Focused Faith

Read Matthew 4.1-11

Jesus, having been filled by God’s Spirit at baptism, goes on a retreat to reflect on his mission, to focus his heart and mind on what God has in store for him ahead. While in the wilderness, Jesus faces temptation from the devil. The tempter, as our text calls the devil, attempts to distract Jesus from his focused faith, to draw attention to his growling stomach. Jesus has been fasting a long time and the tempter comes up with a grin on his face and says, “Look at those stones. Look a little like loaves of bread, don’t they?

That’s not what I’m here for, Jesus reminds himself. “Bread alone can’t satisfy the hunger inside us. Only God can do that and I’m here to find that living bread.”

Well, now, says the tempter, if that’s the case, then look here, throw yourself off this cliff, because as you know, the Bible says, “God will command angels concerning you, and on their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” If you want to prove you’re special in God’s eyes, jump off that cliff and watch how God saves you. Get on with it, but don’t just sit around starving yourself to death.

Jesus licks his lips and feels his parched throat crack as he says, “It’s also written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” God will act in God’s own time. In the meantime, I’ll just wait and watch and pray.

Finally, the tempter, almost out of tricks, looks around and grins. “Hey, Mr. Earth Changer! You want to make a difference in the world? Look around you. I can put everything you see under your rule. You can be in charge of everyone and everything you see and all you have to do is kneel down and worship me.”

Jesus, barely able to speak, summons all the strength he has left and bursts out, “Away with you, Satan.” It is written, “Worship the Lord your God. Serve God only.”

Jesus resists the final temptation. He remains focused on his faith. Though the tempter had tried to distract him with the promise of food, of fame, of power, Jesus resisted. His eyes remained firmly fixed on God and the road ahead.

Then, writes Matthew, the devil left him and suddenly angels came and waited on him. Angels are often mentioned in the Bible. They serve as God’s messengers, bringing words of hope to the discouraged, words of warning to those who face danger – soothing comfort to those in pain.

,It was an angel who found Hagar, weeping in the wilderness, all out of water, running from a bad situation. The angel cared for her, consoled her and encouraged her to go back and try to patch things up at home. It was an angel that guided Abraham and Sarah through strange foreign lands to a place they could call home. It was an angel that spoke to Joseph in a dream and convinced him to pack up his family and run off to Egypt, to make a home there, to escape the wrath of the evil king Herod.

Angels serve as God’s delegates, God’s representatives sent to watch over us, to care for us, and to guide us along the way.

Angels can be either natural or supernatural agents of God’s mission. God works through natural events, as well as supernatural. God is not bound by the laws of nature, but often chooses to work within these laws to produce a good outcome. As the Bible shows us, God makes messengers out of the wind, chariots out of clouds, ministers out of the flaming fire. God can and does use nature to minister to God’s children, sending rain to water the earth, snow to cover the ground, winds to blow and fires to burn.

After Jesus demonstrates the courage to resist the tempter, God ministers to him through his divinely-sent messengers.  Thanks to Jesus, who showed us that a focused faith is possible, with the help of God’s Spirit. We can always turn around and focus our faith on the one who remained focused even when all others were distracted, even when all eyes were focused on him as an enemy, not a Savior. This one, Jesus Christ, is the focus of our faith and in him we can see clearly the road that lies ahead. A paved highway that leads to the heavens where angels a lot like you and me are waiting to care for us, to welcome us home after a long journey.

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