The Temptation to Doubt our Status

I’ve now reached the third (and last) of the three temptations faced by Jesus (as recorded in Luke’s Gospel). The context may be important – Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness had been immediately preceded by his baptism in the River Jordan. Luke tells us “when Jesus … had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased’….Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.”
And in the wilderness, what else was there for Jesus to do but think … and doubt? Had he really experienced the very Spirit of God descending on him? Had he really heard God’s voice saying “You are my Son, I love you, I’m delighted with you?” The Spirit of God in him? Was he deluding himself? Jesus the carpenter’s son – God’s beloved Son? God pleased with him? To put it mildly, that’s all very hard to believe. He needed proof before he based his entire future on such unlikely convictions – dramatic, indisputable proof.
If God’s Son were to throw himself off the top of the Temple, God would command his angels to protect him – so if he really was the Son of God, he could do that without so much as incurring a scratch. That’s the sort of proof he could reasonably require before embarking on the risky venture of believing he was God’s beloved Son.
But Jesus resists the temptation to require proof of his status. He knows what he experienced at his baptism. And that is sufficient – “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” is his answer: trust God.
Of course, none of us is “The Son of God” as Jesus was (and is). But the Gospels, the other New Testament writings and the witness of the Christian Church, all tell me that God is my loving Father – and therefore I am a beloved child of God. And when I take time to consider what that means, I realise that it is a stupendous statement.
Frequently, I find it hard to believe. Life is tough. If God really is my loving Father, surely I can expect miraculous, divine, intervention to overcome the obstacles, to heal my hurts, to cure my imperfections, to fulfil my hopes? For me, however, Jesus’ response to the third temptation says “Don’t look for miracles – that is testing God. Believe that God is your loving Father – and venture your life on that belief.” Easy to say and write – extremely difficult to do. Yet again, I am grateful that the Spirit of God is with me and in me to enable (not just help) me to do it.
In worship services we say a detailed and theologically sophisticated creed. Perhaps I need, more often, to say a much simpler personal creed: “I believe God is my loving Father.” Perhaps that says it all.
Andrew B.

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