Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jesus, Forged by the Furnace of Temptation

"During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who had the power to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.  Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizekek."  (Hebrews 5:7-10).

He comes with an olive branch, which is dressed in wool as pure as snow, and wrapped around it like a waltzing pair.  Peace! Peace!  He cries aloud, shaking his body and hands.  His mind is vexed and his face is stuffed with blood and bellowing gasps, trying to catch his breath.  This is Jesus during his days on earth, resisting temptation and forged in the furnace of humanity's cry for wholeness, well-being, obedience, and intimacy with the Father.

He learned obedience, says the author of Hebrews (5:8), by suffering.  Because Christians rightly believe that Jesus of Nazareth is God Incarnate, they often miss the fact that Jesus developed as a human being, and his progressive, soul-formation occurred via the the furnace of temptation.  The olive branch, to which we alluded earlier, comes from the word "petition," which is the picture of a reverent worshiper drawing nigh to God with branch in hand, offering for, and begging for, peace.  And God hears the prayer of the Lord Jesus: "he was heard because of his reverent submission."  He is a willing Father, longing for his Son with encouraging words of hope.

The unfortunate incident in our minds is that when we think of the Lord Jesus, in his days on earth, we understand him as a Stoic during times of temptation, with a glib, expressionless nod of the head in passing on whatever may tempt him.  Not so!  For he was a man.  He was fully man, and that means he had, in general, the same temptations men and women have now.  Didn't Jesus, as a young man, have a body full of testosterone?  Didn't he know first-hand the temptation to lust after a beautiful woman?  Do you see the frustration in him now?  "He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears" to his Father, who would rescue him from certain death, the penalty of which is sin.

It is John Murray, the Presbyterian theologian from Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, who says Jesus was "forged" in the furnace of temptation.  This means that Jesus developed as the human exemplar in the burning embers of humanity's cries.  He is the archetypal human being, of which we must, by faith and through loud cries and tears of our own, become.  If Jesus had a progression in his development as the perfect man, if he learned obedience by the things he suffered, if he moaned, groaned and flexed his weary hands and his reddened face to God during temptation and was rewarded for it because of his reverent submission, how much more should we be comforted in that our heavenly Father enables us to do the same, as that this is his desire--to forge us in the furnace of humanity's bane and peril to make us more like his Son?

No one can say that the Father is cruel by placing our golden faith in the hot ovens in order to burn away the dross of sin; it is his love and fatherly care and his own presence in the burning embers and the waves of heat that compels him to heal us.  He stood in the ovens with Daniel's friends, and he offers us nothing less than the suffering of his own Son--culminating in the fruition of the accursed cross, but forged in the furnace of painful temptation and a developed, progression of burning out the dross.  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, fully acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3).  There is no God like our God.  There is no God like the Lord Jesus Christ.  Who else took the evil of the world upon himself and expunged the wrath of God against sin, exhausting within himself the sins of the world?

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