Monday March 13, 2023
UP TO A HIGH PLACE
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.
Could the high place of glory in your heart and mine become the low place of humble service that it was for Jesus? It is a common notion that we see the world not as it is, but as we are. In other words, none of us sees the world objectively; we have perspectives and sight based on our brains and heart, and we look for certain things in order to see them.
What the devil saw as a high place for Jesus, and what celebrities and politicians see as a high place for themselves, was a low place for Jesus. Jesus was seeing the high place not as it was, but as he was.
For Jesus, the high place in his heart had just taken place in his baptism. He was seen by his Father, and he saw his Father and the Spirit at the same time. Jesus’s experience of love in those waters, I will contend, was the high point of his life. To know we are seen by God, to have our identity and purpose spoken clearly by God, to be overwhelmed by God’s great affection for us—that is the high place in Jesus’s heart.
But the best the devil had to offer was from a vantage point for self-serving power, acclaim, and privilege. He wanted to give Jesus the power to do whatever he wanted, with whomever he wanted, wherever he wanted. He was chipping away at Jesus’s wants—his desires—and was finding Jesus’s desires utterly foreign to the ones that haunted other human beings.
Could the highest place in your heart and mine become the low place of humble service that it was for Jesus—a low place of humble fellowship with God, humble communion with others on the same journey into Christ, humble worship oriented around seeing the world served, the poor fed, the captives set free, and the human heart loved back to life?
Glancing ahead, in Luke 4, Jesus will leave the wild in the power of the Spirit, enter a synagogue, and begin to proclaim the high places of the kingdom of God—places where “the year of the Lord’s favor” (v. 19) does not mean acclaim or big houses, but rather the transformation of the human heart by Christians offering selfless, cruciform love in Jesus’s name.
The devil’s high place was a low place to Jesus; Jesus’s high place was a low place to the devil. He couldn’t be convinced of what many hearts today are so easily convinced of—that power turned upon oneself, the accumulation of wealth, the honor offered by others, even the acclaim that comes from generosity and benevolence—is the highest place that one could attain.
Jesus blessed what was unseen. And he knew that changing a human heart was worth more than all the kingdoms of the world. We can live from this perspective, that to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly” (Micah 6:8) with our God is the highest place to which we could be led.
The devil simply took Jesus to the wrong place. He wasn’t tempted, because his heart wasn’t in it. In this, Jesus passed the test that Israel’s kings and power brokers, even the great King David, never could.
How does the low place of service feel in comparison to the devil’s high place of honor and accumulation? What are the differences in the feelings associated with each, and how can we train our hearts to love the feeling that comes with the former?
Lord of the Wild, our high place is fed by the vision of the good life, the high place, that is pumped our way by media of every sort. We choose to feed our vision of the good life, the high place, by choosing the low place and humbly serving in loving communion with you. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Songs for the Wilderness
First 15 through the season of Lent is adapted from Jesus in the Wild: Lessons of Calling for Life in the World available through Seedbed. If you or your small group are interested in using this resource for your Lenten study, you can find more information here or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The First 15
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