Ruth: A Love Story

Out of the 66 books in the Bible, there are two books in particular I think are weird to find there: the Songs of Solomon and Ruth. It’s pretty obvious why Songs of Solomon is weird (it gets a little steamy), but don’t worry, it’s Ruth that I want to focus on today. Before the book of Ruth we have books devoted to our origin story, our laws, and our wars, but Ruth departs from all of that to teach us seemingly little about theology. Her book is more or less a short, random, overlooked love story.

This 4 chapter book begins with Ruth losing her husband and committing her life to her mother-in-law who also lost everyone dear to her. Ruth was from a different people and culture than her mother-in-law so it must have been a bit terrifying to follow her mother-in-law when she decided to return home to her own people in Bethlehem, but Ruth was committed to her, so she did it anyways.

While they were in Bethlehem, Ruth met a guy named Boaz. He let her freely take any food she wanted from his farm and made sure all the guys in his workforce left her alone. He protected her and took care of her and when mealtime came around he gave her more to eat than she needed, though she hardly knew who he was.

But he knew who she was, because he was a relative of Ruth’s mother-in-law. He had heard of how Ruth had committed herself to her mother-in-law instead of her own parents and how she had chosen the discomfort of being with her mother-in-law’s people rather than her own people.

And he was impressed.

Ruth and Boaz moved pretty quick. In chapter two they met and in chapter three Ruth gave a proposal of sorts through a bunch of interesting and confusing cultural practices, which you can all check out later if you want (don’t worry, it’s a short book). Whatever exactly it is that truly happened in chapter three, Boaz feels blessed by it and by chapter 4 they’re married.

So what’s the point of this book? Maybe to show us how God loved Ruth the Moabite, a woman from a people group outside of his own chosen Israel. Or maybe it was to tell us more about King David’s back story seeing as how Ruth ended up being David’s great, great grandmother. Or maybe it was so we’d know that not all mother-in-laws are evil—I don’t know!

But I do find it interesting that the Bible pauses for love. It pauses to tell us the stories not just of our heroes, but also of their love interests. Sure, many of these stories evolve into soap operas of sorts, but in this case, we find an incredibly short book breaking from stories of our origins, wars, and laws to tell us the seemingly unimportant story of how one little lady on the outside married a farmer on the inside—showing us that things like marriage and love matter.

Jesus himself (who was also a descendant of Ruth) talks about the importance of marriage. Even though he never married, he understood that it was a HUGE deal. He explained that in marriage we “are no longer two but one flesh” and that what “God has joined together, man shouldn’t separate.” He went on to explain that divorce was made by man, not by God—making it clear that not only does God care about our marriages, but that he takes them more seriously than humans do. He cares about your marriage whether your dating life was 3 chapters long or 6 years long.

Why does He care? Because He knows every hair on your head! I love my wife and my children immensely, but I don’t have the slightest idea how many hairs are on their heads! A God who is that meticulous about something so minuscule and unimportant as hair, of course cares about your marriage! That’s a huge part of your life! From today on out you’re two lives are fused as one and you need to know that God cares about it. He cares more than you do, which will be important to remember on some days.

He is a God who is constantly creating life, and he’s still doing it today in our marriages. It’s like our physical birth from our parents and our spiritual birth from salvation in Christ being melded together into some new kind of physical, spiritual, marital rebirth. Cherish it, just as God Himself cherishes it for you. For love is God and God is love and you dwell with God when you love each other.

Allow me to leave you with a scene from the movie Stardust. If you’ve seen it, you may recall in this movie that there’s a star that falls to the earth and becomes a human. Her name is Yvaine. After going on some adventures with a boy named Tristan she begins to wax poetic about love. Speaking from her prior perspective as a star looking at the earth she says:

“I know a lot about love. I’ve seen it, centuries and centuries of it, and it was the only thing that made watching your world bearable. All those wars. Pain, lies, hate—It made me want to turn away and never look down again. But when I see the way that mankind loves—You could search to the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful. So yes, I know that love is unconditional. But I also know that it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing, and—what I’m trying to say, Tristan is—I think I love you. Is this love, Tristan? I never imagined I’d know it for myself. My heart—It feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it’s trying to escape because it doesn’t belong to me any more. It belongs to you…. Just your heart, in exchange for mine.”

I encourage you to make the same exchange. Your heart for theirs. Their heart for yours. If both of you are always about each other, consistently handing your hearts to one another rather than keeping it to yourself, your marriage will be filled with the love that God has for you, for He showed us that love for one another is found in humility and service to one another—freely handing us his heart if we wanted it even in times when we didn’t deserve it. We could just take the free gift of his heart in exchange for our own.

The Peanuts Movie and Biblical Interpretation

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When I first heard that Charlie Brown was being recreated for the big screen, I shuddered a little bit. Having grown up with a rather large collection of Charles Schulz’s comics (which my parents would have to pry from my sleeping hands every night), I was afraid my childhood was about to be butchered by a Hollywood interpretation.

But when the first trailer came out, I was shocked. These graphics, though different, were true to Schulz’s art. And the voices weren’t of famous actors—in fact they sounded like kids, just like the original holiday specials. It didn’t seem like this was possible to see happen in today’s society. How much could this movie truly pay tribute to the original Peanuts strips?

I12213966_10205511633570777_849488229_o headed to the theater with my kids in hand to find out.

The lights went out and some hand drawn snowflakes appeared on the screen as the scene began to merge these old comic snowflakes with the new graphics and art direction. Vince Guaraldi Trio’sSkating, began to play as a familiar scene emerged.

And this is odd to say, but for a brief moment, I began to cry.

For the next 93 minutes I sat in a room full of kids and their parents as my childhood danced on the screen. It stayed so true to Schulz’s original vision and direction that there were moments where I knew how lines were going to end before they were even over—they were near straight quotes from the comics. Almost all of the classic moments were incorporated—from Snoopy’s typewriter to Lucy’s psychiatric help stand; Linus’ deep insight about his homework to Charlie Brown lying awake at night—it was all there!

I was intrigued. On one hand this movie had paid perfect tribute to decades worth of Peanuts history, but on the other hand, it adapted it just enough to engage a new audience. But while it engaged a new audience, it didn’t cater to them. There were many things Charlie Brown said in the movie that were perhaps too deep for kids to take in, but those moments were true to the comics. They could have used different lingo to get it across, but they didn’t. They could have thrown a computer, tablet or phone into the mix so kid would recognize something, but they didn’t. The movie simply stayed authentic to what “Sparky would have done.”

