It’s 1940, May 12th, banned from Berlin, soon to be banned from preaching anywhere in Nazi Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer risks arrest to preach to students on Pentecost, calls the Christians gathered to be the authentic Church, to be such a church by both knowing and obeying God’s Word, by following the Holy Spirit’s leading. Bonhoeffer said,
“The Holy Spirit is the living God, not some inert concept. The church community [must] trust the Holy Spirit in every decision and believe strongly that the Spirit continues to be present in the community and at work in it. The Spirit will not permit our community to grope about to darkness, if only we are willing to take the Spirit’s teachings seriously…”
Centuries earlier that same Spirit leads/drives Jesus into the desert/wilderness to accomplish God’s will. There in the desert Spirit-led, Spirit-driven, Spirit-filled Jesus is about the work of ministry. Alone, hungry, isolated, worn-thin, Jesus appears to be easy-pickings for a predator referred to as a dragon in (Revelation 12:3) whose permanent exile from God’s celestial realm has him skulking about the same desert/wilderness in which one finds Jesus. Coincidence? Not likely? Accident? Not likely? Opportunity for God to work purpose and work salvation? Definitely!
It all goes down like this:
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. (Matt. 4:1-11, NRSV)
This incarnation of evil comes to Jesus with three temptations and relying on God’s word, trusting the Father, Jesus—alone, hungry, isolated, worn-thin Jesus— withstands them all.
How? How could one so weak and weary stand? By trusting, obeying, believing, and using God’s word. By way of God’s word Jesus stands. And, what grace is bestowed as a result!
Had Jesus yielded, even a smidgeon, to any of these temptations, we’d have no Savior. Had Jesus flinched, to whom should we turn? He’d not have the words of eternal life, not be so Spirit-led, not be so Spirit-driven, not be so Spirit-filled.
But Jesus did not flinch, did stand, does stand even still. The same word that sustained Jesus in the face of evil sustains us, too. With us it comes down to being Spirit-led, Spirit-driven, Spirit-filled, to embracing that, “the Holy Spirit is the living God; to trust the Holy Spirt in every decision; to be aware that the Spirit continues to be present in the community.” To know God’s word and to use it well.
Unlike Jesus, who is 100% God and 100% human, we are simply 100% human. It is difficult for us to stand alone. We find our meaning, identity, safety, and purpose in community—-which is to say, in a healthy Christian community—in one that’s “willing to take the Spirit’s teachings seriously.” We are a herd, that when banded together in a wilderness time, withstands evil incarnate by trusting, obeying, and using God’s word together.
And in such cases should we, any of us, flinch, fail, or both, we have a dear assurance. Jesus never flinched, never will. Jesus never failed, never will. So, Luther pens, “Let this world’s tyrant rage; in battle we’ll engage! His might is doomed to fail; God’s judgment must prevail! One little word subdues him.” And for the Christian the subduing word that ends all debate is, “Jesus.” Use that word often. Take up that word and say to the old metaphoric dragon, “Piss off! I’ve a word for you. Jesus! That’s my final word on the matter. Jesus! And that’s the final word on that!”