How did the devil test Jesus


Ursula Rudnick on the Gospel on the 1st Sunday of Lent, Lk 4,1-3 SKZ 6-7 / 2010

in: SKZ 6-7 / 2010

The Sunday Gospel describes three trials of Jesus. In the Gospel of Luke they take place immediately after his baptism, the promise of being a child of God. The Spirit of God leads Jesus into the desert for 40 days. There he fasts and is tested.

"What the scriptures say ..."

The trial of a godly person has a number of models in the Hebrew Bible. They include individual men such as Adam (Gen. 2), Abraham (Gen. 22) and Job (1.6), but also the people of Israel as a whole (Ex. 15.25, 16.4, Deut. 8.2, 16) .
If Abraham and the people of Israel are tried by God, this task is taken over by Satan for Job - with God's consent. In the trial of Jesus, the devil is the sole tempter of Jesus.
The devil tries Jesus three times: the first time he asks him to turn stones into bread so that Jesus can prove his sonship with God. The second time he asked Jesus to worship him and promised him power over all kingdoms of the earth. On the third he brings him from the desert to Jerusalem to the temple and tells Jesus to throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple, because God will keep him.
A number of different approaches can be found in the interpretation of this story:
The psychological interpretation here sees the man Jesus who resists the temptations of materialism, idolatry and the exercise of power. In this reading, Jesus is a paradigmatic man who exemplarily resists fundamental temptations with which people are confronted.
The Christological interpretation sees this text as a rejection of an understanding of Jesus as a magician or miracle man: Jesus rejects show miracles.
Another tradition of interpretation, which I call the antithetical, contrasts Jesus' behavior with that of the people of Israel in the desert. The people freed from bondage grumbled in the desert. Moses recalls this in his farewell speech in Deuteronomy: «You should think of all the way that the Lord your God has led you in the desert during these forty years to make you submissive and to test you. He wanted to see how you would decide whether to obey his commandments or not. " (Deut. 8.2) This interpretation contrasts the failure of the people of Israel with the passing of the trials through Jesus. The anti-Jewish interpretation sees this concrete failure of the people in the desert as exemplary in their inability to fulfill the will of God. Failure in a specific situation became a generalizing ascription. The failure of the Jewish people in the test was used theologically to justify the substitution, the replacement of the people of Israel by the Church. Jules Isaac rightly characterized such interpretations as "the doctrine of contempt."
This interpretation does not take into account God's loyalty to his people, which is emphasized in both parts of the Bible, for example in Romans: "God did not repudiate his people whom he once chose." (Rom. 11.2) Faithfulness and love of God are independent of failure. If we Christians did not know about this, how should we be able to trust in God?
For several decades there have been intensive efforts in exegesis, dogmatics and also religious didactics to achieve a non-anti-Jewish understanding of the New Testament and also an effort to perceive Jesus as a Jew. The Sunday Gospel is just too exemplary for this. Jesus proves himself to be a faithful Son of Israel by quoting from the Torah. Not with words of his own authority, but with words from the Torah, Jesus rejects the concerns of the devil.
When asked to turn stones into bread, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy. Moses recapitulates and interprets the desert wandering, the hunger and the feeding with manna: "He [God] wanted you to see that man lives not only from bread, but that man lives from everything that the mouth of the Lord speaks." (Deut. 8.3) In the confrontation with the devil, Jesus confirms this insight. Confirmation of tradition, not contradiction to it, is the essence of Jesus' statement.
When the devil asked to worship him for a second time, Jesus replied with a reference to the Scriptures: "You must prostrate yourself before the Lord your God and serve him alone." This quote can also be found in Deuteronomy (6.13) and is contained in the ten commandments in a negative way. (Dtn. 5.9) Here, too, Jesus takes up the words of Moses in a confirmatory way and with them rejects the claims of the devil. To serve God, not to have power and to rule is the goal - also for Jesus.
Luke has a different order of tests than Matthew and Mark. With him, the devil's invitation to Jesus to throw himself from the battlements of the temple comes last. Why? The temple has a special meaning in the Jewish tradition - and also with Luke -: It is the place of God's presence. The confrontation between Jesus' service for God and a possible service for the devil is coming to a head.
Reacting to Jesus' scholarship, the devil himself justifies his final test with a psalm word. However, Jesus does not allow himself to be irritated by the devil quoting the Psalms: he rejects the request and replies: «You should not put the Lord your God to the test.», This is also a quote from Deuteronomy - there it continues, « as you put him to the test at Massa. " (5. Mos. 6.13) The keyword "Massa" alludes to Israel's stay in the desert and refers to an episode that is described in Exodus (Ex. 17.7). The people had no water to drink and were afraid of dying. In this situation they asked the question: "Is the Lord among us or not?" (Ex. 17.7) This doubt is referred to by Moses as "strife" and also "temptation" by God and assessed negatively. At its core it is about the question of trust in the presence of God. It is - according to the implicit statement of Moses and its confirmation by Jesus - given and needs and should not be doubted.

In conversation with Lukas

Jesus is portrayed in the Sunday Gospel as an exemplary Jewish devout: He knows his way around the Scriptures. In agreement with Moses he takes up central aspects of the biblical message and - lives it. He not only announces it in the Lehrhaus, but he lives it in confrontation with the devil.
The exegete B. Gerhardson refers to listening to Israel (Deuteronomy 6.5f), the central prayer and confession of Judaism. According to Gerhardson's poetic interpretation, Jesus shows his love for God with "all his heart" (bread), with his "whole life" (temple battlements) and "all his strength" (resisting the exercise of power). Jesus shows in an exemplary way what it means to love God with "all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength".
There are situations that we experience as a test, be it from God or the devil. We can be assured that even if we fail, God's loyalty and mercy, like his people Israel, will not let go.

Ursula Rudnick