Who has heard the phrase “that makes my blood boil?” I had heard it growing up, and knew it meant someone was angry. I didn’t quite understand the origin of the phrase...until I taught high school math. I don’t know what happened exactly in the classroom, but a student said or did something and I felt a rush of energy start at my toes and rise through to my head. I had to take a breath and remind myself to not react. It was tempting to do so, though.
I am sure many of you understand that “blood boiling” feeling and the temptation to let that rage out. It is sometimes when we are most challenged - when the core of who we are is challenged or someone we love is threatened - that we are most tempted to rage.
“Temptation.” It means the desire to do something - either good or bad. Most often, it’s referring to the desire to do something labeled “bad.” We don’t often say “I’m tempted to eat that delicious, nutritious apple.” We say “I’m tempted to eat that entire pizza!” or “I was so mad, I was tempted to smack her.”
What comes to mind when you think of temptation? When you hear “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” what comes to mind? I think many of us think of those ugly “sins” - gossiping, adultery, stealing, etc.
What do you think was in Jesus’ mind when he prayed those words?
Let’s look at what temptations Jesus faced in his life. I included the deja vu Scripture today because the Gospels offer a unique opportunity at certain stories of Jesus’ life where multiple Gospels tell the same story. Today, specifically, we read of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, being tempted.
Though the Matthew and Luke accounts tell the order differently, both name three specific temptations. First, they both start with the temptation of bread. Jesus was famished; bread would’ve been so satisfying. It was a temptation to use Divine power for personal use. Yet, Jesus resists.
Second for Matthew, but third for Luke, is the temptation to throw himself off the Temple roof and be found safe. It is the temptation to test God; to prove God’s power in front of others. This temptation would be a public display of testing God - of bringing into question God’s character, yet proving it. What a great ministry outreach, right? Crossan states that “for us to test/tempt God is to doubt - at least momentarily - God’s fidelity to God’s own covenantal character.” (The Greatest Prayer, 171) Again, Jesus resists.
Third for Matthew, but second for Luke, is the temptation to assert power over the kingdoms of the world. This is such an interesting one because we would think “well, God does have power to reign already;” however, this temptation is to reign over the kingdoms of the world - of the earth. Evil has no authority to offer power to God’s kingdom - only earthly kingdoms. As we’ve seen in other weeks of our Lenten study, those kingdoms, specifically the Roman kingdom of that time, were ruled through violence. This temptation “concerns violence done for the name, kingdom, and will of God on this earth.” (174)
As Crossan writes, “To obtain and possess the kingdoms of the world, with their power and glory, by violent injustice is to worship Satan. To obtain and possess the kingdom, the power, and the glory by nonviolent justice is to worship God.” (173) Jesus was tempted to reign over violent kingdoms for God’s name. Yet, Jesus resisted.
These temptations progress through private to communal to systemic temptations. Jesus was tempted through all three, yet resisted.
A particularly interesting part of the Lord’s Prayer and in these stories of Jesus’ temptation is the Creator’s role. In Matthew 4:1 it says that Jesus was “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” A few chapters later in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus prays “do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
It’s almost a plea to God saying “please don’t let that happen again!”
Jesus prayed to be delivered from temptations...possibly having in mind the temptations he had recently faced....temptations that were private, that were communal, and that were systemic. Temptations to misuse God’s power, temptations to test God, temptations to use violence in God’s name. He asked for God’s help in staying away from and resisting those temptations.
Surely, we understand those temptations. We don’t necessarily have the Divine power to change a stone into bread or to stop a person falling from a building. However, humans have a long history of misusing God’s name for our interest, our own agendas.
In the time in history where Jesus lived, Roman rule was heavy. Crossan points out that there were major violent rebellions in Jesus’ homeland during his generation - at 4 BCE (right around Jesus’ birth) and then around 66 CE. Jesus lived in the lull in between where there were “a series of nonviolent reactions to Roman control.” (166)
So, what was in Jesus’ mind as he prayed the Lord’s Prayer? What was in his mind as he prayed “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil?” Crossan suggests that this prayer was “about avoiding violence even or especially when undertaken to hallow God’s name, to establish God’s kingdom, and thereby to fulfill God’s will ‘as in heaven so on earth.’” (168)
As we heard a few weeks ago when we studied “thy kingdom come, thy will be done,” we see again that Jesus was trying to spread a message of non-violence in contrast to the existing violent Roman oppression. And, again, we have to recognize that we have violence in our culture today.
And, again, hopefully we can agree that nonviolence is the goal, though, not always a present reality.
This is especially important as we enter Holy Week. This is the week in the life of the church when we remember that Jesus was arrested, mocked, and crucified. During his arrest, one of the disciples drew his sword and struck one of the high priests, but Jesus told him to lay their sword down. Surely, they would’ve been right to defend him! They weren’t offensively attacking; it was defense.
I don’t know that I could have done the same - put down a weapon when a person I cared deeply for was being attacked. Jesus cared so deeply about this message of non-violent resistance, though, that he was willing to die a violent death.
Looking at today and the previous two weeks we see Jesus praying for daily bread AND to forgive debts AND to not be led to temptation. After investigating some of what may have influenced him to pray these things, they no longer seem like three separate requests to me.
Yes, I think taken individually, they still make sense and are good things to pray for. We need God’s provision from Creation of our daily needs. We need to be reminded of forgiveness; to extend to others the grace we would want extended to ourselves. We need to recognize that we are tempted to do things that do not honor God.
Grammatically, these phrases are linked in the Lord’s Prayer by “and.” I believe it links them philosophically, as well. I can see how having daily needs met (like food, lodging, safety) leads to not living indebted to another person (whether financially or metaphorically) leads to not being tempted (to misuse God’s name for power or to justify violence). I can see how, with these words, Jesus was pleading further for what he prayed for in the first half of the prayer...that God’s name be honored in the implementing of God’s ruling style.
I believe this portion of the Lord’s Prayer reminds us to pray for strength to not fall into the world’s patterns, but to seek wisdom & help in forging a different path. A path that reminds us to check ourselves when our blood boils. A path that is working towards non-violence and is presently non-violent. A path that forges a new way.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Our Householder of all the earth, may our actions bring honor to your reputation.
May your ruling style be implemented, may your eternal vision of wise choices be fulfilled.
May all share equally in what You and Your creation provide.
And forgive the debts we owe you and the ways we have harmed your Household, as we forgive the debts others owe us and the harms they have caused us.
And give us strength to resist using violence in Your name, giving us wisdom to forge a different path, away from the evil temptations of this earth.
Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13