As preparation for Easter this year, I am meditating and reading different books on Lent. As I read the first line of God it is on the Cross by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I was reminded of my time in Belfast Bible College where we were taught New Testament theology and the life and ministry of Jesus. Bonhoeffer says that “Christ’s time of passion begins not with Holy Week but with the first day of his preaching.” Every Gospel narrative has this objective; the storyline tells us from the beginning of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Bonhoeffer points out that Jesus’ call and mission was tested more than once, as we see it here in these verses from Luke. “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 will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” (Luke 4:5–8 ESV).
Could you imagine if Jesus would have said yes to Satan? The consequences of Jesus saying yes and become the king of this world are not even worth considering. It would have been chaos for all humanity. But thankfully, Jesus resisted. The temptation was a way out of the Cross. This is why Bonhoeffer gets it so right. Jesus passion does not begin with Holy Week but with his first day of ministry. There is another aspect of this assault from Satan that it is important to consider. Jesus was asked to worship Satan and in doing so the would have become the supreme leader of the kingdoms of this world. But Jesus answered and resisted this temptation with the Word of God.
Worship is at the very heart of Holy Week, and Jesus understood another side of worship that we must not forget, which Bonhoeffer described as meaning “lowliness, abuse, persecution. It means remaining misunderstood. It means hate, death, the Cross. And he chooses this way from the beginning. It is the way of obedience and the way of freedom, for it is the way of God”. This understanding of worship, I believe, was very personal and meaningful to Bonhoeffer.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
(Philippians 2:5–8 ESV)