Forgive my ‘presumptiveness’ but I do believe that there is nothing about our lives that has not been covered in the Book of books. The age is irrelevant- Classical, Middle, Early Modern or Post Cold War. There is not one issue we face today to which the Bible has not provided a true and effective response. The sceptic would call it a fraud of a book, created by men to advance selfish goals. Yet, that book still heals hearts and guides minds today as it did when the words were first written. That says something to us today, who are debating the ethics of stem cell research from human embryos as it did to men desiring to stone a woman to death as part of a scheming plot to trap a Preacher. The principles of creation and the story of salvation are immutable, indestructible truths that will last for millennia more.
As an individual living each day the best I can as I press towards the prize that is my heart’s vision, I have often wondered how to always Stand. My being human means I am not infallible but as a son, I’d rather have more scenarios of standing in victory than staggering up from defeat. And again, the Book provides answers.
It comes in the way of three tests of a man at his weakest- emotionally, mentally and physically. It comes to Bethlehem’s son in the arid Palestinian desert. The Preacher had just gone through roughly six weeks of food abstinence only to be presented with the chance to break his fast, at the end of this exercise with something he could very well do. Yet, the challenge was not the act of turning stone into bread. It was the fact that his adversary had qualified the act by calling into question his identity.
We do not fully understand what was at stake with this temptation. A few weeks earlier, this same Preacher had received a divine confirmation of the Father’s approval of his person and mission. To then ask him to turn stone into bread as evidence of his sonship was to draw him into a place where his heart and mind would succumb to doubt. Imagine what doubt would have done to the ministry of Jesus. There would in short have been no ministry. All his bodacious declarations of self and authenticity that the apostle John covers beautifully in his gospel would have been non-existent. This ‘Validation by Performance’ is the first temptation many a son experience. Many sons are natural achievers with an inborn drive and passion to succeed. Sons embrace the earthly merit based system of accomplishment. They are firm believers in their capacity to do. To be challenged this way then by the enemy would have played right into his natural instincts to let everyone including himself and the enemy know that ‘the king is here’. But the Lord was above needing to prove his identity by a test. He retorted calmly – I don’t live by what I am able to do, I live by what my Father speaks to me. In other words, it is not my accomplishments that make me, it is my Father’s words that do.
Next, The Preacher is taken to a high mountain and shown all the kingdoms of the world in their scintillating glory. I bet he got a HD viewing of the Roman royal tables and feasts in Egypt. Not an easy sight for a man who had just subjected himself to a most intense personal sacrifice. Knowing who and what he was, he could have allowed himself get drawn into a discussion on how to get all these kingdom’s glories. This was then the second test, a “Validation by Possession” challenge. The Lord however was the wiser as to where his personhood lay, not in the glories of earth’s many kingdoms but in the servitude of the Father. “Worship the Lord only”, he responded, “and him only shall you serve”. We must remember that while it is in the nature of the Father-Son relationship to have resources bequeathed to us, it does not define whether that relationship exists or not. Nor should it ever be in doubt that even where ownership isn’t a present reality, it is in the Father’s script to have it transferred eventually.
Finally, the Lord is led to the pinnacle’s temple and asked to prove the truth of the Word by throwing himself down and having the angels, as written, bear him up. This ‘Validation by Privilege’ challenge presents the ultimate test for a man of status. He had every right to feel privileged; afterall he had just received confirmation from Heaven of his special standing. He had also just pulled through a biological miracle in surviving without food for so long. Surely, with all he had done, he could expect such privileges. But a son does not ride on status. He rides on principles. Thus, he reminded the wily foe, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’. Now that’s a classic. Not even in this most dire of circumstances would his sonship be proven by his receipt of any preferential treatment. Said another way, ‘…though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped’. Again nothing to prove. He was who he was already and didn’t need to test the efficacy of the word to prove it.
And that my friends is how we stand, by being fully aware of our identity as sons without needing any performance, possessions or divine perks to prove it. To the one who shows that neither of these defines their knowledge of self, to that one shall great power and influence be made available.
Indeed, Identity is everything!
PS: References to ‘son’ are gender neutral
Osita Egbubine is a believer in the capacity of every human being to lead a fulfilling, purpose-driven life. He is currently pursuing a Finance degree in the UK and tweets via @ositane.