“Everyone felt this was so sacred,” said lead materials tech director Nikki Tomaino, “We put the pressure on ourselves. We had to get it right, or we would never be forgiven.” (Mashable)

There’s a message in here somewhere about how we Christians teach and interpret the Bible.

Some of us don’t do enough studying to figure out how to accurately present a passage and so we give a misguided or false interpretation to the world. The Peanuts movie could have done that, but instead they brought some of Schulz’s family into the filmmaking process to ensure that it stayed true to Schulz’s work.

Others of us try so hard to be culturally relevant that we destroy everything the Bible means. If the Peanuts movie ended up being anything like all of Hollywood’s other translations of movies, it would have polarized everyone (The Muppets anyone?).

Still others of us, try to change some of the things in the Bible in attempts to be accepted by others. There were things in The Peanuts Movie that were true to the comics that I’m not sure a younger generation would have gotten or understood, but the filmmaking crew stayed true to Schulz’s work anyways.

I didn’t plan on coming out of this movie thinking about Biblical interpretation, but I guess I’m weird like that. If you haven’t seen The Peanuts Movie movie yourself and you read all the comics as a kid, I doubt you’ll be upset with it. Let me know what you thought in the comments below.


An interesting article on the Peanuts just came out this week on Relevant Magazine that’s worth reading. Check it out here.

SERVE: A Mini Documentary

I spent many, many hours this past week making a documentary on the Biblical importance of serving. I know you come to blogs to find short little tidbits of info, but I hope you might be inspired to give it a quick look :)

One Christian’s Perspective On Evolution, Higgs Boson, and Other Science

If you’re going to read it, you should read it all so you don’t take me out of context.

As I get ready to tread into dangerous territory, let me start by saying that I’m no scientist. If I have a scientific question I typically refer to my friend Erin as she majored in some field of science. On top of that, if I say something scientifically stupid, she is quick to correct me.

That being said, let me say it again: I am not a scientist. The only time my mind really understands scientific theories is when they are put into sci-fi movies. For that reason, I let the scientists out there do the science and I stick to the things I’m good at (because when I make scientific theories I end up saying things like, “maybe flies circle around your head because your head has a gravitational pull on them!”).

Now I’m actually a pastor, so many automatically think of me as “science’s enemy.” After all, it’s we Christians who are known to revoke all of the major scientific theories presented throughout time. Remember how we made a big deal about scientists claiming that the earth was round?

Boy, were we wrong.

Strangely enough, that debate is still going on today. There’s a group today known as the Flat Earth Society who don’t believe that the earth is round. Their wiki states that their webpage “is dedicated to unraveling the true mysteries of the universe and demonstrating that the earth is flat and that Round Earth doctrine is little more than an elaborate hoax.”

So then, what about all this talk of evolution? As Christians, are we being ignorant by clinging to the creation story in Genesis or are we being faithful by doing so?

My answer for the longest time was faithful. This is what the Bible says, so this is how it went down. Now don’t hear me wrong: I believe Scripture is the biggest authority in Christianity and divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit. Yet, I still want to do my best to read Scripture with other lenses such as tradition, reason, and experience so I can truly understand it to the best of my ability.

So let’s say for a moment, that evolution is real. Does that violate Scripture?

Well if you want to take the creation story as a literal this-is-how-it-went-down explanation of life, then yes. And no Christian would blame you for that. After all, you can look like a heretic if you don’t (as I may look right now). But if you want to look at it through a few other lenses, there are at least a few ways you can begin to see the possibility of evolution being real while truly believing in God and the authority of the Bible. Here’s a few thoughts:

If God designed the entire world through evolution, would He have explained His method to the early civilization that wrote Genesis? “Alright Moses, here’s the science as to how I went about making everything that exists.” I would say no. That would be far too complex for their early minds to comprehend and maybe even cause a lot of problems in their scientific and spiritual thinking.

What if the big point behind the Creation poem was to make an early polytheist society believe in one God? One God who spoke the world into existence. One God who created every living thing that exists. One God who designed every last bit of universe. He is the one and only God and you are to have no other gods before you because they do not exist.

Now this may not sound like a radical idea to you because you grew up Christian and monotheism has been practiced for thousands of years at this point. But this would have been huge to the people hearing it at the time.

“There’s only one God? What about the sun god? And the god who brings the rain? And the god who does this and that and so on and so forth?”

The point is that Yahweh does all of those things. There aren’t a bunch of other gods. There is only Him and He made it all.

Their polytheistic way of thinking would be shattered and an easily understood poem would be created to illustrate a singular, creative, all-powerful, loving God.

Furthermore, you might be able to see God throwing a few cookies out to a future society that would understand evolution and believe in Him at the same time. Author and acclaimed evolutionary biologist wrote a book in 2009 called The Genesis Enigma, which addresses a very interesting aspect to evolution:

Consider this: Genesis recounts the story of creation, step-by-step: “Let there be light”; “Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; “Let the earth bring forth [vegetation]”; “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life”; “God created the whales”; “And God created . . . every winged fowl.” For thousands of years, Judeo-Christian belief has accepted this progression as truth. And now, thanks to recent scientific discoveries, the scientific community does, too (though without the mention of “God”).

In The Genesis Enigma, respected evolutionary biologist Andrew Parker explains each parallel between Genesis and science in detail-and the closer he looks, the more amazing the parallels become. But the Genesis account has no right to be correct. The author or authors could not have known these things happened in this order, and with the highlights science has come to recognize.

Ultimately, Parker argues, it must be divine inspiration that guided the writing of the Bible. This startling conclusion will make The Genesis Enigma a must-read for believers and scientists alike. (Taken from Amazon’s Book Description)

There’s an interesting nugget for you.

See, here’s the thing: if today, evolution were proved 100% true, I think most true Christians wouldn’t stop believing in God—they would simply try to look at the Genesis story through a different lens. Did the world becoming a sphere take away our belief in God? No. We just looked at the Bible with a different lens, because we know God is real and the Holy Spirit attests to it in our heart.

