[Note: The following is taken from the draft of my forthcoming book ‘TheoMedia’…]
Jesus quoted Deuteronomy more than any other Old Testament book. I was recently reading to my two oldest kids from Jesus’ temptation scene in Luke’s Gospel and decided I would inspire them with this: “when Jesus was assaulted by evil, he quoted Deuteronomy.”
For children who regularly fight imaginary bad guys and fairy tale beasts with toy swords and homemade archery kits, they did not seem very inspired. An old book they can hardly pronounce and probably cannot spell seemed like shoddy weaponry should a dragon draw nigh.
My wife and I have explained to our children that there are dark spiritual forces out there tempting us to do wrong. But the confrontation between Jesus and Satan in Luke 4 seemed a bit absurd in their ears: “Dad, if Jesus had not eaten in forty days, then why would it have been a sin to turn the stone into bread?”
The second temptation caused less consternation. Gaining the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worshiping the devil was perceived as clearly wrong. But along with the conviction that worshiping anyone but God is bad, my oldest son was just as disturbed by the fact that Satan may have been guilty of false advertising. He knows the serpent of old to be a renown trickster. Maybe he did not control all those kingdoms like he made out. My son smelled something suspicious, like when a friend promises a candy bar she does not actually have on her person.
The final temptation as Luke has it (Matthew follows a slightly different order) made no sense whatsoever to my kids. They could not quite figure out why jumping off the Temple heights would be a temptation. Surely Jesus would not fall for something that ridiculous. Only a fool would purposely hurl oneself off a bike or out of a tree, much less off a building onto stone pavement. As far as they were concerned, there was nothing heroic in Jesus’ valiant refusal . He was just using the sort of common sense they had learned from toddlerhood. Even their 4-yr old little brother knew not to jump off high places.
I almost explained that Jesus was actually resisting the temptation to pull off a spectacular stunt in the most public and religiously significant place in Palestine, and in so doing producing a grandstand media-event that would have resulted in a supernatural display of angelic powers (as Satan put it) which would instantly guarantee Jesus celebrity status.
I just stuck with a simple summary of what is arguably scene’s main point: Though Israel forgot Deuteronomy, Jesus did not.
Don’t forget Deuteronomy. It doesn’t sound like the typical lesson from a devotional or sermon. But actually, forgetting Deuteronomy, setting aside the media of God’s words, is why Israel and eventually Judah fell into rot and ruin.
The good news (“Gospel”) is this: though we forget the words of God, though we forsake him and fail to heed his commands, Jesus does not. Jesus remembers Deuteronomy.