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Why Did God Allow Jesus to be Tempted?

Do you ever come across a verse, passage, or parable and say to yourself:

What in the world does that mean?

I don’t understand what Jesus is saying in that passage.

Why would they respond that way?

Is that still true today?

You’re not alone.

Every week during the #LentChallenge, we’re asking New Testament scholar, Dr. Craig Blomberg to weigh in on your questions—even the trickiest, strangest, and most random. Check out his answers to 5 difficult Bible questions and leave yours as a comment below:

1. Matthew 5:5 says, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Why would inheriting the earth be a blessing?

Jesus is alluding to Psalm 37:11, which says that the meek will inherit the land, referring to the humble Israelite inheriting the land of Israel.

Jesus expands this promise—not only his Jewish but also his Gentile followers will inherit not only Israel but all the earth. From the Promised Land of Israel to our properties today, land represents a home and a place in which to belong. Jesus’ followers can look forward to new heavens and a new earth (Rev. 21-22), a permanent homeland to enjoy in the company of God and all the redeemed forever.

2. In Matthew 3:12, John the Baptist is speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducees about Jesus the Messiah who has His winnowing fan in hand. He will gather His wheat into the barn and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Are the chaff and wheat referring to people? Is the barn a reference to heaven? Does the fire symbolize hell?

Yes. But, especially in light of the last question, we must remember that the ultimate hope for the followers of Jesus is not heaven but new heavens and new earth. Heaven is the intermediate state for believers in between their deaths and their resurrections. Or as Tom Wright has so frequently memorably put it, “the Christian hope is not life after death; it is life after life after death.”

life after life after death

3. Why did God allow Jesus to be tempted?

Hebrews 4:15-16 supplies the answer. Christ was tempted in every way like we are, yet remained without sin. His sinless life, followed by his atoning death and resurrection to eternal life made him uniquely qualified to empathize with us in all our temptation. We can therefore come boldly before God’s grace-filled throne with confidence to find Jesus as uniquely qualified to help us in our times of need.

4. I am curious about the prophets spoken of in Matthew 2:5, 2:15, 2:17. Who are these guys?

There are three different prophets in these three verses. Each reference introduces an Old Testament quotation that is seen as fulfilled in Jesus. The first comes from Micah 5:2, the second from Hosea 11:1, and the third from Jeremiah 31:15. Matthew’s audience was Jewish-Christian so they would have readily recognized these references and known which prophets spoke each. It is possible that the Jeremiah reference was the least well known of the three, so that Matthew explicitly names the prophetic book in which the quotation appears.

To find out more about Jeremiah, read at least significant chunks of the Old Testament book that bears his name, and the Lamentations which are likewise attributed to him. A prophet whose ministry spanned the waning decades of Judah’s independence as well as much of the Babylonian exile, he had himself to put up with more rejection and persecution than any other writing Prophet in the Old Testament.

5. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “you have heard that it was said.” But in Matthew 5:33, he breaks from this pattern and says, “You have heard that the ancients were told.” Why does He make this change? What is He referring to?

There are six “antitheses” in Matthew 5:21-48, in which Jesus contrasts his teaching with specific teaching of Old Testament law. The first of these contrasts begins in verse 21, where Jesus introduces his teaching with the fairly detailed and solemn formula, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago” (NIV). The second contrast begins just with “You have heard that it was said” (v. 27), probably because Jesus expects his audience to understand that the fuller form carries over. They would recognize that a command like “You shall not commit adultery” was as ancient and important as “You shall not commit murder.”

Verse 31 uses a shorter introduction still:  “It has been said.”  There is no need to keep repeating the fullest introduction; people can mentally supply that if they choose. With verse 33, we come again to the longest of these introductions, parallel to verse 21. Verses 38 and 43, finally, return to the “You have heard that it was said” introduction. This suggests that Jesus saw the first three antitheses as a natural group of largely similar teachings, and also the second three antitheses in a similar vein.

9781587433214Want to learn more? Pick up a copy of Craig Blomberg‘s brand new book, Can We Still Believe the Bible? An Evangelical Engagement with Contemporary Questions.

Dr . Craig L. Blomberg (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is distinguished professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary, where he has taught for more than twenty-five years. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including A Handbook of New Testament Exegesis, Jesus and the Gospels, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Preaching the Parables, Making Sense of the New Testament, and commentaries on Matthew, 1 Corinthians, and James.

Challenges to the reliability of Scripture are perennial and have frequently been addressed. However, some of these challenges are noticeably more common today, and the topic is currently of particular interest among evangelicals. In this book, biblical scholar Craig Blomberg offers answers to questions like:

Aren’t the Copies of the Bible Hopelessly Corrupt?

Can We Trust Any of Our Translations of the Bible?

Don’t All the Miracles Make the Bible Mythical?

What verse has you stumped?

Have you ran into a passage that’s tricky to interpret? What’s a question about the Bible, theology, or Christianity that has been lingering in your head? Leave your questions as comments below.

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