It’s like that woman in the movie Prometheus. This flick keeps presenting her with fictional evidence that God didn’t make humanity and yet she never stops believing in God. She clings to her cross necklace no matter what happens. I think that’s how most of us will always react in the face of science because we have experienced the truth of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

So let the scientists do the science. Just yesterday they found the Higgs boson which was previously referred to as the God particle (and now Stephen Hawking is out $100). It’s apparently the thing that holds all of the universe together or something like that. If you want to know more, here’s a video I was told is easy to understand (though I stopped following about 30 seconds in):

Scientists found something that exists. To me that’s cool and it doesn’t disprove God or anything like that. It’s just a discovery of another thing He made to make the universe. It’s not like it’s a new part of science, it’s just a new discovery.

If we can’t at least keep our minds somewhat open, we might do some really stupid things like refer to the Loch Ness Monster in order to disprove evolution. Look, I like Nessie as much as the next guy, but that’s just not a good idea.

If you’re a Christian and this is the first you’ve considered the idea that evolution and Christianity could actually work together, then I understand your feelings. I didn’t latch onto the idea right away when it was first presented to me. Instead I wrote a paper about how if evolution could be proved, I would still go with the creation story because I love it so much.

But again, I’m no scientist. So perhaps I should let others do the science and try to keep an open mind while never turning my back on God.

The Broken Woman

Yesterday I preached on Luke 7:36-50, the story in which a woman comes to Jesus and starts wetting His feet with her tears and wiping them off with her feet. I’m not going to type out the message because you can download an MP3 of the message or you can stream it and all of my other messages right off of our app. Hope you’ll find a chance to take a listen and happy Monday!

Unclean: A Short Story

Every once in awhile I like to preach a little differently and so for yesterday’s message I wrote out a story based around a passage in Luke. Yes, it’s a tale of fiction, but I did a good amount of studying in attempts to really capture what life might have been like at the time. I’ve included my research at the end of this post.

If you’d prefer to listen my story rather than read it, then take a moment to download our church’s new app. There you can stream the recording of me giving the message yesterday.

Being a lover of the sci-fi genre, I originally wanted to put a futuristic spin on the story, but I restrained myself. You’re welcome. Doesn’t mean I still won’t write that version in the future though!

Unclean

It was a warm summer’s day in Galilee. Towns were bustling with business, kids were outside running and laughing and playing, and just about everywhere you looked people had smiles on their faces. And rightly so, for it had been quite awhile since such a perfect temperature and cool breeze had swept through the area.

Amidst all of the noise, one man by the name of Jonathan Hapto was making his way through the market to pick up some food for his family. He walked up to his usual stand and pulled out a few coins.

“Ah, Mr. Hapto! It is good to see you my friend,” said the business owner. “And what are we looking for today?”

“I need two chickens,” Jonathan replied.

“The usual then! Ha, few people are quite as predictable as the Hapto’s,” the owner joked. “You better be careful though. You guys eat too many more birds and you’re going to grow wings and fly away.”

“Oh come on now, we don’t eat chicken that often,” said Jonathan.

“Oh really? Because I’m pretty sure my business would have fallen apart by now if it wasn’t for the loyalty of your family.”

“Alright, alright, I see your point. Just give me the chicken,” Jonathan said pretending as though he wasn’t a little bit insulted by the conversation.

The business man laughed loudly and reached over to grab Jonathan’s chickens, but he was caught off guard when an incredible shriek pierced the ears of everyone in the marketplace. The area quickly went silent as heads looked to and fro to see where the noise had come from.

Questions were being whispered all around. “What was that?” “Is everyone okay?” “What’s going on?” “Where did that come from?”

All of the sudden the crowd in the marketplace began to part as though Moses himself had raised his staff over the people. But this moment was less miraculous. This moment didn’t strike salvation into anyone’s hearts, but instead fear gripped all around.

A leper made his way slowly down the parted sea of people as they gasped at the reality of what was happening. This man was unclean. He was a castaway. And most importantly, he was dangerous. The law required him to keep his distance from others, but here he was walking right through the marketplace, possibly contaminating everyone around with his disease!

Jonathan watched silently as the leper limped slowly down the aisle. It wasn’t a pleasant image. Sores and swellings covered his body and were crusting over. His skin was scaly and wrinkled and his clothes were torn and ragged. He was very much an image of death. And he was walking straight towards him.

“Jonathan?” asked the leper in a distraught voice. “Jonathan Hapto?”

“Yes?” he replied.

“How did you get like this?”

“What?” asked Jonathan.

“Like this! How did you get like this!” asked the leper in desperation.

“I… I don’t know what you mean,” Jonathan answered.

Of course he did know what the leper meant. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that his life had been entirely different. No friends. No marriage. No kids. Nothing. And speaking of his kids, he noticed them off in the distance watching his conversation with the leper. They must have  been playing with their friends and heard the commotion and ran to see what was going on.

Jonathan looked around. Everyone had a look of disgust on their faces, including his own children. He even noticed that his own face was distorting towards disgust at the leper.

“Please sir,” said the leper as tears began to swell up in his eyes. “Tell me how you got like this!”

“Hey, get out of here!” yelled a woman. “You know you’re not supposed to be here! Think of how many you’re putting at risk right now!”

“Think of the children!” yelled another woman.

“Yeah, how could you put them at risk!” a man chimed in. “Do you really wish your disease on the rest of us! Leave this place now!”

The leper looked around as more tears came to his eyes. How could they be so cruel? How could they not care? Of course he expected this kind of treatment when he decided to enter the market, but at the time he thought he was desperate enough to face it. But their words came down on him harshly—each like a flaming arrow piercing his heart. He gave one more look at Jonathan in hopes for more information, but Jonathan couldn’t find any words.

The leper closed his eyes tightly as tears flowed down his cheeks. He then turned and tried to run with as much strength as he could muster. Everyone yelled at him as he made his way out of the market and laughter erupted as he would occasionally trip and fall. Eventually he made his way out of the marketplace and back into isolation.

Jonathan stood there, unable to move or speak. And then a hand came on his shoulder. It was the business owner. “You know Mr. Hapto, a lot of people around here have forgotten your story. On top of that, those that remember it seem to play it off as coincidence now a’ days. But not me. You may not remember me, but I was there. I remember.”

Jonathan still just stood there staring off into the distance. The owner put the chickens he requested in his hands. “These are on the house today. Why don’t you go home and rest.”

Jonathan turned and tried to smile. He nodded and walked towards his children.

