There is sin all around us. We live in a fallen world. How do we keep our eyes focused on Jesus and not fall into the temptations that surround us? We look to Jesus. We look at His last days on this earth, and on how He lived and died as a way to model our lives.
“Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!” In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” (Mark 15: 29-32)
Temptations vs God’s Will
In 1953 Nikos Kazantzakis published an historical novel entitled, “The Last Temptation of Christ.” The book was adapted into the controversial 1988 Martin Scorsese film of the same name. The central thesis of the book is that Jesus, while free from sin, was still subject to fear, doubt, depression, reluctance, and lust. Kazantzakis argues in the novel’s preface that by facing and conquering all of man’s weaknesses, Jesus struggled to do God’s will, without ever giving in to the temptations of the flesh. The novel advances the argument that, had Jesus succumbed to any such temptation, especially the opportunity to save himself from the cross, his life would have held no more significance than that of any other philosopher. (Source Wikipedia)
I believe Jesus, in his humanity, was fully and completely tempted throughout his life and especially, in his last hours, to “come down from the cross!”
1. What kept Him up there?
The author of Hebrews writes, “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5: 7-10)
In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus intense prayer caused him to sweat drops of blood, while his disciples fought to stay awake. When questioned by the most powerful man in the land, he spoke not a word in his own defense. Consider the remarks of a friend of mine, “Can you imagine the weight of His plight? Fully human, tempted at every turn to sin?
To lie when asked if He was God’s Son or the Messiah.
To lust as Mary Magdalene anointed His feet with her hair.
To steal when He and His disciples were hungry.
To turn away from the demanding crowds the Father had led to Him because He was tired.
To retaliate against the enemies who wanted Him dead.
He was capable of sin, but a single sin would sever Him from the Father and damn the entire human race forever.
What weight upon His shoulders!
What incredible cost if He gave in to temptation even once!
A single sin would – what else? – bring spiritual death upon Him like every human He came to save!!!”
Jesus was singly focused on his assignment and seemingly undistracted (although tempted greatly) by the world around him.
Temptations & Free Will
2. Why was he so focused?
The writer of Hebrews reminds us why he endured the temptation to sin. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4: 14 – 16)
Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. And no one takes this honor on himself, but he receives it when called by God, just as Aaron was.
In the same way, Christ did not take on himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father.” (Hebrews 5: 1-5)
Against the temptation he would face, He could hold out only by complete submission to and dependence upon the Father all the days of his life. His constant prayers therefore were “with loud crying and tears” because only the Father could save Him from spiritual death. And, “and he was heard because of his reverence.” Again my friend reminds, “If physical death were in mind here we couldn’t say the Father “heard” Him because He did die. Jesus prayed so intensely not for fear of physical death, rather he wanted the Father to keep him from Spiritual death. Jesus the man feared Spiritual death most, and it is that fear from which He came to deliver us!
3. Why didn’t he come down and keep preaching?
Because Jesus was ultimately sent into the world for one purpose; He is The Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sins of the World.
He was fulfilling His calling. He could not do this without staying up on the cross and giving His life.
Jesus walked the talk, desiring to demonstrate his love for the Father and desire to fulfill his mission giving His physical life in the process. His life and death is both our salvation and an example of what it means to serve the Lord; “Obedience (being) greater than sacrifice.” (1 Samuel 15:22)
Do you know what your calling is in life? So many of us spend our life doing what we are successful at, what we may be good at or what we are stuck in. But is this what God has called us to do?
Does sin, ego, money or pride keep pulling you away from your family and faith? How can you use Jesus’ example of obedience to Overcome your Temptations?
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