The Sunday school class which I attend has been studying the book of Matthew. In reading the book as a whole, rather than in snippets and pieces, I noticed something which I hadn't seen before. In chapter three, John the Baptizer warns the Pharisees that they cannot entrust their salvation to the fact that they are children of Abraham, for God can raise up children of Abraham from stones. He was basically telling them that they aren't necessary for God's work to be fulfilled, and if they wanted salvation they'd better stop thinking that they are.
Then, in chapter four, Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days of fasting to be tempted by the Devil. The first temptation as recorded by Matthew and Luke is the temptation to turn the stones into bread. Is there a connection between John's reference to stones and the Devil's? Not being a believer in coincidence, I think there must be.
In all three of Satan's temptations, there is the enticement to take the easier way, which was not God's way. There is also the temptation of Jesus to prove he is God. So, in these temptations the virtues of courage and faith are attacked and the vice of pride is appealed to. A return to Eden in a way.
Returning to the first temptation. "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." On the surface, it seems innocuous. What could it hurt to make some bread, after all the hunger was great, and Jesus had the power. But giving into this temptation would have circumvented God's plan and also made Jesus weaker to resist the following temptations. I can just hear the taunting, behind the command. "Come on Jesus, If God can raise up sons of Abraham and if you are God, surely this can't be too hard for you. Why continue suffering as you are? In fact why should anyone suffer from hunger if in fact you are God and can do such miraculous feats?"
In all the temptations is the temptation to avoid the cross and suffering. Christ is the bread broken for us. He is the son of Abraham and of God. Those in Christ are also his body, children of Abraham and of God, to be broken for others. In a very real way, Christ's temptations are ours.
There is a song I remember singing in various Christian youth settings. The lyrics go:
Would you be poured out like wine upon the altar for Me?
Would you be broken like bread to feed the hungry?
Would you be so one with Me that you would do just as I will?
Would you be light and life and love My Word fulfilled?
Yes, I’ll be poured out like wine upon the altar for You.
Yes, I’ll be broken like bread to feed the hungry.
Yes, I’ll be so one with You that I would do just as You will.
Yes, I’ll be light and life and love Your Word fulfilled.
I don't think any of us had a clue what those words really meant. I think I'm just starting to grasp the meaning in part.