“Are you okay Daddy?” asked his daughter, Elizabeth.

“Yeah that was scary!” echoed his son, Nathan.

“That’s enough kids,” said Jonathan. “Let’s go home. I have a story to tell you.”

Elizabeth and Nathan returned confused glances with each other and then accompanied their father home.

After Jonathan had served dinner and cleaned up a little, he sat down with his children in the living room. Still in a daze he covered his head with his hands and sat there in silence for what felt like hours to his children. Finally, having gained some composure he turned his face towards them.

“Kids, I want to tell you something that I’ve never told you before. I planned on waiting until you were old enough to understand it, but you’ve certainly been old enough for awhile and I just haven’t taken the time to tell you.”

Elizabeth and Nathan stared at their father with raised eyebrows.

“Dad?” asked Nathan.

“Yes son?”

“Mom already gave us the sex talk and it was really awkward.”

“Yes. Yes it was,” agreed Elizabeth.

This caused Jonathan to finally break a smile. “No, no, that’s not what I want to talk to you about.”

“That was close!” his children said in unison.

“Alright, that’s enough,” said Jonathan. “I actually want to tell you a bit of my story, because there’s something you don’t know about me. It all started when I was eight years old…”

********************

“Mom, I’m going outside to play!” Jonathan called.

“Alright, but be home by dinner time! We’re having chicken!” she replied.

“Yes! My favorite!” And with that Jonathan ran out to join up with his friends. They played all kinds of games, went swimming, and enjoyed the day immensely. As the time approached for Jonathan to head home, one of his friends, Phillip, pulled him aside.

“Jonathan, can I talk to you for a second?”

“What is it Phillip?”

“Well, when we were out swimming earlier, I noticed something on your back,” said Phillip.

“Was it water?” joked Jonathan.

“No Jonathan, I’m not joking. It was kind of like a light colored skin lesion. It wasn’t too noticeable, but you might want to ask someone about it. One of my distant relatives had something similar and he ended up with leprosy.”

“That’s not funny Phillip.”

“I’m not trying to be funny! I promise! I just want you to be safe.”

Jonathan could tell by the look in Phillip’s eyes that he wasn’t joking. But he knew he didn’t have leprosy. He felt fine! And so he shrugged it off and headed home.

But like most people who have learned that they might have a serious disease, it was all Jonathan could think about. He couldn’t sleep and it haunted him the entire next day. A week went by and he kept the information to himself.

Around this time, his heart raced as the suspicion that this could possibly be a sign of leprosy permeated his mind. He wanted to hide it longer, but emotion overwhelmed him. This was obviously something. He hadn’t skinned or burned his back on anything so the lesion must be something else. With tears in his eyes he ran to his mother to show her.

“Mom, I don’t know what this is, it just appeared out of nowhere! Phillip told me that I could have leprosy because there’s something on my back, but I didn’t believe him! Or I didn’t want to believe him or… I don’t know!”

“Something on your back? Are you sure you didn’t skin yourself while you were out playing?” she asked.

“Yes mom,” Jonathan cried. “I’m sure.”

“Let me see it,” she said.

Jonathan pulled off his shirt and it was quite obvious what Phillip had been talking about. His mother put her hand over her mouth.

“Honey, how long have you had this?”

“I don’t know,” Jonathan answered with tears in his eyes. “Phillip said he saw it about a week ago.”

“We need to have this looked at sweetie,” his mother said. “We’ll go see the priests as soon as your father gets in.” This caused Jonathan to weep all the much more. His mother held him tightly. “Oh there, there. It’ll be alright Johnny. We just want you to get better.”

When Jonathan’s father returned home, the family went to see the priest. Now the priests weren’t very good doctors. They acted more as public health officials. The Torah instructed them as to what to look for and how to diagnose someone as clean or unclean. The priest found the correct scroll in Leviticus to make sure he knew what to look for with Jonathan’s case.

“When a person has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, and it turns into a case of leprous disease on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests, and the priest shall examine the diseased area on the skin of his body. And if the hair in the diseased area has turned white and the disease appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a case of leprous disease. When the priest has examined him, he shall pronounce him unclean. But if the spot is white in the skin of his body and appears no deeper than the skin, and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest shall shut up the diseased person for seven days. And the priest shall examine him on the seventh day, and if in his eyes the disease is checked and the disease has not spread in the skin, then the priest shall shut him up for another seven days. And the priest shall examine him again on the seventh day, and if the diseased area has faded and the disease has not spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only an eruption. And he shall wash his clothes and be clean. But if the eruption spreads in the skin, after he has shown himself to the priest for his cleansing, he shall appear again before the priest. And the priest shall look, and if the eruption has spread in the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is a leprous disease.”

The priest looked closely at Jonathan’s lesion. The spot was in fact white, but it did not appear deeper than the skin and the hair in it had not turned white. This was actually the best news the family could have received, but it did require Jonathan to stay away from others and be surveyed again in a week.

Those must have been the slowest seven days of Jonathan’s life. All he could think about was how life might be different at the end of everything. He had heard the stories of those who had leprosy. He had heard about how painful it is and how a leper is more or less the outcast of society. He tried to think of other things—happier things. But rarely did anything else ever cross his mind.

But at least there was hope. At the end of the seven days, he could be fine! After all, it could just be some kind of a spot. And so he kept as much hope as he was able and prayed like he had never prayed before.

“God. I don’t really know what to say other than I’m scared. I’ve never been more scared than this in my entire life. Lord, I don’t know if I have leprosy. If I do, I’m not sure what I did to deserve it. And so I pray that this is just a false alarm. But if it is leprosy… God you’re bigger than everything I know. Surely you can take this away from me. And so I beg of You, please… please heal me.”

At the end of the seven days the priest came to check on Jonathan’s back. He removed his shirt, displaying a much larger lesion than before. A few minor sores had also begun to open up on his back. The priest sighed heavily and turned to Jonathan’s parents.

“I’m sorry, but your son has leprosy.” Jonathan’s parents began to weep heavily.

The priest walked over to tell Jonathan, but there was no need. He already knew. His body went cold and everything around him was going dark. He felt he was going to black out.

