Relational Resilience (Matt 4; Luke 4-5)

Sunday, January 29, 2023


Thank you so much Mary for all the work you put into creating this transcript!

Channing: [00:00:00] Hi, I'm Channing.

Elise: And I'm Elise. 

Channing: And this is The Faithful Feminist Podcast. 

Elise: [00:00:09] We focus on feminist interpretation of scriptures and follow the LDS Come Follow Me Manual as a guide for study. We understand that scriptures can be a tricky endeavor for readers, but we also believe sacred texts contain really compelling examples of loving and liberating relationships with the divine others and ourselves.

[00:00:29] We hope you'll join us in exploring the problems and promises of sacred text with imagination, critique, and celebration to reveal what we feel is the loving and liberating heart of scripture. 

Channing: [00:00:40] While Mormonism, with its iconic floral foyer, couches is our background, we follow our faith in our God on the path of spirituality, over institution and connection over condemnation.

[00:00:53] We are fellow wanderers, weavers, and doubters. If you found yourself feeling too faithful for some and not enough for others, welcome. We've saved you a seat on the soft chairs.

Elise: [00:01:08] Hi everyone! We're so happy to have you back on the podcast. This week we are covering Matthew chapter four and Luke chapters four and five for the dates January 30th to February 4th. In these chapters, Jesus fasts for 40 days in the wilderness, and after his temptation by Satan, he begins his ministry, he calls disciples, and he heals the people of the city.

[00:01:32] This episode covers the stories told in Matthew four, Luke four, and five, and also the last half of Mark one. We do also wanna issue a content warning for suicidal ideation for this episode. 

Channing: [00:01:43] All right, let's just get straight into it. So both Matthew four and Luke chapter four open with Jesus entering the wilderness for his 40 day fast.

[00:01:54] After his 40 day fast, the scriptures make sure to tell us that he's very hungry. And after this, Satan approaches Jesus and offers him three different temptations. The first is to turn a stone into bread, to comfort his hunger. The second temptation is to call upon angels to lift him up so he won't accidentally cut his foot on a stone.

[00:02:15] After refusing to do either of these temptations, Satan finally offers Jesus “Aall the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, and saith unto him, All this power will I give thee, if thou therefore wilt worship me.” We wanted to spend a little bit of time with this portion of the text and first look at the potential symbolism of these three separate temptations.

[00:02:40] We think that maybe each of these three temptations showcase opportunities for Jesus to opt out of suffering and experiences of mortality. For example, the temptation to turn stone to bread is one that offers Jesus an escape from hunger. The temptation to call angels to bear him up? This temptation allows Jesus an opportunity to escape earth, pain, suffering, mortality, and maybe even death by simply just choosing to bypass it.

[00:03:09] And finally, the third temptation facilitates both by offering Jesus earthly power. With earthly power how can one ever be hungry? How will one ever experience pain if someone else is always bearing the brunt of pain? We really like this interpretation of these three temptations of Jesus, and we wanna look at them a little bit more individually. 

[00:03:37]  If we stay with the Jesus-turning-the-stone-to-bread temptation.We like to imagine that Jesus chooses to stay with humanity at each instance. He chooses to stay with his own hunger. In this way, he chooses the hungry. And I thought of the act of Jesus refusing to turn stone to bread as the act of staying with hunger. It inspired me to think about fast offerings.

[00:04:00] I haven't fasted in a long time, and I actually think that fasting is like a really tricky subject that we're not gonna cover in this episode. However, I do think the act of fasting allows us an opportunity to “stay with the hungry.” It allows us to remember hunger and to remember to feed the hungry in our community.

[00:04:20] I've been thinking a lot lately about the hunger in my community. I work at an elementary school and every Friday teachers are discreetly given gallon size Ziploc bags full of microwaveable meals, applesauce, granola bars, and snacks to put in students' backpacks who would not otherwise eat over the weekend.

[00:04:38] Through my faith transition, I totally waived off and stopped paying fast offerings in the same way that I waived off tithing. I was angry that the money wasn't being used in the way that I thought best reflected the mission of Jesus, but then I just kept the money. I told myself that I didn't know where to send it, which you know, was partially true.

[00:04:58] It's hard to go from just being able to write on this really easy tithing slip to having to do the work of tracking down an organization or, you know, that's what I told myself. But in truth, I forgot. I forgot about the hungry. I didn't remember them until I saw them at my children's school and in my own neighborhood.

[00:05:17] In this way, I kind of look at this temptation of Jesus refusing to turn the stone into bread as a calling back to me. Remembering the time when I turned my stone of resentment toward the church into bread for myself- more dolla dolla bills in my bank account- and not actually any bread for the poor.

[00:05:35] Jesus also chooses to stay with the possibility of his own pain and suffering by refusing to call angels down to lift him up. In this way, he chooses to stay with the pained and the suffering. Jesus also chooses to forgo earthly power, which at the time and still does look like sitting atop grand cities with big buildings.

