Gap years give people a chance to find themselves before heading towards their career. Finding true wilderness in lands such as Namibia is a popular way of stepping out and working out priorities.
Jesus “gap” tests
At the start of Lent we have been reminded of Jesus’ wilderness experience which tested his calling in three ways, as described in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The temptations are testing the Sonship of Jesus:
- In a land where the fervent prayer could be:
Give us today our daily bread
Matthew 6:11 (NIV)
Jesus is offered a quick-fix to magically produce bread. His repost is from Deuteronomy:
So he afflicted you with hunger and then fed you on manna which neither you nor your fathers had known before, to teach you that people cannot live on bread alone, but that they live on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Deuteronomy 8:3 (REB)
2. At a time of contrasting religious beliefs, Jesus is offered the quick-fix to establish his status and thus do good by compelling people to believe. Psalm 91:11-12 is the spark for the temptation – trust in God and he will “charge his angels to guard you”. But rather than trust this is a test of God. The repost again is from Deuteronomy:
You must not put the Lord you God to the test..
Deuteronomy 6:16 (REB)
- In a land under the military rule of the dominant power, Jesus is tempted with controlling the whole world, compelling all peoples to follow him. In a land with Roman domination this might seem an attractive alternative. But how could the power of Rome be supplanted without much violence? The real temptation is to substitute the love of God with a power trip. Jesus reposts again with Deuteronomy:
“You are to fear the Lord your God; serve him alone, and take your oaths in his name”
Deuteronomy 6:13 (REB)
Matthew is telling his readers:
Look, Jesus held fast to the greatest of the books of the law, the one found in the Temple in Josiah’s reign, and he used the most powerful section of it, which contains the great commandment:
..love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Deuteronomy 6:5 (REB)
After this, Matthew describes Jesus starting his mission of preaching:
Repent, for the Kingdom of God has come near.
Matthew 4:17 (NIV)
That might sound very much like John the Baptist, but there was a difference in their message about the Kingdom. John implored God to intervene to end the present age. The age was characterised by the lack of justice and righteousness. This was due both to the Roman rule and also to the compromises made by the rulers of the Temple. He was not a Zealot; he did not seek a violent response. Rather, he wanted individuals to repent and cleanse themselves, and to behave in a righteous way to others.
When the disciples looked into the Hebrew Bible to understand Jesus, they knew that Jesus was different, and what he brought was an immediacy of God of a different kind. Jesus said, the Kingdom of God is to hand. Perhaps it is better translated as the Kingship of God as that implies a way of behaving rather than a space. That way of behaving within the Kingship of God was to follow the great commandments of love, justice and righteousness. Matthew was saying to the people in his time:
Look, here is the evidence that Jesus was faithful to his Father through his mission. He has shown you how to live – by taking the highest principles for the Hebrew Bible. “Don’t wait for something to happen, for God to do a quick-fix. That Kingship of God is available now. Change the way you live and live God’s way”
And the message to us now is the same.