“Jonathan,” said the priest. “I am sorry to tell you this, but you are henceforth considered a leper. You are unclean and therefore, untouchable. The clothes you wear are fit only for fire as they are soaked in your disease. In order to protect those around you, you are required by the law to move outside of the city. You cannot live in a walled town, but you are welcome to live in an open village somewhere. You also cannot worship at the central sanctuary. You are also required to tear your clothes as a sign of grief, and shave your head and cover your beard as if to cry out about your death. Furthermore, it is your duty to warn those who pass by you that you are not to be approached. You must call out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ so that they know to keep their distance. May God watch over you and save you from your disease.”

Jonathan’s eyes swelled up with tears.

Unclean. That was his new name. That was his new identity. No longer could he be touched. No longer would he have friends to talk to. He was an outcast of society. He was dirty. It was as though a curse had been put on his life.

He wanted so badly to run to his parent’s arms, but it was too late. His pronouncement was official. For now on anything he touched also became ceremonially unclean. And as much as he wanted to be held and his family wanted to hold him, they all knew the brutal truth: no one was comforting anyone.

Jonathan left home and lived just outside of the city. He was so close and yet so far away from his family and friends. He may have been very young, but he felt as though his life was already coming to an end.

The days were hot and degrading. “Unclean,” he would say to those who got too close to him. “Stay away, unclean.” It was amazing how fast people’s faces would change towards him as they noticed that he was a leper.

At night, Jonathan would occasionally stop by his parent’s house. He couldn’t make any contact with them, but his family was loving enough to leave meals outside for him to eat. In great hunger he would scarf down the food quickly and leave absolutely nothing behind. Sometimes his mother would watch him do so from a distance, but often it was too much for her to handle.

This was much of what Jonathan’s life consisted of. He’d warn people of his presence by day and sneak into the city toe at by night. Days turned weeks. Weeks turned to months. Months turned to years, his leprosy worsening with each moment.

His eyelids and palms were speckled with odd colors. Only white hair would grow out of these spots and crust these areas over with white scales. This would go on to create awful sores across his body. He could feel the disease moving into his bones. His hands had grown numb and some of his muscles were paralyzed. Some of his fingers were curled and deformed as well.

Very rarely did he have to yell unclean anymore. Nearly everyone had passed by him at some point and was aware that they should keep their distance from him. It was quite sad, but the only interaction he had with people was now mostly gone. At least yelling unclean left room for possible conversation. Now everyone knew his story. He was the man with leprosy. It could be seen all over his body.

But despite all of this pain, perhaps the thing that hurt the most was how so many thought his disease was a punishment from God. He could the people passing by saying such things and could see judgment in their eyes. He spent hours thinking about it.

What did I do? he wondered. What could I have possibly done in my childhood to bring this upon me? I mean, sure I haven’t always been perfect, but I can’t possibly think of doing anything that deserved leprosy.

Despite this assurance, however, Jonathan would still find himself from time to time believing that this was all somehow his fault.

There was very little hope left in Jonathan’s life. All he could do was hope and pray that God would somehow show favor on him and heal him. But what were his chances? After all, few people throughout history had ever been healed from leprosy. The only stories he had ever heard of were in the Scriptures. Miriam was healed of it in Numbers and Naaman in 2 Kings. But Jonathan wasn’t famous. He wasn’t a big character in any story. He was just a kid who was diagnosed unclean.

One day while Jonathan was sitting outside, he overheard an odd conversation between a husband and wife.

“I don’t even know what to say,” said the husband. “His teaching is just so authoritative and powerful.”

“I know,” said the wife. “And not only can he teach, but he commands demons to leave. I’ve never heard of anything like it.”

“He must be a prophet of God,” said the husband. “It’s the only way to explain everything He’s doing. It’s as though He reads people’s minds! And the miracles and healings we saw Him do—there’s just no way He could of done those things except by the finger of God!”

For the first time in a very long time, Jonathan’s face lit up. Authority? Demons? Prophecy? Healings? What was going on? Was there a man in town really doing these kinds of things?

No, there couldn’t be, he thought to himself. God hasn’t raised up a prophet in decades. His voice has been so rare and so quiet that it almost feels like he’s forgotten all about His people.

Jonathan played the conversation over in his head all day. Even if it was true, how was he going to find this man? And furthermore, what if he actually did do something to deserve this curse on his life? Wouldn’t a prophet know that and not heal him? Things couldn’t be much more devastating than that.

The next day, Jonathan found himself making his way into town. He didn’t know anything more about this supposed prophet than he had heard in that conversation, but it was more hope than he had had in years. He did his best to keep a safe distance from everyone and watched and waited. Hours went by and he saw no one special enter town. He was beginning to feel foolish and thought of turning around when all of the sudden he heard a great commotion in the distance.

Squinting his eyes Jonathan was able to make out what looked like a huge crowd walking his way from the other side of town. Could this be it? Could this be the man? The so-called prophet of the Lord? His heart raced. What was he going to do? He wasn’t allowed around people and this was the biggest crowd he had ever seen. How could he possibly make his way over to the man without causing a great commotion?

The crowd got closer and closer and Jonathan’s heart pounded faster and faster. He knew he had to do something, but he didn’t know what. Finally the man was so close that he couldn’t take the pressure anymore. He sprinted as fast as he could to meet the prophet, breaking the law in the process. The crowd saw him approaching and many, seeing his leprosy jumped out of the way.

Jonathan plummeted to the ground in front of the prophet in the most desperate state he had ever found himself in. With his face in the dirt he wept loudly.

“Lord, please! I beg of you to take this sickness from me. Lord, if you will, you can make me clean!” His tears turned the dirt into mud and the mud began to stick to his face. He laid there awaiting a response, unable to see nothing but dirt.

Suddenly, he felt a hand on his back and a loud gasp from all who were following the prophet. It was the first time he had been touched in years. He had forgotten what love and care and tenderness felt like. It may have been just a simple touch but it was the most comfort he could ever remember having felt. But at the same time, he was nervous. Who is touching me? he wondered. Who did I just put at risk?

And then he heard a voice. “I will. Be clean.”

Immediately a heat like no other came upon Jonathan. Sores began falling off left and right. Wounds were covered with new skin and he felt a strength return to his bones and muscles. His hands straightened back out and every last spot disappeared. He had been made entirely new by this man. His pronouncement had broken the curse. God had given him everything he had lost years ago and he was once again clean. His heart melted in the presence of this prophet.

“My name is Jesus,” he told Jonathan. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

“Thank you Jesus! Oh thank you, thank you!” exclaimed Jonathan. “You have done me the greatest kindness anyone could ever do. Surely you have brought me good news, liberty, and God’s favor.”