[00:05:58] But we like to imagine that Jesus knows the foundation upon which these cities are built and how they continue to stand. Earthly power is held up by the backs and arms and legs of the poor and the oppressed. We recognize that Jesus could choose at any time to escape his own humanity and mortality and live an easier life, but he consistently chooses to stay. Stay with the poor, stay with the hungry, stay with the suffering. We think that the story of Jesus' temptation in the wilderness is not what we often make it to be. Jesus didn't will-power his way through refusing temptation. He remembered his way through. He remembered the hungry, the suffering, the powerless, and chose to stay with them.

[00:06:41] For Jesus resisting temptation wasn't an individual triumph that he made to show us how much of a good person he was. He simply remembered to stay in relationship. This is a choice that Jesus continues to make throughout his ministry. Later in these chapters, we see Jesus heal Simon's mother from a fever.

[00:07:00] In Mark chapter one, verse 34, we read, “He healed many that were sick of diverse diseases and cast out many devils.” Jesus eases the suffering of the poor and the oppressed and speaks on behalf of them.  

Elise: [00:07:13] I'm so grateful that you shared that interpretation of Jesus' time and fasting in the desert. And I don't know if this often happens, but for some reason it's sticking out to me that we were both called to the same moment in the text, but both came away with two pretty different interpretations of the same story. And so when I had read of Jesus' 40 Day Fast and the subsequent temptation by Satan, it struck me in a way that it never had before.

[00:07:42] I read of a suffering Jesus, one who had been alone in the desert with nothing but his own thoughts and his withering hungering body. I read of a Jesus in pain and despair. And although I've never had to survive alone in the desert for 40 days without food, I think many of us have been in low, awful, despair-filled and scary parts of our own minds.

[00:08:05] We've experienced isolation and loneliness. We've experienced overwhelming hunger for something more, better, different than the life we currently lead. 

[00:08:18] And for some the pain and suffering can often become so encompassing and unbearable that when unhelpful parts of ourself show up and say, ‘Hey, you know what? You could put an end to all of this suffering. You know that, right? Is there really a life to live if it's always going to be like this? Don't you think it would be better and easier if you didn't have to exist in all this pain at all?’ When those thoughts show up, it can be very, very tempting to listen to them.

[00:08:44] And in my reading of this story, Jesus and Satan are not two separate people. Instead, I see myself as both the Jesus figure and the Satan figure. I'm also not trying to say that suicidal ideation is sin or even of the devil. What I'm trying to say is that many of us experience depression, suffering, loneliness, rejection, and subsequent thoughts and feelings of suicide.

[00:09:08] And while that doesn't make us evil or less holy, it does remind us that life is really, really hard. 

Channing: [00:09:14] Elise, thanks so much for sharing that. I know that that's a really vulnerable place to be, and we also want to offer a reminder that suicidal thoughts about hurting ourselves and ending our own lives can show up for a variety of reasons, especially when we're experiencing intense emotional pain and can't see a way out or an end to the suffering.

[00:09:34] In the United States, adult men over the age of 45, native folks, and LGBTQ+ people, are at a greater risk of suicide for a variety of reasons, including isolation, depression, historical trauma, poverty, discrimination, and harassment and rejection from family and friends. Of course it is necessary to take an intersectional approach to understanding suicide.

[00:09:58] For example, the Trevor Project teaches us that transgender and non-binary youth were two to two and a half times as likely to experience depressive symptoms and seriously consider suicide and attempt suicide compared to their cisgender peers. Across race and ethnicity, Native and indigenous youth who are Two-Spirit or LGBTQ are consistently reporting the highest suicide risk.

[00:10:23] In particular, black transgender and non-binary youth report disproportionate rates of suicide risk, with 59% seriously considering suicide and more than one in four or 26% attempting suicide in the past year.  

Elise: [00:10:38] And we've shared similar statistics on previous episodes, but I think because we're talking directly about suicide, those reminders are important to have in the back of our mind.

[00:10:48] And so if we return to the story, what ends up happening is that Jesus does resist. At every turn when the thoughts of a quick and easy end to his suffering arise, Jesus refuses to give in and the devil, or Satan, eventually leaves. And every day we choose to continue living is a godly act of resistance. It's a revolutionary commitment to the fact that we are good, worthy, and valuable.

[00:11:14] It's a commitment to staying here and finding help. It's a remarkable reminder that somewhere beneath and among all the pain, there's a person who is beautiful and lively and deserving of love and acceptance.

 [00:11:36] The final piece of this story is that the angels actually do end up coming to Jesus and ministering to him like we see in Matthew chapter four.

