In Luke 4, Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness where he fasts for 40 days and is tempted by the Devil. At the end of the 40 days, he’s famished and the Devil has three final temptations for him: make some bread for himself out of a stone, claim all the kingdoms of the world as his own, and prove himself to be the Son of God.
But unlike our father Adam, Jesus doesn’t fall for the trap. To claim the kingdoms of the world, Jesus would have to worship the Devil. That’s a violation of the most basic commandment for followers of Yahweh – there’s only one God deserving of your worship. And refusing to “jump off a cliff” just because someone else tells you it’s a good idea is our culture’s most basic lesson in resisting peer pressure.
But what’s so wrong with bread? God’s made bread for his people in the desert before; they called it manna. And Jesus himself IS going to provide bread to his people. But why not now? He’s already fasted for 40 days. It’s not like it would be unfaithful for him to eat a little bit. And there’s nothing wrong with bread.
Thinking about it this way helps us see something basic about all of the temptations. The things the Devil offers are good things. It is good to have bread. It is desirable to rule in righteousness. It is good to know God’s love and protection as God’s own child.
The temptation is not the thing. It’s the shortcut; to think that there is some easy way to good things. Some way that won’t cost you very much. You won’t dash your foot upon a stone. Your belly can be full.
But Jesus shows us that there’s no shortcut to goodness. His mercy comes after he’s betrayed. His resurrection cannot come until after his execution. His kingdom is established and made visible through these hard things.
The same is true for Christians. We cannot accept shortcuts to good things. It will sour them before we ever enjoy them. The way is narrow. The path may be rough. But it’s the way of Jesus, and there are no shortcuts. We get to be with him for the journey. And the destination is full of unmatched good things. Bearing that in mind, let’s keep the faith.