Wednesday March 8, 2023
TELL THIS STONE TO BECOME BREAD
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.”
Let’s sit, for a moment, on the verb tell. It is a Greek word that also means “command.” The devil is telling Jesus to command something, to use his power to meet a personal need.
And this is how the three temptations, which reflect the broader test behind this all, begin. Jesus, use your power, presence, and prestige for personal gain.
There it is: yield cruciform love for others to the inward desire to be known and loved by all. Yield suffering for gain. Yield your name as the beloved Son of God! Yield the name Jesus, “the Lord saves.” Save yourself! Preserve yourself!
Look at all those wealth and power who deign to help alleviate some suffering in the world, but rarely to the point of their own suffering. Giving, the kind that breaks chains, will always cost us something. Our skin will be in the game; our blood will be in the battle. That is cruciformity; that is entering into the pain and becoming one with that pain in order to truly break its shackles.
This first temptation is not about bread. It is about power and its misdirection. Every abuse of power we have ever seen in the world—from the power to choose in the garden to the powers that war against the Lord and his Anointed One in Revelation—is rooted in this temptation.
The enemy of your soul and mine is after our power, our agency to act. If he can’t remove it completely, making us feel powerless and falling into utter despair, then he will get us to misdirect and abuse others for our own benefit.
Power used in the ultimate service of self affirms the enemy’s grip on our lives. We can enjoy what God has given us, yes. But we cannot focus on keeping ourselves from suffering with the world by using our power to gain lordship over others. We cannot simply use our power for personal gain.
Our examples of benevolence, even our most noble uses of personal agency, are too weak to stand alongside cruciform love in action. Benevolence is helping someone with my overflow, applying my goodwill and resources to their better fortune.
But what if a friend has no extended family resources to receive any inheritance on either side of their family? What if jobs and saving has been a grueling struggle, exacerbated by a pandemic, and the person has a strong work ethic but lacks the natural or spiritual gift of generating money? What if their place in society fed that lack and they will experience great challenges when they are seventy years old and struggle to work? Where, then, is our agency to act with cruciformity, and how will we act in the world?
It is in the hard and troubling moments that we must choose our path with our time, our energies, and our resources. We only have one life to live, and we choose to live it in the way of Jesus.
Jesus had the power to turn that stone into bread. He chose not to. He’s about to say why. But, for the moment, Jesus is acting with cruciformity in his character set—and that virtue will set the path for his saving work among us.
Is there an area of your life where you have the ability to guide circumstances, and you are choosing to act in love with that power or resource you’ve been given? What has been the result?
Lord of the Wild, we have agency to act on our behalf, on behalf of those we love, and on behalf of those to whom you send us. Help us to discern how to use the power that runs through our hands and influence. Teach us the way of love, that the power we have might find its roots in the greater, contextualizing power of love. 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 email@example.com.
The First 15
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