Jesus’ smile pierced Jonathan’s eyes. It was as though this prophet was staring into his very soul. And it was there in this moment that Jonathan knew He had never been alone. God had been watching out for him all along and had brought him an answer to the prayer he had requested. Every pain, every sorrow, every feeling of loneliness and betrayal left him in that moment. He was free. Free from everything. Free from being unclean.

“See that you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them,” Jesus commanded Jonathan.

“Yes Lord, I will,” said Jonathan excitedly. “Thank you!” Jesus smiled again as Jonathan ran off into the distance. He immediately stopped by home to deliver the good news. His parents were at first startled, but seeing Jonathan so healthy was immediate proof to them that this Jesus really did heal him. The three of them held each other closely as tears of joy ran down their faces.

In Jonathan’s excitement, he very quickly forgot that Jesus had asked Him not to tell anyone. He ran out of his house and yelled it throughout the streets. “I’m healed! I’m healed! You all know me! I was the leper who sat not too far out of town. But now look at me! Do you see any leprosy? It was that man Jesus. He laid His hand on me and instead of my uncleanliness moving onto Him, his cleanliness moved onto me! He’s the real deal! He is a prophet of the Lord!”

Word moved quickly throughout the area as Jonathan repeated his story to everyone he saw.

**********************

Jonathan’s children could not believe the story they had just heard.

“So what you’re saying is, that you used to be a leper just like that man at the market today?” asked Elizabeth.

“That’s correct.” answered Jonathan.

“So that’s why that leper was asking you how you got out of it!” said Nathan.

“Yes,” Jonathan nodded. “He must have heard my story from someone.”

“Well why didn’t you tell Him it was Jesus, Daddy?” asked Elizabeth.

“Well surely you two have heard about the gossip about Jesus as of late” replied Jonathan. “He’s not exactly the most popular person to talk about right now. Didn’t you hear he was hung on a cross for claiming to be the Messiah?”

“Well He sounds like a Messiah,” answered Elizabeth. “I mean He saved you, didn’t He?”

Jonathan looked towards his feet. “Yes Elizabeth, I suppose you’re right.”

“Yeah! Plus I heard that there was an earthquake as soon as He died and the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom,” explained Nathan.

“Is that so?” asked Jonathan.

“Yeah, I heard that too!” said Elizabeth.

“Alright kids, well it’s getting late. I think you ought to get to bed.”

“Oh I don’t know Dad,” said Nathan. “You kind of took up our evening telling us a long story. I think you owe us a few hours.”

“I suppose you’re right,” replied Jonathan. “I guess there’s still time to do all of those chores you missed.”

“Wow, I suddenly feel tired,” replied Nathan.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

And so the two headed off to bed and Jonathan headed outside to reflect again on what had happened in the marketplace earlier that day. He didn’t get a chance to think very long however, because his attention was turned towards a familiar looking stranger walking through the town. He appeared lost.

“Can I help you sir?” called Jonathan.

“Do I look as lost as I am?” the man chuckled.

“A little bit. What are you looking for?” Jonathan asked, still unable to figure out why this man looked so familiar.

“Well, for starters, I’m trying to find a place to stay the night.”

“I think we can make some space for that in our house,” offered Jonathan.

“Oh, well you’re quite accommodating,” said the man stepping into the light.

Seeing the man’s face, Jonathan’s mind flew back to the day he was healed. This man was there! But he didn’t seem like a part of the crowd.

“Excuse me sir,” said Jonathan. “But do you by any chance know Jesus?”

“You recognize me?” asked the man.

“I do. I believe you were there when I got healed of leprosy years ago,” responded Jonathan.

“That’s right! I remember you!” exclaimed the man. “My name is James. I’m one of Jesus’ disciples and I’m out right now showing and telling the world about Him.”

“I heard He died. Is that true?” asked Jonathan.

“Died and rose again,” answered James. “He is well alive and He sent the Holy Spirit to those who believe and follow Him so that they may continue doing the things that He did and live in the way that He did.”

“Wait. Does that mean you can heal people?” asked Jonathan.

“God has used me in such ways, yes. Jesus spent quite a bit of time training us to walk in power.”

Jonathan’s eyes lit up. “Hey, I’ll tell you what. How about you stay in my house for free as long as you want, so long as you pray for a man I met today.”

“Now that sounds like a deal,” said James. “Is he around right now?”

“I am,” said a man from the side of the house. Both Jonathan and James turned to him in confusion. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to spy, but I didn’t exactly have the most opportune moment to speak to Jonathan earlier and I wanted to try again when there were less people around.”

James put his hand on the leper. And then Jonathan, remembering just how much touch mean to him during his time as a leper, also put his hand on him.

“What is it you desire friend?” asked James.

The leper, being touched for the first time in years, began to sob. “I just want to be clean,” he said.

“Jesus desires that too,” said James. “Be clean.”

Immediately, a heat like no other came upon the leper.

Unclean: The Research

12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. (Luke 5:12-16)

When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” (Matthew 8:1-4)

40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter. (Mark 1:40-45)

“A man full of leprosy” (v12)

    • Leviticus 13
    • Evidently a bad case full of sores and far advanced as Luke the physician notes. The law (Lev. 13:12f.) curiously treated advanced cases as less unclean than the earlier stages. (1)
    • Lepers were required to live outside the camp or city (Num. 5:1–4; 12:10–15, etc.). This disease was regarded as an awful punishment from the Lord (2 Kings 5:7; 2 Chr. 26:20). (See MIRIAM ; GEHAZI; UZZIAH.) This disease “begins with specks on the eyelids and on the palms, gradually spreading over the body, bleaching the hair white wherever they appear, crusting the affected parts with white scales, and causing terrible sores and swellings. From the skin the disease eats inward to the bones, rotting the whole body piecemeal.” “In Christ’s day no leper could live in a walled town, though he might in an open village. But wherever he was he was required to have his outer garment rent as a sign of deep grief, to go bareheaded, and to cover his beard with his mantle, as if in lamentation at his own virtual death. He had further to warn passers-by to keep away from him, by calling out, ‘Unclean! unclean!’ nor could he speak to any one, or receive or return a salutation, since in the East this involves an embrace.” (2)
    • Matthew and Mark have simply a leper. The expression, full of leprosy, seems to be used here with professional accuracy. Leprosy was known among physicians under three forms: the dull white, the clear white, and the black. Luke means to describe an aggravated case. The word full in this connection is often used by medical writers, as, full of disease; the veins full of blood; the ears full of roaring(3)
    • Perhaps he was in the final stages of leprosy—a fact which would have been easily discernible in the man’s home community. (4)
    • Among the Jews, several skin diseases were classified as leprosy, including our modern Hansen’s disease. In spite of modern medical advances, an estimated 10 million people around the world have leprosy. (5)
    • People with leprosy were looked on as “dead” (Num. 12:12), and garments infected with leprosy were fit only for the fire (Lev. 13:52). (6)
    • Lepers were required to keep their distance, but he was so determined that he broke the Law and approached the Lord Jesus personally. (7)
    • Symptoms include:
      • Skin lesions that are lighter than your normal skin color
      • Lesions have decreased sensation to touch, heat, or pain
      • Lesions do not heal after several weeks to months
      • Muscle weakness
      • Numbness or lack of feeling in the hands, arms, feet, and legs (8)

