Saturday, February 11, 2012

Timelines and Testations: Jesus, Sexonomics and Facebook

(found this online)
It has been hugely productive,
and (even) fun to, as part of a class that several others and I teach, have students plot out (on the whiteboard) their timeline.

As Pastor/Trucker Franks suggests below, sometimes it's "more about the journey than the destination."  (See also  "What if Torah/ מלכות השמים, is more 'journey  than 'doctrine'?")

We then take time to interweave/intertext our personal timelines with the timeline/trajectory of Jesus' life in Matthew's gospel (the thrust of the class).

Especially helpful is the suggestion by Donald Kraybill ("The Upside Down Kingdom") and Ray Van Der Laan (video)  that throughout  his earthly life, Jesus was revisited by remixes of the original three temptations ("testations" ) of the devil in chapter 4.

Kraybill provocatively proffers the following taxonomy of the temptations; suggesting that any later temptation Jesus faced (or we face) is at heart in one of these three spheres:

1=  Bread into stones: Economic 

2=Jump from temple and test God:Religious 

 3=Own all kingdoms: Political; 

Henri Nouwen ("in the Name of Jesus") breaks it down this way:

1=  Bread into stones:  temptation to be relevant

 2=Jump from temple and test God:   temptation to be spectacular  

3=Own all kingdoms: Political;   temptation to be rule over

So, it may be useful to plot out various temptations along your life timeline, and ask which of Jesus' temptation are each is  tied to.

Nouwen himself,  one of the most profound writers on the temptations of Jesus, was both Catholic (gasp!) and struggled with homosexual temptation (!!!)..

And....Uh, on that last temptation, the sexual one, he was in good company, according to a good Book I read:

"Jesus was tempted in every single way humans are..."(click here for the shocking source...but warning, it's a dangerous book for religious folk!) 

SO..if every temptation can be filed under one of the three categories:

Economic    Religious   Political..

Relevant    Spectacular   Rule over

..under which does sexual temptation occur?

Note Rob Bell's definition of "sexuality,"
                                            biblically defined:

"For many, sexuality is simply what happens between two people involving physical pleasure. But that's only a small percentage of what sexuality is. Our sexuality is all the ways we strive to reconnect with our world, with each other, and with God." (Rob Bell, "Sex God," p. 42)...

How might virtually all temptations (the three Jesus faced, or others you could name) be fundamentally economic?  Kraybill, you'll remember, calls the bread temptation "economic," but how might any/all others temptations trace to this root/'garbage"?
HINT: Note that he term economics comes from the Ancient Greekοἰκονομία (oikonomia, "management of a household, administration") from οἶκος (oikos, "house") + νόμος (nomos, "custom" or "law"), hence "rules of the house(hold)".[1]  


Note  that the baptism of Jesus  (chapter 3) and the temptations (chapter 4) should be read together as one literary unit or paragraph ( a "coupling" or "particularization") as two items connected.

Remember how important repeated words this case,  "SON":

-The segue is direct..."Then after his baptism, Jesus was led by the Spirit  into the desert for temptation by the devil."  (Matt. 4:1)
(see this amazing assortment of Scriptures, maybe he is "God's devil" after all..)

-In light of that, ask In what other ways do the baptism and temptation connect?
How does baptism prepare for temptation?

See the sermon by Nadia Bolz-Weber, "How To Say Defiantly, ‘I am Baptized!’"for a contemporary world application.

NOTE: a drop-down box in the temptation  scene:

The devil's text ,

you are the son of God.."

might better be translated
(according to the Greek word used) as:

you are the son of God.."

What difference might it make?  Is the devil wondering/questioning asking Jesus if he is son of God?  Or is he assuming it; he and Jesus both know that he is...and thus "Since you are the Son of God, what kind of ways can I tempt you to use/abuse that Sonship?"
Van Der Laann, in "Jesus Our Desert – The Three Temptations") proposes that the three "temptations" Jesus met in Matthew 4 were the same three  that show up  (repackaged, revisited) throughout Jesus' timeline on earth...right up to, and especially including the cross (as in, not avoiding it) .Several examples:

  • Jesus put God ahead of family ("Who are my brothers and sisters?"  "Whoveer loves father and mother more than me cannot be my disciple."-Matthew fact, how many ways can you find in that whole chapter  where Jesus re-encounters versions of one of the testations?
  • When people reported Herod wanted to kill him, he was not concerned (Luke 13)
  • When people wanted to make him king by force, he walked away  (John 6:15)
  • When the crowds were hungry, the disciples  wanted Jesus to feed them.  He refused (Feeding of the Multitude)
  • The "get behind me, Satan" comment to Peter when Peter suggested Jesus should bypass the cross (Matthew 18)
  • "go ahead and use Your power; the cross is going to hurt" 

The video offered lots of help on how the Testations of Jesus are related to/equated to/hyperlinked to the Testations of Israel in Exodus, Numbers. Deuteronomy.  It is no accident that all three testations of Jesus were found in different form in the OT, as well as the Scriptures Jesus used to counter the testations.

