As we have done throughout previous Lenten and Advent seasons, we are again blogging through the Lectionary readings in this Lenten season. This year, however, due to our travels in Central Asia, we have asked a number of guests to blog for us. These guests are individuals who are influential in our lives and work. We're honored to share this space with them-and with you–in this season of reflection.
A reading from the Gospel according to Luke.
Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by the Devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up he was hungry.
The Devil, playing on his hunger, gave the first test: “Since you're God's Son, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread.”
Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to really live.”
For the second test he led him up and spread out all the kingdoms of the earth on display at once. Then the Devil said, “They're yours in all their splendor to serve your pleasure. I'm in charge of them all and can turn them over to whomever I wish. Worship me and they're yours, the whole works.”
Jesus refused, again backing his refusal with Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God and only the Lord your God. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.”
For the third test the Devil took him to Jerusalem and put him on top of the Temple. He said, “If you are God's Son, jump. It's written, isn't it, that 'he has placed you in the care of angels to protect you; they will catch you; you won't so much as stub your toe on a stone'?”
“Yes,” said Jesus, “and it's also written, 'Don't you dare tempt the Lord your God.'”
That completed the testing. The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity.
— Luke 4:1-13 (MSG)
May I begin today's meditation with a moment of brutal honesty? If I would have just completed 40 days in the wilderness with nothing to eat, I'm fairly certain that I would have eaten the stone–converted to bread or not. Jesus, however….
After spending time here in Central Asia–or in this line of work in general–I'm constantly amazed how much of life happens over food. We spend time every evening as a team gathered around a wonderful meal. While the food is quite good, it's not the food that keeps us sitting there until long after the food is finished and the tea cups are empty.
Here, in our text, we find Jesus–someone who spent most of His earthly ministry (and most likely His life before His ministry began) around a dinner table–presented with an opportunity to eat. Yet, at this particular meal, something is missing.
Sure, Jesus could have turned the stone into bread, the tree stump into a lamb cutlet, and the weeds into a side salad. No one would have faulted Him for that. After all, He's just completed 40 days with not so much as a crumb. Yet, Jesus understood something about the heart of the law from Deuteronomy that He quotes.
The law wasn't about having a set of rules that had to be kept for the sake of keeping. The law was a set of guidelines of how relationships–between people, between businesses, between preists and laity, between God and His creation–would work best.
Man shall not live by bread alone. Because, bread alone isn't life-giving; yet, the relationship that happens over that bread is.
And here is the dilemma that Jesus is presented with. He can eat out of the need to eat, or He can choose to wait for the relationship that comes with eating.
In this case, it wasn't about relationship with the disciples–they haven't even heard Jesus call at this point. It was about the relationship with the Father. It was about ensuring that every meal was eaten in a place of communion with both God and man.
This morning, one of our teammates referred to our dinner times together as a team as communion. And, I'm convinced this was the point Jesus was trying to make. It's not about the sacrament–not that it isn't important–but rather it's about the life that happens after the meal. It's about the walk that we are on together with those we dine alongside of.
So, in this Lenten season, may I offer you a challenge?
Eat with friends. Have intentional meals together. Do it in each other's homes. And take your time. Don't rush through the food and then out the door. Turn off the phone. Turn off the distractions. Sit down. Take your time. Eat. Stay long after the tea kettle is empty. Enjoy the conversation. Do it often. And, when you're done, remember that you did it in rememberance of Him.
We look at Jesus’ refusal to succumb to the temptation to change stones to bread, and challenge ourselves to view communion differently.