No Buyer’s Remorse
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.
March 4, 2022, Words By: Jenna Smith, Image By: Elliot Brown
This Sunday, we find ourselves at the start of lent. The spiritual sobriety of this season feels very reflective of the sobriety of Jesus’ actions during his temptation in the desert.
Christ, the famished. Christ, the power-less. Christ who turns away from the devil’s offers of reigning over the kingdoms of this earth.
There is an interesting nuance in the Gospel of Luke, in verse 6: “And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please.’”
It has been given over to me. The Gospel offers no edit or commentary over this statement. It assumes the truth of what Satan is saying: powers and principalities that self-serve, corrupt and elevate one at the cost of another are indeed his. And Jesus refuses to be their monarch.
It is for this reason, principally, that I have often struggled with the term, “King Jesus”, spoken in different circles. The eschatology writings in the New Testament certainly draw an image of the King of Kings in the heaven-dwelling person of Jesus, and there are instances where he is acknowledged as King of the Jews in either sincere or ironic tones depending on who is speaking. But on the whole, Jesus’ earthly ministry is one that entirely turns its back on our understanding of “Kingliness”. His incarnation was the opposite of a removed and majestic figurehead ruler.
Today, I am struggling with the King Jesus image for an entirely different reason. I would like a little more of him: an earthly authority, a royal lord to rule over our human indecencies. I am wholly dissatisfied with the Psalmists’ promises in this week’s lectionary, “Because you have made the LORD your refuge, the Most High your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent.” It feels like, these days, evil befalls us and our tents are plenty scourged.
At the moment of writing this, the world is aching. In Canada, the trucker convoy has been disbanded through a war measures act, leaving our country stunned at the state of our own brokenness and discord. In Texas, there are proposed laws that would put families of LGBTQ children at considerable risk. Ukraine is being invaded. And the list could go on.
I confess, reading Jesus’ refusal of the devil’s offers makes me twinge today. “Are you sure?” I want to ask him, “is there nothing I can say to change your mind?”
And so, in the midst of our groaning, we must stretch our necks to look beyond, and attempt to see how Jesus sees. As we consider the manner of Jesus, we must consider his choices. Last week, for transfiguration Sunday, Jesus refused Peter’s offer to build a Tabernacle. He leaves behind the option to remain apart, to reign over traditional sacred space, and he descends the mountain to rejoin the crowd.
This week, he refuses Satan’s offer to take hold of empire and economy. Again, an option for distinction and dominion are considered and refused.
The story of Jesus’ temptation is firmly planted in the lenten journey. Jesus will walk this path: he will again and again choose the way of sacrifice. He will choose solidarity with the Other. He will choose peace over vengeance. He will favour freedom over dominion. This will lead him all the way to the cross.
The only dominion he will ever choose will in fact be at his resurrection, when he will exert dominion over death.
And even then, his return will not be to take back that which he “should have grabbed” in the wilderness, during his 40 day temptation. There is evidently no buyer’s remorse to be found in Jesus, no regrets at refusing the perfect opportunity for power and reign. His true saving, transformative and earth-shattering work will be offered in his return as a fellow co-traveller, extending forgiveness. A companion. A comforter.
Dwelling Among Us
As we enter the first week of Lent, Jesus meets Satan in the desert. They discuss the meaning of bread, crown and temple. Imagine that these symbols represent the economic, political and religious systems by which society functions. How does Jesus reimagine each one in turn? What difference does it make?