God’s grace for our deliverance rather than from our own strength and initiative.

The reading in Luke 4:1-13 is the familiar story of Jesus’ temptation by the devil in the wilderness. There are accounts of this story in Mark, Matthew and Luke. Each account is unique from the others. We will focus on Luke’s account of Jesus’ temptation. As we read Luke’s version carefully, we can see two competing stories: the story that Jesus taps into in order to resist the devil and successfully navigate the temptations laid before him and the narrative the devil presents.

Much of the story takes place in the dialogue between Jesus and the devil. We know that Jesus was hungry after fasting for 40 days. During those days of fasting he was being tempted by the devil. The account here is of the final three temptations that Jesus encounters at the end of those 40 days. In each temptation, the devil speaks first and Jesus replies. The story ends when the devil finishes the temptation and leaves Jesus, for the time being. Remember that the devil is always testing us. That’s why we must be sure to resist the devil and lean and depend on Jesus.

Underlying the dialogue between the devil and Jesus there are two storylines. The devil offers a storyline of self-indulgence (make yourself bread from stones), self-aggrandizement (all the nations of the world will belong to you if you worship me), and self-serving religious identity (if you are the son of God cast yourself from the top of the temple). Meanwhile, Jesus responds using quotations from the Old Testament that show awareness of the true source of life and identity. Jesus knows that life is more than food. His reliance is on God, the only one worthy of true worship and service. Jesus understands God’s character. Jesus knows God does not want to be tested. Jesus’ responses are rooted in the fact that he is dependent on God rather than self for life, glory, and identity.

The temptations that the devil presents are aimed at the heart of Jesus’ identity. In Luke 3, Jesus did not have to do anything to prove his identity or to earn commendation as the Son of God. He is declared to be the one who will bring salvation to his people. In the families of the ancient world an adult son was often understood as the father’s representative and the father and the son would work together to accomplish the family goals. The son’s identity, honor, and status is rooted in his family’s honor and status. Jesus does not need to gain these things by giving in to the devil’s temptations.

Both Jesus and the devil quote Scripture. In response to temptation, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy, but it is not enough to know Scripture, we must seek understanding as well. The devil, who quotes from Psalm 91, also knows Scripture. Scripture must be read in light of God’s nature and the life envisioned for God’s people. Such a life is rooted in God’s deliverance and a response of faithful obedience to God rather than in self-reliance, which is the devil’s story.

Join us on Sunday as we explore “Yield Not To Temptation”

“I don’t know how but I know WHO!”
Grace and peace, Pastor Nelda

Dr. Nelda Barrett Murraine is pastor at First United Methodist Church – PO Box 146 – 229 W 4th St. Kennedale, TX 76060

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