“A Stone’s Throw From: Temptation”
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
Have you ever noticed how on some signs the message which was intended isn’t the one that comes across? Like the one in a Department Store which announced: “Bargain Basement Is Upstairs.”
Or how about these signs: “Show Signs”
My favorite is actually a mistranslation, at least I hope. I’m pretty sure they meant valuables but the sign in a Paris hotel read: "Please leave your values at the front desk." Unfortunately, many people do that without being told. And sometimes we are tempted to leave our values somewhere else, too. Jesus even faced that kind of temptation every day.
This morning we begin our Lenten Journey with Jesus, we travel with Him into the wilderness where He was tempted over and over again. Let’s look at Luke’s account. Luke 4:1-14 (NRSV)
 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,
 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished.
 The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread."
 Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.'"
 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.
 And the devil said to him, "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please.
 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours."
 Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'"
 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,
 for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,'
 and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'"
 Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country.
One of the unique things about the temptations is that they are recorded in Matthew and Mark with just as much detail, which says to me that Jesus shared his struggle in the wilderness with the Disciples. He wanted both them and us to know that He faced the same Temptations we face every day.
A. One of those areas of Temptation is in the INTEGRITY department. It’s a temptation we face every day. Every day we are tempted to make little decisions about what is right and wrong. It may nothing more than borrowing a dozen paperclips or a ream of paper. It may be nothing more than running a red light because there isn’t anyone around or shaving a stroke off your golf game or taking advantage of the waitperson’s mistake when they give you back too much change. It’s not the big things that get us in trouble right away. It’s all the little things, the little steps that lead us away from living in the center of our core values.
B. The movie The Legend of Bagger Vance is about a mythical golf match in the 1930’s between golf legends Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen and a hometown ace Rannulph Junuh. As a teenager Junuh had Tiger Woods kind of skill and was destined to become something huge. But after a tour of duty during World War I, he comes back changed and haunted. He tries to exorcise his demons through a reclusive life of alcohol and gambling.
His former girlfriend persuades him to join the match between two greats. While hitting practice balls one night, a transient caddy by the name of Bagger Vance enters Junuh’s life, offers to help get him ready for the match and in the process helps him rediscover his passion for the game.
On the final hole of the seventy-two hole match, Junuh hits his tee shot into the woods. He walks into the woods with Bagger and his ten-year-old junior caddy. As he is examining the difficulty of his next shot he moves some twigs his ball moves, which is an automatic one-stroke penalty.
He owns up to it right away. Hardy, the ten-year-old, who is desperate for his hero to win says: “No, don’t do it. Only you and me seen it. I won’t tell a soul. Cross my heart. No one will know.”
Junuh says, “I will Hardy and so will you.”
Hardy begins to plead to Bagger, “You gotta tell him not to do it.”
But Bagger says, “That’s a choice for Mr. Junuh, Hardy.”
While Junuh ponders what to do, onlookers tempt him to lie. Even the referee tries to convince the young player that his guilt is misplaced.
But Junuh confesses and continues his game with integrity. He then steps up and hits an incredible shot, out of the woods and onto the green just feet from the hole.
You can almost hear the words of Jesus to the Tempter in background, “We do not live by bread alone. Worship God and serve only Him. Do not put God to the test.” Or maybe it was the words of the character of Jesus in the Cotton Patch Gospel after the Test of Temptations: “I passed.”
One of the greatest tests and temptations of our faith deals with INTEGRITY.
II. RIGHT BUT WRONG:
A. Sometimes the Temptation is to do the Right thing but for the Wrong reason. There’s a fictional story about Jesus and the disciples. It seems they were walking along a rocky road one day when Jesus asked each of them to pick up a stone and carry it for him. According to the story, John chose a large stone while Peter chose one that he could easily carry in his pocket.
Jesus then led the disciples to the top of a mountain where he continued to teach them. He ignored the stones until, about mid day, tired and hungry, one of the disciples asked if there was anything to eat. Jesus told them to pick up the stones they had been carrying for him. Then he commanded the stones to become bread. Each disciple was allowed to eat the bread he held in his hand. Much to his chagrin, Peter's portion of bread was barely a mouthful, so John shared some of his bread with Peter.
Later that same day, as they were headed down the mountain along the same stoney path, Jesus told the disciples to pick up and carry another stone for him. This time Peter picked up the largest stone he could find. He had trouble carrying it with one hand, it was so big.
Jesus led the disciples to a river. There he sat and taught them some more. Then Jesus did something strange, he told them to throw their stones into the water. They each did so, but nothing happened other than making big splashes. The disciples were bewildered.
Then Jesus turned to them and asked a simple question, "For whom did you carry the stone?"
B. Part of what we are about, as disciples on the journey of faith together, is carrying stones for Jesus. Sometimes those stones will be turned into bread to nourish and satisfy. Other times we will simply be called upon to be obedient or faithful and carry the stone because it is expected.
One of the questions of our faith and our faithfulness will always be: "For whom do you carry the stone?" Is it for us or is it for Jesus. It’s important that we do the right thing. But it is equally important to do the right thing for the right reason and purpose.
A. Finally, I think the worst temptation of all is to FORGET. We’re tempted to forget that Jesus faced everything we face but did not give in. We FORGET two key verses found in the letter to the Hebrews, specifically Hebrews 2:18 “Because [Jesus] himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”
And Hebrews 4:15-16 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Those verses are a call to REMEMBER, not FORGET. We’re called to REMEMBER that Jesus is on our side. He knows everything there is to know about us and still loves us. He came to help us become like Him. He came to help us be faithful and succeed in being faithful. In the midst of Temptation , we’re called to REMEMBER that.
No matter what your particular Temptation involves, we’re called to REMEMBER that we can “approach the throne of grace with boldness, in our time of need.” Why? Because Jesus “is able to help those who are being tested.”
Jesus helps us REMEMBER just as He remembered in the wilderness when He was Tempted and was faithful.
So, what is it that is tempting you right now? What Temptation has your life and your faith in turmoil right now? Whatever it is bring it with you when you come for the Lord’s Supper. Bring it with you and give it to Him.
“Approach the throne of grace with boldness, in your time of need” Because Jesus “is able to help those who are being tested.” And you need that help right now. Approach the thrown of God, let go of that Temptation, give it to Jesus. Feed upon the grace of his presence, the strength of that grace and the power of His forgiveness. Come to the Lord’s Table and walk away lighter.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
Other References Consulted