Though it is obvious who "The Son (of God)" is in Matthew (Jesus), unless we know the literary/historical background, we miss that in the Old Testament, that phrase is used for Israel/God's people.   (see  Exodus 4:22-23 and especially the way Matt 2:15 quotes Hosea 11:1) Thus...remember this chart :

Now we realize that God tested/the devil tempted the first "SON" in a similar way.
Jesus the Son succeeds (in 40 days) in "reversing the curse" that Israel the Son inherited by not passing it (in 40 years).

Jesus is not only (in a sense) the
New Moses,
 but (in a sense) the New Israel
 (for help on that important point, see this  article,
and this).

VanDer Laan suggested that the heart of Jesus' "success" was consistently  and persistently keeping the "Shema,"   and not caving into a (mis)use of power.  This is the "binder" of the testations: Love God and neighbor.Thus

Q).Who is Jesus in Matthew?
A.) The One who, unlike Israel, passed the wilderness testations by loving God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength....and refusing to give into using "right-handed"  (a la Capon) power.

 VanderLaan prefers to translate "tests" instead of "temptations."
You have seen that I have coined the word "testations"  It would seen that in Scripture that God tests, and the devil tempts...and sometimes both are going on simultaneously. 

HERE are some helpful questions you might think about if you want to pursue this topic::

  • 1)What were the three temptations of Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11, Compare any ways Mark's account,  Mark 1:12-13  and  Luke's account, Luke 4:1-13 differ, and suggest any reasons why.
  • 2)How does Nouewen summarize the three temptations(1=to be relevant  2=to be spectacular 3=to rule over)H?  How do you (use your own words)?
  • 3)How do the three temptations connect to the historical and literary world of the Hebrew ("Old')Testament?
  • 4)How do the three temptations connect to the contemporary world of Jesus and the disciples?
  • 5)List and discuss several possible ways that versions of the three temptations reoccur and are revisited  throughout Jesus' life in Matthew's gospel?  (How is Jesus tested/tempted elswhere in Matthew, and how are the temptations versions of a similar one (two, or three) that he faced in the original temptation passage?
  • 6)What are the three core temptations you face, and how have they revisited you  throughout your timeline?  How would you categorize them using Nouwen's categories?  Using the three categories of the "Shema"  (heart/mind/might) a la  Vander Laan'?  Using Kraybill's three categories (1=Economic 2=Religious  3=Political; see chapters 1-4 of "Upside Down Kingdom")
  • 7)What have you learned about passing these tests/resiisting these temptations?
  • 8)What does all of this  (the Matt 4 Scripture, and testing/tempting) have to do with the Kingdom?
  • 9)Discuss how the passages that deal with Jesus not being immune to temptation( Hebrews 2:17-18Hebrews 4:14-16,  and Hebrews 5:7-9) affect your views of  "Who is Jesus?" and of Jesus' divinity and humanity.


I started teaching all this before Facebook announced it was changing its entire format/interface to "Timeline." As you probably know by now ( If note read all about it here), your Facebook   page and wall (oops, the wall is renamed "timeline") is now regeared to feature and celebrate key points (and photos) of your life.
Ostensibly, the (eventually mandatory) switch was about the fun of highlighting historical markers of your life.  As we all (should) know, it's all about Facebook catching even more personal data about us, so they can better target their ads towards us.. an attempt to tempt us.

So, whatever their motive, I also see the switch as a significant (sign-ificant) sign of the times;
there is a hunger in the culture for narrative/story/journey.  Such is integral to the postmodern shift of our EPIC times.

So, plot your life and testations...if not on Facebook, on paper or in your mind.

Who knows what you'll learn.

Maybe how to me more like Jesus...who faced equivalent temptations to all of us..and passed the test.

..But you know, he never was on Facebook ..

In any case, the clincher for the argument that the devil's ideas {in the wilderness temptations}aren't all bad comes from Jesus himself. At other times, in other places, and for his own reasons, Jesus does all of the things the devil suggests. Instead of making lunch out of rocks, he feeds the five thousand miraculously--basically the same trick, on a grander scale. Instead of jumping off the temple and not dying, he dies and refuses to stay dead--by any standards, an even better trick. And finally, instead of getting himself bogged down in a two-man presidency with an opposite number he doesn't really understand, he aces out the devil on the cross and ends up risen, ascended at the right hand of the Father as King of Kings and Lord of Lords--which is the best trick of all, taken with the last trump.
No, the difference between Jesus and the devil does not lie in what the devil suggested, but in the methods he proposed--or more precisely, in the philosophy of power on which his methods were based...If you are really God, the devil says, do something. Jesus answers, I am really God, therefore I do nothing...The devil wants power to be used to do good; Jesus insists that power corrupts and defeats the very good it tries to achieve.
..the devil in the wilderness overs Jesus a short cut, Jesus calls it a dead end and turns a deaf ear.-Robert Farrar Capon "The Third Peacock," 43-45.


understudied and reckless fool
spliced heart laments
staccato bravado
Eucharisting torments

still small in grief
Mourning has broken my record of wrongs
tidal wave offering
strange land , banned songs

immersed by the mystic,
simplexity of trust
Sinai volcano
Seeking one justice; not one is just

testation of forty
daze of wilderness retreats
It is written largely
Adonai slyly defeats

power overpowered,
i found faith
 in time.

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