Holy Manna: March 1, 2023

Holy Manna: A Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Read: Matthew 4:1-11

…Again, the Slanderer [diabolos] carries him off, to an extremely high mountain, and displays before him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, And said to him, “All of these things I shall give to you, were you to prostrate yourself and make obeisance to me…” (Excerpt translated by David Bentley Hart)

I’m drawn to the third and final temptation in this passage. Old Diabolos offers Jesus the power of a king. Jesus’ rebuke sends the devil skulking away while angels approach.

People around Jesus had various power agendas they wanted him to support. Religious leaders didn’t want him to interfere with their power arrangement with Rome. Zealots wanted him to support the violent overthrow of Roman power. Others generally wanted him to Make Israel Great Again. The four Gospels all make clear that Jesus had no designs on political power. In the Fourth Gospel Pilate prods Jesus on this issue. “Are you then a King?” The answer boils down to “no.”

This temptation to coercive power is current. I’ve been reading about spiritual leaders behind the Christian symbolism and language and worship on display at the US Capitol building during the January 6 insurrection. They redefined Scriptural and theological terms well ahead of that day in support of their notion that their brand of Christians was appointed by God to exercise political control over the nation. Violent and inflammatory language spewed from their mouths at the rally. On Facebook this morning, a Christian relative and follower of this movement names “evil leftists” and writes: “Although vengeance belongs to the Lord, I am more than comfortable being a tool doling out the consequences of defeating evil. I will not turn the other cheek….”

So where am I with this temptation? Where and when and how do I find myself lusting after the power to make others do what I think they should do? What would a more Christ-like desire look like in me?

Strong and merciful Jesus, defeat the lust to dominate and control. Give me only the power that comes from loving your image in others. Amen.
-Fr. Jonathan Weldon