The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Tempting bread

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’” (Matthew 4:1-4).

It’s as if the devil was saying to Jesus, “Go ahead, Jesus, satisfy your desires and your hunger with things. Turn the stones to bread. It will satisfy you, and give purpose to your life.”

Several years ago, a controversial movie came out called The Last Temptation of Christ. Based on a book by Nikos Kazantzakis, the movie was controversial because people did not understand the fictional story behind it. The fantasy takes place while Jesus is hanging on the cross. In a stupor, Jesus lives out a fantasy of getting down off the cross, forsaking his mission, and having a normal, quiet life. He does his carpentry work, he marries, and he has children. He discusses religion with his close friends, and he grows old. The end of this dream is that Jesus, as an old man, is confronted by his disciples, a bunch of decrepit, spiritless old men. In a twist of irony, Judas accuses Jesus of having been a coward, a deserter, and a traitor for having come down from the cross. In Judas’ opinion, Jesus had wasted his life by avoiding the cross where God had wanted him. He had chosen an easier way and become a failure. In a passage at the end of the book Jesus awoke from his dream, still hanging on the cross, and realized that he had faced his final temptation, a temptation to live for himself instead of following God.

Temptation had captured him for a split second and led him astray. The joys, marriages, and children were lies; the decrepit, degraded old men who shouted coward, deserter, traitor at him were lies. All—all were illusions sent by the Devil. His disciples were alive and thriving. They had gone over sea and land and were proclaiming the Good News. Everything had turned out as it should, glory be to God! He uttered a triumphant cry: “It is accomplished!” And it was as though he had said: “Everything has begun.”

Let’s be honest. Aren’t there times when we want to avoid God’s will for our lives? Who wants to take up a cross? Then there are times we doubt God’s existence or love. Wouldn’t it just be easier to stay home Sunday morning, have some family time, sleep in, take care of ourselves, catch up on reading, news, chores, or whatever? Wouldn’t it be easier to spend all our time, energy, or money on ourselves and our families, to forget about the needs of others, and all the suffering in the world? Wouldn’t it be easier to live without God, without Jesus, without the cross?

Excerpted from Bread for the Journey: A High-Carb Multisensory Lenten Worship Series (CSS Publishing Company , 2008, 800-537-1030; used with permission).

This week's front page features:

Why not child sponsorship? A Q&A with ELCA World Hunger Appeal director Kathryn Sime.

'But God can': Ash Wednesday reminds us God renews, reforms, revives our lives.

Ten days in Lent: In times of death, God speaks words of life.

Soaring spirit: Blinded in crash, he teaches others to fly.

Also: Twilight.

Also: Conflict.

Also: Building bridges.

Read these articles on our front page ...

Discuss poverty:

Kathryn SimeJoin ELCA World Hunger Appeal Director Kathryn Sime (right) to discuss why the ELCA focuses on addressing the root causes of poverty rather than child sponsorship.

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Keep up with our guest blogger:

Justin Baxter Guest blogger Justin Baxter (right) asks: "So, what do you think the disciples saw on top of the mountain?"

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This week on our blog:

Julie SevigAndrea Pohlmann asks: "What ails society?"

Amber Leberman writes about a new subscription plan for "green" congregations.

Julie Sevig (right) blogs about an unusual new-member class.

Sonia Solomonson writes about a soul-grabbing story.

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