Resistance is not futile
A three-year-old entered the kitchen when his mother was busy elsewhere in the house. She had told him not to get into the cookies. But in her absence, he pulled a kitchen chair over to the counter and climbed up on it. Then he took the lid off the cookie jar and had just gotten a cookie into his mouth when his mother entered the room and demanded to know what he was doing. The three-year-old looked at her with big, innocent eyes and said, "I just climbed up here to smell the cookies, and my tooth got caught on one of them."
My trick was always looking and looking for two cookies that stuck together and then explaining I couldn’t take just one… they were stuck together.
Last week I preached about the incarnation: Jesus being fully God and fully human. This week Jesus’ humanity confronts the fullness of what it means to live in a fallen world.
Let’s back up for a moment to Jesus’ baptism. What a high point. What a Mountain Top experience that must have been. I remember by baptism renewal in the Jordan River, not too far from where Jesus was likely baptized by John, as if it was yesterday. I remember the cold water, the feeling of giving over control to Rev.Collins, the way the icy water on my face seemed to take away my breath and I thought I would never see sunlight again. And I remember the sight of the sun streaming through the trees as I emerged from the cold grave-like water. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was definitely one of those mountain top experiences of my life.
For Jesus, you have to add to that the voice coming from heaven “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED… OR YOU ARE MY BELOVED SON IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.” And THEN add to that the dove that descended on him. He must have been flying as high as a kite.
• All of his suspicions were confirmed and
• all the funny little smirks would finally be put to rest.
• “Now,” I’ll bet he thought, “I can get on with saving the world!
• Now I can get on with being the savior I was sent here to be.” What a day!
But before he knew it. Before his hair was even dry, he was whisked from the heights of human joy and anticipation to experience the very depths of human depravity and temptation. (CLICK SLIDE 1 TO FADE INTO THE VIDEO)
“Jesus was led up by the spirit in the wilderness.” The language of Mk. 1:12 is even stronger, “Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.”
This is the wilderness. You know the wilderness! We have all been there. Feeling
• helpless, and maybe even
• hopeless. When we are in the wilderness of our lives we are likely to fall for anything: the voice in our head, the voice in our stomachs, the voice of our loneliness, the voice of desperation. I know the battle against temptation and I’ll just bet you do too.
Jesus did too. Far from home. Far from civilization. Far from all that is familiar and secure. In those 40 days and 40 nights of fasting, and praying, and searching, something happened to Jesus. He heard the voice of the father of lies.
• … You aren’t who you think you are
• … No one believes you
• …Just prove it
• …Don’t trust God
• …God has abandoned you
• …If you were really who you say you are, you would do this
• …You can be the ruler of the world… if you bow down to me.
This was not a show for our benefit. This was not a demonstration of Jesus power. It was not an imaginary drama. This is not a parable taught for our edification. This is an all too real battle raging in the heart and mind of Christ against the very same powers and principalities we face every day. In short hand, he was at war with sin.
There are a couple of things we need to understand.
FIRST… This is a real battle.
Jesus had a lot of strikes against him.
• He was young: you know how we are when we are young we think we are 10 feet tall and made of steel. He was hungry. 40 days and 40 nights fasting is a long time and you can bet he was ready for some bread.
• He was vulnerable. Coming off the high of the baptism and the voice from heaven and the dove and all that, Jesus had a long way to fall. Wouldn’t you be pretty cocky after that? The higher we are the farther we have to fall.
• He had been in that lonely place for 40 days. It would have only been human nature to begin to doubt himself, his calling, and even God. It would only be human nature to think, I deserve better than this. I deserve to rule the world. But he would be wrong.
Some say that since Jesus was God he could not have sinned. If that were true, there would be no temptation, no battle, and no victory. Jesus could just flick Satan off his shoulder and say, “scat.”
Of course, Jesus could sin. He was after all fully human. To be vulnerable to sin in part of what it means to be human. To say that Jesus could not have sinned is to take the air out of the temptation and turn it into a morality play. This was a real war with sin.
Second, remember, however, that Jesus is 100% human and 100% God. That means that just as the battle was real, so was the victory. When Jesus finally defeated the tester in the wilderness, it was a real victory, that was the very first fruits in Jesus victory over sin and death for you and me.
