Text: Matthew 3: 13- 4: 11
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan,to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water,suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son the Beloved,[a] with whom I am well pleased.”
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered,“It is written,
‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Henri J. Nouwen says that Jesus at the time of baptism heard the words of God for our sake. “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus came to this world so that all of us can hear God say to us “This is my Son/ Daughter, the beloved, with whom I am well please.” Jesus revealed to us God’s unconditional love for us. We are the beloved of God not because of any merit of ours but because of who God is. That is our identity. It is our song. We are God’s beloved. It is in this context that we need to see the Temptation of Jesus. The First temptation was where the ‘Tempter’ tried to convince Jesus that fulfilling desires is the most important thing. “You are hungry. If you are Son of God, turn the stone into bread.” (Matthew 4: 3) There is an ad of Limca that is doing the rounds where we have Kareena Kapoor suggesting us “Pyaas badhaao” which actually means increase your desires. We live in times that tempt us that it is not good to be satisfied.You have to increase your appetite to dream big. What happens is we are left restless and dissatisfied. This leads us to the next temptation of Jesus where the tempter says “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down”. Here Jesus was asked to do something spectacular to prove Himself. He had to jump down to catch the attention. Prove himself. Is this not a very common temptation that we face? We live in times where we have to keep proving ourselves. Who cares how good a person you are. You have to prove your worth. You need to perform. You need to compete. What does this lead us to? We have youths who are perpetually dissatisfied. When I was in college I was depressed at how ordinary I was. It created inferiority complex that kept saying you are not good enough. I am sure many have gone or are going through this phase. The temptation to prove ourselves leads us to the third temptation of Jesus “All these I will give you,if you will fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4: 9). Temptation here is to worship not out of gratitude of life but worship so as to get something in exchange of worship. There is a saying that in the age where market and market forces rule, one must worship any thing and anybody to get ahead in life. Ethics don’t matter, morality does not matter, being nice does not matter. Recently when I switched on the television, I saw testimonies of people who proclaimed that after coming to a particular Church, they started to prosper. One persons business expanded, he bought cars and he was high on the social ladder. And the pastor concluded with a smile, Bible says“Ask and you shall receive.” Worshipping God is not because He is the Creator but these churches proclaim it is profitable to worship. You will live your dream.
How do we overcome these temptations? Jesus overcame these temptations as He heard the voice of God that called him Beloved. We need to hear the voice of God like Jesus did. We need to know we are ‘Beloved of God.’ Being Beloved of God gives us the identity. We are not defined by our desires. Our identity is not the car that we have, or the locality that we live or the iPhone that we possess. We are “God’s beloved.” If we are sure about that we do not need to prove ourselves. He accepts us as we are.That is his grace. With all our weakness and failings we are ‘God’s Beloved.’ When we are sure about that worshiping does not become a compulsion, it flows out of our gratitude for the God who has made us His Beloved.
There is a tribe Sierra Leone called the Himba Tribe where the birth date of a child is counted not from when they were born, nor from when they are conceived but from the day that the child was a thought in its mother’s mind.And when a woman decides that she will have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come. And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father, and teaches it to him.And then, when they make love to physically conceive the child, some of that time they sing the song of the child, as a way to invite it. And then, when the mother is pregnant, the mother teaches that child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village, so that when the child is born, the old women and the people around her sing the child’s song to welcome it. And then, as the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls, or hurts its knee,someone picks it up and sings its song to it. Or perhaps the child does something wonderful, or goes through the rites of puberty, then as a way of honoring this person, the people of the village sing his or her song. In this African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them. Then they sing their song to them.
The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything to prove yourself or usurp what is not yours.
This practice of the Himba tribe is very poignant to us. Psalmist says “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalms139: 13). God formed us in our mother’s womb. We are His beloved. When we face a tragedy in life, when everything seems lost, like the Himba tribe that sang the song to the person to remind his/her identity, Let us hear the Voice of God that says, ‘This is my Son/ Daughter, the Beloved,[a] with whom I am well pleased.’ When people question our worth and make us feel worthless just remember that we are God’s Beloved. My identity is that I am ‘God’s Beloved,Merin Mathew’. What is yours?