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Monday, January 22, 2018

What's the desert got to do with temptation?

Last week our Coffee Break group looked at the baptism of Jesus, and were moderately surprised to find it's hardly mentioned in the gospel of John. This week we'll look at what happened next...

(8) Temptation

Ah, temptation… When does temptation usually hit you most strongly? Why might temptation have come to Jesus straight after his baptism? And what has wandering around in the desert got to do with it?
Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell how Jesus went into the desert after his baptism. John jumps straight into Jesus’ ministry, which presumably began on his return. Read Matthew 4:1, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1
1.       Where did Jesus go?  (Traditionally, the temptations are believed to have taken place on Mount Quarantania, near Jericho. Does that sound plausible? Why a mountain—Matthew 4:8, Luke 4:5? Why a desert? Why near Jericho?)
2.       What did he plan to do there? Do you ever “plan” to face temptation? Why? What “desert” would you go to?
3.       Can you remember what the “three temptations” were?
Starting with food, read Matthew 4:2-4, Luke 4:2-4, Deuteronomy 8:3
1.       How long had Jesus fasted? Who counted the days, or does it just mean a while? Does it remind you of 40 years?
2.       Is fasting the same as eating and drinking nothing?
3.       Does quoting scripture help us overcome temptation? Has it ever helped you?
4.       What characterizes this temptation?
Then comes the view from the mountain (in Luke anyway. Did you remember the temptations are listed in a different order in Matthew and Luke?). Read Luke 4:5-7, Matthew 4:8-10, Deuteronomy 6:13
1.       What is Jesus’ purpose? Is this temptation a case of the end not justifying the means?
2.       When might we be tempted to do the wrong thing in order to further what we think is God’s plan?
3.       Would that be the same as worshiping Satan?
4.       What’s the other time Jesus said “Get behind me Satan”? See Mark 8:33
5.       What characterizes this temptation?
Finally (or in between if you’re reading the temptations in Matthew), read Matthew 4:5-7, Luke 4:9-12, Psalm 91:11-12
1.       How do you see this playing out? Is Jesus still in the desert? Has he walked to Jerusalem? Has he flown there? Been carried in the Spirit (which would suggest the Holy Spirit helps to tempt him)? Or is he looking at Jerusalem from the top of the mountain, being tempted to save it by performing a great spectacle?
2.       What characterizes this temptation?
Matthew and Luke list the temptations in two different orders. What order do you prefer and why?
Mark doesn’t detail the temptations but does mention angels. Should we expect blessings during or after temptation?
Christian churches have often aligned the temptations with virtues.
1.       What virtues do you think they cover? How important are these virtues to you?
2.       How important were they do Jesus’ ministry? (John doesn’t describe the temptations, but read John 6:26, John 6:15 and John 2:18. How might these be related?)
3.        Do you think:
a.       Mark forgot to include the temptations? John didn’t think Jesus being tempted was important? And/or Matthew or Luke got the order of events wrong?
b.      Jesus spent 39 days not being tempted and one day being tempted (or 40 and 3)?
c.       The temptations are literal or literary or both?

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