We often say that Jesus conquered sin on the cross. And he did, in an ultimate way. But one battle does not usually make a war. Jesus’ battle against sin started here in the wilderness, if not earlier.
• Jesus won a victory over sin whenever he healed the sick or
• raised the dead.
• Jesus won victory over evil when he cast out a demon.
• Jesus won victory over hypocrisy when he put the Pharisees in their place.
• Jesus won victory over scarcity when he fed the 5000.
• Jesus won victory over fear when he faced his captors in the garden of Gethsemane. Being human Jesus was really, really tempted. Make no mistake about that. But being God, Jesus was ultimately victorious over sin and death in his life, in his death, and in his resurrection.
As the Union Pacific Railroad was being constructed, an elaborate trestle bridge was built across a large canyon in the West. Wanting to test the bridge, the builder loaded a train with enough extra cars and equipment to double its normal payload. The train was then driven to the middle of the bridge, where it stayed an entire day. One worker asked, “Are you trying to break this bridge?”
“ No,” the builder replied, “I’m trying to prove that the bridge won’t break.” In the same way, the temptations Jesus faced might have been intended by the tempter to see if Christ would break, but they were used by God to prove that He wouldn’t. And by not breaking, he won victory over all sin for all time.
That is the upper story. Christ’s victory over sin. This story has lower story implications though too.
First, Jesus won victory over physical temptation. For him it was food. The story says he had fasted for 40 days and he was hungry. For us it might be that extra piece of cake that we really don’t need, to skip the exercise that we do, that third or fourth or 5th beer or of the evening. For us it might be lust or adultery. For us the physical temptation might be to invest ourselves in the material things of this world instead of the spiritual things of the kingdom. For us the physical or material temptation might be too strong to resist, but in Jesus we have already won victory over those temptations and his victory is ours to claim.
Second Jesus won victory over doubt. “If you are the son of God prove it.” Satan was trying to plant doubt in Jesus. “IF you are the son of God.” IF you are a Christian. IF you are really forgiving. IF you are really called. IF you are really saved. IF there is really a God. IF, IF, IF. Doubt is not the opposite of faith, but it is the great temptation to those who have faith. Jesus won the victory over doubt and his victory is ours to claim.
Finally, Jesus won a victory over the ego. Think about that last temptation. All this can be yours. All the world can be yours. All the power and prestige can be yours. All the fame and fortune can be yours. All he kingdoms of the world can be yours.
For us it might be you can be the envy of the neighborhood if you just have this car, if you just go on this diet, if you just wear these shoes, if you just wear the right perfume, if you just have enough electronics, if you … you can keep the list going. But it isn’t the stuff that is important. This is not the temptation to material things I talked about, this is the temptation to thinking ourselves better than our neighbor. This is the temptation to put ourselves at the center of the world, maybe not as its ruler, but as though the sun rises and sets out of our belly button. Perhaps for us, the temptation to think more highly of ourselves than we ought is one of the greatest temptations. I deserve better than that. I’m as good as they are. I should have gotten that raise… you know how it is. The most difficult diet is not the one that keeps our waist trim, but the one that keeps our egos from blooming unrealistically out of control. Jesus beat that temptation to egocentricity, and his victory is ours to claim.
In Star Trek the Borg are well known for warning resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.
Too many of us live our lives as though resistance is futile. We live as though there is no hope of standing up to temptation, no hope of denying sin, no hope of being any better than we are today. To tell you the truth there isn’t.
To tell you the truth, resistance is futile on our own.
But with Jesus, the battle has been won. The resistance has been victorious. J
• esus won victory on our behalf over physical temptation,
• victory on our behalf over doubt,
• victory on our behalf over the ego Jesus won them all. And Jesus victory is ours to claim. Jesus victory is yours to claim.
1 John Chapter 4 verse 4 promises something very important. Read it with me
Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
• With Jesus, the one in you is greater than the one that attacks you.
• With Jesus, the one in you is greater than the one that tempts you
• With Jesus, the one in you is greater than the one that tries to trick you.
Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.