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Just My Imagination

Luke 4:1-13

The Rev. Jon Roberts

10 March


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.


Man of Sorrows by William Dyce, 1860

“We gain the strength of the temptation we resist.”

Temptation likes to play in our imagination, and once it becomes conceived, believed and relieved, it becomes sin. In 1968 a new song was released and hit the top of the charts in a genre, to which many considered, “Psychedelic Soul.” It was a smooth and sincere rhapsody of a young man imagining that a woman he saw each day was his. The lyrics go like this…
“Each day through my window I watch her as she passes by
I say to myself you're such a lucky guy,
To have a girl like her is truly a dream come true
out of all the fellows in the world she belongs to me.
But it was just my imagination,
once again runnin' away with me.
It was just my imagination runnin' away with me.
In the mind of this starstruck lover, he imagines how the rest of his life will pan out. He continues…
“Soon we'll be married and raise a family (Oh yeah)
A cozy little home out in the country with two children maybe three. I tell you I can visualize it all
this couldn't be a dream for too real it all seems;
But it was Just my imagination once again runnin' way with me.
Tell you it was just my imagination runnin' away with me.
And now, his voice becomes dire, thinking life cannot continue without her as he says,…
“Ev'ry night on my knees I pray Dear Lord, Hear my plea;
Don't ever let another take her love from me or I would surely die.
Her love is heavenly, when her arms enfold me,
I hear a tender rhapsody; but in reality she doesn't even know me.
Just my imagination once again runnin' way with me.
Tell you it was just my imagination runnin' away with me.

A very fitting lyric for today’s gospel, and especially fitting is the name of the group, The Temptations.
The remarkable and miraculous thing about Jesus going into the desert to be tempted by Satan, forty days and forty nights, is in the first few words, where there is nothing left to the imagination.
In the Gospel according to Luke, and Mark, and Matthew (a multiple attestation of the event), it is written, “After his [Jesus’] baptism, he was full of the Holy Spirit.” Each day he did not stare through his window and watch this lovely, beautiful third person of the Trinity pass by; But instead of wondering and wishing and dreaming, “if” the Spirit of God would be married to him, Jesus did something more remarkable than the young man in the song. He didn’t just dream about being with the one he loved. He knew he was going to be with the one he loved. Knowing is so different than imagining. It seems like Jesus didn’t have to worry too much about his imagination running away from him, since he was God, or did he? Wasn’t he human? Didn’t he become tempted every way as we did, but did not sin? To see how human Jesus actually was, let us turn to the first temptation that he encountered. The Satan, the one who deceives and accuses us of believing in something or someone that isn’t real, goes after the basic human desire for food. Satan said, “If you are the Son of God” turn this stone into bread.

From the Jordan there is a place to which geologists observed a type of rock, called “Septaria” bear a certain resemblance to a loaf of bread. It is quite possible that in his hunger, he imagined these rocks to give sustenance. Like a mirage, imagination could turn into fantasy or hallucination. This is when it can be bad for us. Imagine a man, desperate to have something to eat, begins to engulf rocks to fill his belly? Sounds absurd doesn’t it? You try going without food more than thirty or forty days and let me know how that goes. But Jesus would resist. He would not just let his imagination run away from him. Of course the one, obsessed in evil, set on turning a creative and healthy imagination into something quite destructive, doesn’t relent. The Satan continues by telling Jesus to challenge the authority of the Father who sent him.
“I can give you power and raise you up out of your weakness, if you just worship me.” But Jesus would resist. He would not just let his imagination run away from him.

Lastly, Satan says, “if you won’t worship me, at least know that you already have the authority to be worshiped yourself by the angels who you have charge. If you don’t believe me, jump off this cliff and watch them come in to rescue you.” But Jesus would resist. He would not just let his imagination run away from him. The Apostle Paul assures us, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Just my imagination…
Is a place that can be the devil’s battleground or playground, if you let is run away from you. It is also a place where you can adapt to the reality to where Jesus meets you in your wilderness and helps you resist. Through Christ, and his resistance to temptation we are to learn how to resist our own. Which is the most important temptation to resist? The first one.
Each time you say, “help me Jesus” or “get behind me Satan,” you are that much stronger in your faith and closeness with God. Everyone who falls to temptation and led to sin knows this. There is an actual feeling of being separated and distant. No longer are you truly open to the other in whom you love because you have something to hide. You snuck a piece of bread, that really wasn’t nourishing. You worshiped the wrong God. You gave up on the one who made you. Each time we are led to temptation, look at it as a moment when you can actually get stronger. For, “we gain the strength of the temptation we resist.”

[1] Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882
[2] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[3] Luke 4:1-13
[4] The Cambridge Bible, cited on The Bible Hub commentary.
[5] 1 Corinthians 10:13

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