“Fell on his face”

  • Fell on his face (πεσων ἐπι προσωπον [pesōn epi prosōpon]). Second aorist active participle of πιπτω [piptō], common verb. Mark 1:40 has “kneeling” (γονυπετων [gonupetōn]) and Matt. 8:40 “worshipped” (προσεκυνει [prosekunei]). All three attitudes were possible one after the other. All three Synoptics quote the identical language of the leper and the identical answer of Jesus. (9)

“You can make me clean” (v13)

  • All three evangelists say cleanse instead of heal, because of the notion of uncleanness which specially attached to this malady. (10)
  • The Law (Lev. 13) commanded strict segregation of a person who had leprosy, for it was a graphic picture of uncleanness. A leprous person could not worship at the central sanctuary; he was ceremonially unclean and therefore cut off completely from the community.(11)
  • According to the Mosaic Law one who was leprous was not to be touched by anyone who was ceremonially clean. When someone clean touched something unclean, the clean became unclean. (12)
  • This is a beautiful picture of what Jesus has done for lost sinners: He became sin for us that we might be made clean (13)
  • The priest did not function as a doctor to prescribe medical treatment. He functioned more like a public health officer who isolated a person with a contagious skin disease. Whether this contagion was merely ceremonial or was also hygienic is beside the point of this comparison. The patient was basically left to natural (or supernatural) healing processes to cure his condition, during which time he was isolated outside the camp (v. 46) in a condition of mourning with the responsibility to warn any passerby that he was Unclean! (v. 45) The significance of this isolation was not only to prevent possible physical contagion but also to symbolize the person’s separation from the holy camp of Israel where the Lord was dwelling (Num. 5:1-4; cf. Deut. 23:10-14). (14)

“And Jesus stretched out His hand and touched Him” (v13)

  • All three likewise mention the touch (ἡψατο [hēpsato], verse 13) of Christ’s hand on the unclean leper and the instantaneous cure. (15)
  • Lepers in Jesus’ day, as in ours, were untouchable. They had to cry out in the streets, to warn others away from them. They lived outside cities, separated from their loved ones and families. They were alone … and destined not to know the loving caress or gentle pressure of another’s hand. But Jesus reached out and touched the leper! If you’ve ever been lonely, ever felt rejected or unloved, you know what that touch must have meant. If you’ve ever been convinced that no one could possibly care for you, then you understand how that leper must have felt. Jesus’ touch was not needed to heal the leprosy, but it was necessary to meet this man’s deep, inner need for love. (16)

“He charged”

  • He charged (παρήγγειλεν). A strong word, often of military orders. Aristotle uses it of a physician: to prescribe. Mark has ἐμβριμησάμενος, strictly or sternly charged. See on Mark 1:43. (17)

“Go show yourself to the priest”

  • Leviticus 14:1-32
  • Healing from leprosy was rare. The Scriptures record only Miriam (Num. 12) and Naaman (2 Kings 5) as having been healed of leprosy (cf. Moses; Ex. 4:6-7). Thus it would have been extremely unusual for a person to present himself before the priest and offer the sacrifices … for … cleansing. Instructions for an offering for cleansing from leprosy are given in Leviticus 14:1-32. Luke 5:14 emphasized the phrase as a testimony to them. The fact that a man would go to the priest claiming healing from leprosy would alert the religious leaders that something new was afoot in Israel. (18)
  • If people who had previously been certified as lepers claimed to be cured, they had to go through the proper form of discharge from the priests before being allowed to move freely again in society (Lv. 14:1–32), and so Jesus instructed this man to obey the law. (19)

Mitano’s Modern Day Testimony

Footnotes

1 Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Lk 5:12). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

2 Easton, M. (1996). Easton’s Bible dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

3 Vincent, M. R. (2002). Word studies in the New Testament (Lk 5:12). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

4 Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Lk 5:12–16). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

5 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Lk 5:12). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

6 ibid

7 ibid

8 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002323/

9 Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Lk 5:12). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

10 Vincent, M. R. (2002). Word studies in the New Testament (Lk 5:12). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

11 Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Lk 5:12–16). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

12 ibid

13 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Lk 5:12). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

14 Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Le 13:1–46). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

15 Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Lk 5:12). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

16 Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (657–658). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

17 Vincent, M. R. (2002). Word studies in the New Testament (Lk 5:14). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

18 Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Lk 5:12–16). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

19 Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Lk 5:12–16). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.

Battling Temptation

It’s Lent right now and with that in mind, I want to take a quick look over the passage in Luke 4 where Jesus fasts in the wilderness for 40 days. I then have a few pointers on both temptation and protection that we can take away from this story.

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. (Luke 4:1-15 ESV)

Aspects of Temptation

Temptation can come at high points. Jesus was tempted by satan “when the days were ended” (v2). Some of the hardest temptations to fight can come after a perfect day or at a high point of completing something. You may find this to be true in your own life if you pay attention to days such as these.

Temptation can question your calling and identity. The devil tried to trick Jesus into sinning by questioning who He was. Jesus has seen His calling and position as Son of God and Messiah many times throughout His life so far, but satan tires to question him as to if that’s really true. “IF you’re the son of God” then you can turn stone into bread. When satan beats you in a temptation, he’ll often question your identity all the much more. “You’re a Christian? Really?” “God doesn’t love you.” “God is mad at you now.” “You must not have the Holy Spirit.” He wants you to think of yourself as less than you actually are: justified in Jesus and a son or daughter of God.

