Remember the saying “There is nothing new under the sun.”? Scripture is proof of that saying. In the Book of Genesis we read that Adam succumbed to the temptations of the devil and was sentenced to a life of hard labor. In today’s reading Joshua could not tolerate the prophesying by 2 men, essentially he was jealous Eldad and Medad who had not attended the Spirit-giving Ordination ceremony but Moses came to their rescue when he told Joshua, “I wish the Lord would give his Spirit to all of his people so everyone would be a prophet”, and Joshua listened and continued helping Moses as he had since he was young.
How do you and I handle temptations to be jealous and intolerant in that intolerance seems to be in our blood? There is a story about a Catholic priest, Protestant minister and Jewish rabbi in Belfast Ireland who were engaged in a heated theological discussion. Suddenly an angel appeared in their midst and said to them, “God sends you his blessings. Make one wish for peace and you wish will be fulfilled by the Almighty.” The Protestant minister said, “Let every Catholic disappear from our lovely island. Then peace will reign supreme.” The priest said, “Let there not be a single Protestant left on our sacred Irish soil. That will bring peace to this island.” The angel said, “And what about you, Rabbi, do you have no wish of your own?” “No”, said the rabbi. Just attend to the wishes of these two gentlemen and I shall be well pleased.” That’s one way to handle a temptation, namely eliminate the competition. Isn’t the way Jesus handled every temptation, with God’s help let it disappear. Isn’t that the way we can handle every temptation, with God’s help let it disappear.
We all know that Jesus encountered all the temptations that we do but he never succumbed to any of them. Scripture describes some of his temptations. Scripture tells us of the triple temptations of Jesus by the devil and Jesus essentially told him to get lost. In multiple times he was tempted to give scandal when the Jewish officials wanted him to back off on his teachings and again he likely was tempted when the people wanted him to be an earthly king as evidenced by what transpired at the time of Palm Sunday. Jesus’ answer to all the temptations in his life was essentially, thank you but no thank you and essentially said in words and actions that he had have come to do God’s will. And that he had come to live commandments and beatitudes thereby providing the whole world an example of how to live. Isn’t we are commissioned to do live the commandments and beatitudes thereby provide examples to our individual worlds of how we are to live.
Jesus provided detailed instructions on how we are to live but some of them aren’t easily understood like the one in today’s Gospel, where if taken literally, we are to mutilate our bodies eliminating any part that “causes you to sin” like our hand or foot or eye. As an example, our hands become instruments of sin when we touch in lust or greed of violence. Our feet are used for sin according to the places we have them take us. Our eyes become doorways for sin according to what we choose to look at or refuse to look at. Even if we take Jesus’ words literally eliminating all the offending parts, our minds and hearts, the source of all sin, would still be intact.
By saying the shocking things Jesus meant to get the attention of the apostles and ourselves and at the same time helping us understand that our body parts can be sources of temptation but are meant to be instruments of compassion, healing and comfort thereby bringing the Gospel to the world.
Temptations to sin have existed from the beginning of time, existed at the time of Moses and Joshua and as we well know exist today. The route to overcome temptation at the time of Moses according to today’s scripture was God. The route to overcome temptation today is through the Son of God, Jesus.
So we can validly conclude, “There is nothing new under the sun”.
God was the way for Moses and Joshua to overcome temptation and God, Jesus is the Way for us.