Today’s Lectio Divina: Luke 4: 9-12 (MsgB)
For the third test the Devil took Him (Jesus) to Jerusalem and put Him on top of the Temple. He said, “If you are God’s Son, jump. It’s written, isn’t it, that ‘He has placed You in the care of angels to protect You; they will catch You; You won’t so much as stub Your toe on a stone’?” “Yes,” said Jesus, “and it’s also written, ‘Don’t you dare tempt the Lord your God.’ ”
To ‘perpetuate’ is to make something continue indefinitely or to prolong the existence of something. Self-perpetuation, then, is the human power source that wills something to happen. When I operate in self-perpetuation, I am choosing to make life happen. Choosing to take responsibility upon myself for the actions needed to continue my life, my priorities, and my well-being.
As I state in my book, The Perfected Self (2002), the gift of self-perpetuation is one that has been given to every human being on earth. When God gifted us with life, He gifted us with our will to live and the inner strength and desire to sustain life to the full.
The gift of self-perpetuation.
Some people call it drive. Others call it motivation. Regardless of what we call it when a human being loses their drive or self-perpetuation abilities, he or she becomes a dried-up, depressed, oppressed person, barely able to pull themselves out of bed in the morning.
Now some of you might be wondering, then, why I would call the devil’s third testing of Jesus in the wilderness a test of self-perpetuation. If perpetuation is a good thing, why would I suggest here that Jesus is being ‘tempted’ by Satan to use His gift of self-perpetuation?
As I see it, the three temptations of Jesus in the wilderness are not tests of sin but temptations of self. In the first test (Luke 4: 3-4), Jesus is tempted by Satan to abuse His God-given gift of self-preservation. Everyone has the right to take care of their own personal needs and on this day in the desert, Jesus has some very basic needs of food, water, and shelter. Satan sees this opportunity to tempt the Son of God to use His own initiative, encouraging Him to whip up some miracle manna for Himself. Jesus responds rightly by denying His human right to provide for Himself, deferring instead to God’s eternal promise as Jehovah-Jirah, our provider for everything we will ever need in this life.
The second test of self (Luke 4: 5-8) is one of self-promotion. Satan gives Jesus the unique opportunity to step into the role of King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Messiah to the whole world. Nice concept, but considering the source, this plan of promotion has its serious drawbacks from Jesus’ perspective. Yes, the assignment of King of the Nations is legitimate and has actually been assigned to Jesus by God, His Father. But to attain this high position through Jesus’ own initiative, thus eliminating the work of the Cross, would violate the very foundational truth that it is God who appoints us and promotes us in life. Any other self-promotion or self-initiative taken by Jesus here to grab for position would be nothing more than what Satan did when he chose to violate God’s ultimate rule and reign, promoting himself as prince of this world.
Sorry, Satan. No deal.
Now in today’s passage, we find that Satan has one final temptation to throw at Jesus. Since our Lord didn’t fall for the two earlier temptations to use His self-initiative to 1) supersede God’s ability to provide for His personal needs, or 2) override God’s sovereign right to choose the course of His life, Satan hopes that Jesus just might fudge a bit by using His self-will to perpetuate, or put into motion, His supernatural powers. In a devilish suggestion very similar to Herod’s request to see Jesus walk on water (see Luke 23: 8), Satan places Jesus high upon the temple, suggesting that if He is truly God’s Son, why not use those supernatural powers that come with the position, ‘Son of God’, at His own personal discretion?
As I see it, this test of self-perpetuation in the desert will not be the only time Jesus will be greatly tempted to perpetuate His own will as He walks through three years of doing Kingdom ministry in Israel. As we mentioned earlier, Herod’s request to see Jesus perform a miracle or two is another clear example where Jesus is tempted to ‘do His own thing.’ At another point in Jesus’ ministry, even His disciples are dreaming of what life might look like when Jesus finally chooses to fully reveal Himself to Israel as Messiah. James and John are apparently at the center of this initiative, making up the seating arrangements, even asking their mother (see Matthew 20: 20-28) to go ask Jesus to perpetuate a few details so that they can take their rightful place alongside Israel’s new King. Come on, Jesus; let’s get this show on the road!
In John 5: 19, we are very fortunate to find Jesus’ addressing this ultimate question on how to overcome all of these tests of self, which He faced on a regular basis. In this short passage in John’s gospel, we find people wanting to know how Jesus was able to heal the sick, cleanse lepers, and raise the dead. His listeners expected an answer that would address how this amazing Jesus’ was so easily able to perpetuate, or put into motion, such amazing miracles.
In our world where it is very easy, and even normal, for all of us human beings to move things along in life, making things happen even for the purposes of God, Jesus gives an amazing answer that speaks volumes to us on how He handled His gift of self-perpetuation.
“I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
I wonder if more of us in the church today need this little reminder that it isn’t our self-perpetuation God is looking for right now. Maybe, just maybe, God is looking for people who will be willing to wait on Him, acting and re-acting to life more like His Son. Apparently, Jesus learned to defer His gift of self-perpetuation, waiting instead, to see, first, what the Father was doing and then placing His energies and drive behind those God-directed initiatives instead of His own.
Yikes, do you suppose that this pattern of deferring self in order to better embrace God’s activity might be helpful for us today?
My prayer: God, thank You for the gift of self-perpetuation. Thank You that You made me with drive and initiative. As a ‘doer’ I thank You that You give me things to ‘do’ here on planet earth. The problem, however, Lord, is when that drive of self-perpetuation over-stimulates me to move ahead of You and Your plans. May I, by the work of Your Spirit, be more like Jesus, who consciously chose to not fall prey to the temptations of self-perpetuation, choosing to wait on You, for Your will to be done, for Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So how do I allow my gift of self-perpetuation to drive me far beyond the boundaries of God’s perfect will for my life? How has my drive and initiative gotten me in trouble? How might I become better aware of the temptations of self-perpetuation, choosing to better manage my self-initiative while deferring my plans to God’s plans and purposes for my life?
So, what are you experiencing today as we are journeying through this Lenten Adventure?
Over a 48-day period (from Ash Wednesday through the Monday after Easter), you and I will be taking a deeper look at the stories surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus (especially the last week known as Holy Week) as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Our Lenten Journey home page for ease of use.
If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!