A Lenten Journey: Epilogue
As Jesus left the desert, he was “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4.14). He overcame the temptation to interpret what it means to be Messiah in the traditional ways. At the time, the Jewish people expected a Messiah who would use power and strength to conquer Israel’s foes. Their idea of a Messiah was one that would, unfortunately, come back into prominence later in the development of Christianity: the warrior Jesus astride a great battle stallion, fiery swords in both hands.
The warrior's way was not the way Jesus understood messiahship. Rather, Jesus believed a true Messiah was a servant. The temptation story is about Jesus’ struggle to accept his true calling, to live fully into his authentic self as a servant of God, and therefore, as a servant of humankind.
Furthermore, the temptation story is an allegory about every human being and our call to service. In fact, the entirety of the Second Testament can be read as an allegory about our true human nature, our divine self, with Jesus as a stand-in for all humans. Jesus as a parable helps us understand the idea of service to God, and through God to each other. I wholeheartedly believe the Gospels were originally intended to show Jesus as an example—an ideal—for everyone who heard or read them. Somehow, that powerful idea has been lost over the years, as Christianity developed into a business and became more and more about the worship of Jesus, rather than about living into our own Christ-like nature. I don't think Jesus tells us we'll do even greater things than him (John 14.12), or that the kingdom of heaven is within (Luke 17.21) because he wants us to worship him. No, he tells us these things to teach us how to be like him: completely in tune with God.
Of course, living like Jesus, the self-realized Christ, takes a great deal of work. It requires the sort of constant self-reflection we find Jesus undertaking in the desert. It demands we resist the temptation to wield power and abuse other human beings or the environment. It takes more than believing in a messiah. Living into Christ Consciousness obliges us to undertake the journey toward becoming a messiah—anointed, enlightened, one with God. It’s a trip!
As we participate in this trip (because we are not taking the trip alone, we are with God every step of the way) we start understanding the importance of service, in any way we are called. And perhaps more importantly, we see we are making progress when we stop comparing our talents and gifts to others and see everyone as serving in their unique ways. Some of us are artists, some of us are organizers, some of us are growers and others reapers. We are all motivated by a deeper sense of being one with God (whether we realize it or not), which then creates a more profound sense of being one with each other. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Cor. 12.26).
Jesus’ call was to make peace, not war. He doesn't violently battle his demons on the riverbank, he simply inwardly reflects and calls his demons out for the fallacies they are. Jesus does this by remembering that Oneness with God calls him to service—through God to his fellow human beings. During his time in the desert, he rejects the notion of earthly kingdoms (which makes the celebration of “the king” into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday all the more bizarre). He resists the temptation to prove God’s strength, knowing that God doesn’t need to prove anything. Through all these temptations, Jesus reminds us it is our task to have faith in God’s agape love—unconditional, spiritual, universal love for all creation. When we find that faith, when that sense of connection overwhelms us, then we begin living into the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the world is forever changed and filled with love.
Meditation: Fill me with agape love.