The Third Temptation

Reading through PBXVI’s book, Jesus of Nazareth, he makes an interesting point regarding the this temptation of Jesus in the desert, per St. Matthew’s account.  This is the leading up of Our Lord onto a high mountain, to show him all the kingdoms of the world, if He will but fall down and worship the devil.  Universal kingship.  This is obviously what is destined for the Messiah.  And yet the devil offers it to him here, without the requisite Sacrifice involved in his attaining to it.  A choice between to ways of being King, two visions of the Messiah.  The way of the world, power, wealth.  Or the way of the Cross.  Love.  Sacrifice.  In of it itself, that is not particularly new or eye-opening.

But he illustrates this choice between the way of faith and the way of power by reference to two other scenes in the gospels.  The first is the one involving Barabbas.  Bar-Abbas means son of the Father.  And, in fact, Origen apparently has alluded to the fact that the New Testament manuscripts extant during his time referred to Barabbas as Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus Son of the Father.  This clearly reflects the fact that the early Church understood ths scene to be a choice presented to the people between two Messianic figures, two sons of the Father.  One has chosen the way of weakness, and the other has chosen the path of political insurrection.  They chose poorly.  Are our choices any better?

The second scene comes right after Our Lord’s conferring the keys of the Kingdom to St Peter.  Peter has just proclaimed the revealed truth that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the livng God.  To which Jesus responds by saying, yes, and I must be betrayed, beaten and killed.  To which Peter says, Lord, this shall never happen to you.  Two visions of how to be King.  Weakness and power.  And Jesus responds, “Get thee behind me Satan.”  Incredibly harsh, but understood in the light of the desert temptation, it is nothing more than Peter subscribing to the demonic (and popular) view of the Messiah.  Proposing another temptation to our Lord, another stumbling block.  Secretly, or not, I think we all want Jesus to be a different Messiah if not for my sake (but yes, for my sake), then for that of my kids.  A powerful and conquering Christ is empty and illusory.  His way is the way of the Cross.

I love you Jesus, my love.  Grant that I may always love you, and then do with me as you will.


~ by Rob on February 23, 2010.

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