The temptation of Jesus is one of those Bible stories where it is easy to conflate the different accounts. We see come across it and pay little attention to whether it is Matthew, Mark, or Luke telling the story, we just pull the same old lessons out of it.
For some, the lesson goes like this: You will face temptation. Memorize a bunch of Bible verses to say when tempted. Believe this will make the temptation go away.
My version used to be: You will face temptation. You will give into temptation. Jesus overcame temptation for you.
But what if we paused to look at the varying details offered in each of the different accounts? What if we looked at more than just, for example, the first thirteen verses of Luke 4? Is there something that makes Luke’s telling of the story different from Matthew and Mark?
While all three temptation accounts come right after Jesus’ baptism, Luke sticks a long genealogy between the two events (Luke 3:23-38). It starts with Jesus and runs back to the first man, Adam. Every line in it declares someone the son of someone else, with Adam as the son of God.
At Jesus’ baptism, a voice from heaven declares him to be the son of God. Then you have all of these people who were the son of their faith and Adam as the original son of God. Then Jesus goes into the wilderness and is repeatedly tempted with the line, “If you are the son of God …”
So the son of God Adam chooses, not to live as a child of the divine, but to forge his path. One that brings on shame that needs to be covered and blame to deflect attention from his failings. In other words, he decides to embrace power over love. From that point on, everyone in the genealogy and by association all of humanity, follow Adam’s path and live by power.
So as he steps into the desert, who will Jesus be a son of, Joseph or God? Whose path will Jesus follow, Caesar or the one he calls Father? Which way will Jesus live, power or love?
But Jesus is not the only one with that choice. God declares every one of us his beloved children. So whose child will you be? Will you believe the lineage of our ancestors, one that brings on shame that needs to be covered, or will you believe that you are as wonderful as God declares you to be? Will you turn to blame to deflect attention, or will you allow your past to guide you into your future?
That is the temptation we face every day, to not live as the children the divine declares us to be.