Day 4: Matthew 4:1-22
Jesus begins his ministry in the Jordan River with the baptism by John. Immediately the Spirit leads him into the wilderness to fast for forty (!) days—Matthew’s way of reminding us of Israel’s forty years in the wilderness. During the forty days Jesus spends in the desert, he faces various temptations that could draw him away from his daring mission to save the human race from itself. The specific temptations have a common theme: they tempt Jesus to “play it safe” as a way of seeking to fulfill his mission of salvation. Now, of course, playing it safe is a favorite choice of individuals and organizations. In theory, it’s a low-risk, no-risk path ahead. Playing it safe avoids difficult choices, painful solutions…it’s a fast and easy way ahead with none of the pain or peril. That’s the great temptation Jesus was offered in the wilderness: to play it safe as a way of achieving the salvation of the human race. I read somewhere that in India many years ago, a person who attended university and failed to graduate was given a card that read: “Bachelor of Arts attempted and failed.” The card was given as an affirmation, not as a judgment, with the belief being that someone who attempted something and failed was of more value to society than someone who never risked failure. Jesus chose not to yield to the temptation to play it safe, and in doing so faced the failure of the cross. Ultimately, God took that failure and, through the power of divine love, used it to win the salvation of the world. And your salvation and mine.
What might you be called to risk in order to realize a dream or attain a goal? How might you be tempted to “play it safe?” How might you help empower others to take risks in God’s service?
Almighty God, strengthen our resolve to serve others in your name. Free us from love of safety so that we might love boldly; free us from dedication to self to embrace service of others. Give us courage to live out your mission of justice and love, hope and forgiveness in this world broken and enslaved by sin. Use us to help free your church from its sedate ways, set it on fire with the power of your Spirit, and empower it to take bold risks to proclaim your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who was tempted in every way as we are and yet did not sin. Amen.
The Rt. Rev. Clifton DanielBishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Crafton, Barbara Cawthorne. A Journey With Matthew: The 50 Day Bible Challenge . Forward Movement. Kindle Edition.