Temptation can be quite logical. Jesus was hungry and apparently the time for fasting was over. It’s time to eat. The devil’s temptation to turn stone into bread has a logical argument to it. Later Jesus is offered authority and glory of all the kingdoms of the world. The logic could be that Jesus could make a big difference with such power and authority. And while it doesn’t seem logical to jump off of a temple, being caught by angels would make a spectacle of Him to everyone around. Imagine Jesus floating to the ground. “Hello my people. I am the Messiah. Come now and follow me!”

Temptation can come with satanic deals. We tend to joke about it, but there are people who sign their lives over to satan and make deals with him. They worship him and become his servants because satan promises them authority and power on earth and in Hell. And through witchcraft and other demonic means they begin to make a spectacle of satan on earth. But they don’t realize that satan is a liar and a deceiver. he is always looking to backhand you. he has no honor and will turn on you.

Temptation focuses on the moment, not the effects after. If you’ve ever struggled with temptation (or if you’ve ever been human) then you’ve realized that temptation sounds really good when it’s on your mind. You wouldn’t be tempted if it wasn’t pleasurable to you in some way. The devil never told Jesus what bad things would happen if he bought into the temptation as that would only push Him away from it. his temptations really just focused on that moment. But you can believe that satan had evil intentions behind his temptations that would come into place immediately after or at some point in the future.

Temptation can be truthful. Is satan always lying? Yeah, pretty much. But that doesn’t mean that he won’t say truthful things to try to trip you up. After all, he does masquerade as angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). Did you realize in Luke 4 that satan actually used Scripture in attempts to tempt Jesus? That’s right, satan knows the Bible too, and he’s great at twisting passages to get what he wants. That’s why one artist in particular draws satan as a holy man in his portrayal of this passage.

Temptation can be in all kids of areas. For Jesus, the first temptation was to break His commitment and spiritual discipline before it was time. The second was to take on false power and authority. The third was to simply be awesome. We fight these same temptations today and hundreds more.

Temptation is empowered visually. In this particular passage, satan backed up all of his temptation with visual examples to make it all the more irresistible. “Command this stone to become bread” (v3). “he showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time” (v4). “he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple” (v9).

Temptation is persistent. I wouldn’t be surprised if the arguments Jesus had with satan were more than one statement from satan as temptation can be quite persistent. For example I can see the first argument being a bit longer than it was.

satan: Turn this rock into bread.
Jesus: Man shall not live by bread alone.
satan: Yes, but man does eat bread. You can eat something else later.
Jesus: I will eat when God allows me to.
satan: But your fast is over. You should be allowed to now.

Temptation will always return. “When the devil ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time” (v12). The devil is always looking for a weak point. He may disappear for a time, but he will return with a strategy to try to break through your castle walls by searching for a weak point.

Aspects of Protection

Fasting. This spiritual discipline may make you feel physically weak, but it’s there to grow and empower you. In fact, despite how weak Jesus may have felt after 40 days of fasting, it appeared he was ready to defeat satan when he came along and His fasting may have empowered Him all the much more to do so.

Memorize Scripture. For every statement satan made, Jesus had a Biblical rebuttal to give. “Man shall not live by bread alone” (v4). “You shall worship the Lord Your God, and him only shall you serve” (v8). “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (v12). Quoting Scripture is especially helpful when satan uses Scripture to tempt you. Some people will hear satan quote to them a Bible verse and have a moment of false revelation rather than open their Bible to find out what other passages have to say.

Be dependent on God’s voice. When Jesus quoted “Man does not live by bread alone” He was probably implying the rest of that verse as well. Deuteronomy 8:3 says, “Man does not live by bread alone but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Jesus’ instructions to eat were coming from satan’s voice in that moment, not from God’s voice. And therefore, it was easy to recognize this as temptation.

Don’t entertain temptation. N.T. Wright states in his book Luke for Everyone that “Arguing with temptation is often a way of playing with the idea until it becomes too attractive to resist.” Jesus doesn’t play with any of the ideas satan offers. He is very quick to offer rebuttals rather than give satan’s questions and thoughts any airtime in His mind. Jesus’ answers are solid and to the point. There is no hesitation whatsoever.

Recognize the Holy Spirit when temptation comes. This may sound odd, but Matthew 4:1 points out that “Jesus was led into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” And we see that that leading comes from the Holy Spirit in Luke 4:1. God may actually create time for temptation and allow you to be tempted by the devil. But this is to grow you and empower you. Stay faithful to God, because, as 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Identify satan! Here’s a rather obvious point: if it’s coming from satan, don’t do it. If you were able to see this creepy demonic character standing in front of you, it would be obvious to you that you should not do anything he says. But it seems that we will do more fighting in our minds with temptation. Learn to discern. Who’s speaking? God? Your flesh? Or is it satan?

Understand your authority in and under God. Could Jesus have turned stones into bread? Yes, He doesn’t debate that. Could Jesus have survived the jump off the temple? Yes, He doesn’t debate that either. See, that authority was there in Jesus, but he subjected His authority to God’s will. I believe Christians can be empowered with authority—whether it’s earthly authority or supernatural Heavenly authority. But with that in mind, I believe that God trusts us to respect that authority and use it correctly in many instances. For example, I’ve heard too many stories of people who get a word from God about someone and they announce it to everyone from a stage rather than go to that person in private. Or in some cases they try to interpret a vision for someone when they should have just told them the vision and let them interpret it. The authority and empowerment is there, but it’s used incorrectly in some cases such as these.

Put on the armor of God. Put on the armor that is mentioned in Ephesians 6:10-2o. Keep in mind, this armor is God’s and it is to help you in the battle. But if you don’t put it on and stay on your guard, you might be easily attacked. “If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7). “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Study yourself. What are your weaknesses? When are your weakest moments? Where does sin have a stronghold on you? Use your answers to prepare and defend yourself. Unplug the computer. Don’t go to that store. Don’t be around those people. Go on a walk or find another way to flee from that moment. Fast every time you fail and add a day each time. Remember, temptation is persistent. You would do well to have a battle plan, especially if satan is waiting for an opportune time to attack.

Welcome to Spiritual Warfare