The angels were with him. They cared for him, they nurtured him, and they made sure he knew how much he was both loved and needed. I read these angels as those who are both physically and emotionally there for us. They're the ones who check in on us, express their love, and help us feel connected. Because increasing connectedness has the powerful potential to decrease feelings of isolation and loneliness. Communities increase connectedness.

[00:11:58]  I also read these angels as helplines and hotlines, doctors, therapists, and medication that help us combat the move from ideation to action. These angels take our mental health seriously and act accordingly. Finally, we could also read these angels as material resources like food, water, shelter, economic stability and opportunities, warmth, safety, and protection.

[00:12:26] So if you're feeling depressed and experiencing suicidal thoughts, we hope this portion of the episode acts as a reminder that you are not alone and that your resistance is a godly act of love and creation. For those who do not find themselves as the Jesus figure in this story, we call on you to be the angels that come and minister, we need you and we need your support.

Channing: [00:12:47] Oh, that's such a beautiful reminder and honestly, a very fantastic and personal reading of this story in Matthew chapter four. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. As we move forward in the text, we turn to Luke chapter four, verses 16 through 29, in which we read Jesus' sermon in Nazareth. Jesus traveled through Nazareth, his hometown, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath.

[00:13:14] While there, he read from the book of Isaiah, “And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” He closed the book, gave it to the minister, and said to everybody who was listening “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” The people began to talk amongst themselves saying to each other, “Is this not Joseph's son?” Like, “who does he think he is?” Jesus kind of gets sassy and replies to all the people that he can hear speaking.

[00:13:57] He says, ““Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard you’ve done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country,” or in your hometown.” But Jesus said, “no prophet is accepted in his own country.” 

Elise: [00:14:13] From here, Jesus shares two stories from the Hebrew Bible, the first about the prophet Elijah who visits a starving widow in Sidon and blesses her and her son with an abundance of flour after her act of radical generosity of sharing her last portion of flour with Elijah.

[00:14:30] And the second story that Jesus shares is the story of the healing of the Syrian leper named Naaman. Jesus says, “Many widows and many lepers were in Israel at these times, but none of them were saved.” This is an instance where Jesus was openly sharing the goal of his ministry. In essence, he's saying, “I will go where I need to go and do what I need to do.”

[00:14:52] Remember in verse 18 where it says, “The Spirit of the Lord… hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; to heal the brokenhearted; to preach deliverance to the captives; recover the sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bruised.” What Jesus didn't say was he was sent to preach the gospel to the poor Israelites, the brokenhearted Israelites.

[00:15:14] His teachings were not meant to be for Israelites only, but for all the poor, all the brokenhearted, captive, bruised, and blind. He used these two examples specifically because both the widow of Sidon and Naaman were not Israelites, but pagans and historical enemies of the Israelites.

Channing: [00:15:35] So what does this have to do with the prophet not being accepted in his own country? We wonder if maybe Jesus recognized this particular approach wouldn't be well received by the people of his country and religious community and would instead be received as a betrayal. He wasn't wrong. We read that the people were “filled with wrath and rose up and thrust him out of the city.”

[00:15:58] The people didn't want Jesus' miracles if they were meant for just anyone. As I read their actions, I almost wondered if they were saying to themselves, “if liberation means that everybody wins in the end, what is the point?” And I think that is Jesus' point! The good news of the gospel is that everybody wins in the end. That there are no sides, no oppressed or oppressor, no haves and no have-nots. There's no revenge, no flipping sides so the oppressors get theirs too. 

[00:16:32] We really liked this quote from Marty G. Bell, who is a professor of religion at Belmont University. Bell writes, “Jesus, in referencing stories involving the ministries of Elijah and Elisha to those marginalized and excluded from Israel’s tradition, advocated that authentic religion does not pander to privilege. The story of Elisha’s healing of Naaman illustrates that inclusion is more expansive than concern for the poor and defenseless among foreigners. Privileged and powerful foreigners are also within the purview of God’s concern. Much like Elisha, Jesus challenged the accepted social protocol throughout his ministry. Some followers of Jesus, similar to Naaman of old, broke through the prejudice of social pride and reconstructed their lives on a new foundation based in humility.”

[00:17:15] What we really think is important to note here is that Jesus isn't saying this idea, “Hey, remember, your oppressors get healed too.” He's not preaching this idea out in the public where just anybody can hear it. Jesus is preaching to the Jews specifically in a synagogue, and I think that that's significant. He's not saying to the Romans, “oh, don't worry, you'll get healed too.” To read it like that is to forget the context of the original Hebrew Bible stories.

[00:17:45] Remember that the widow of Sidon showed radical hospitality and Naaman had to humble himself to a pretty extensive extent in order to achieve his healing from leprosy. It's not that the oppressors get off easy without having to exhibit a mighty change of heart and change their ways.

[00:18:11]  But it's almost as if Jesus is speaking directly to his Jewish audience saying, “I didn't come here to help you get revenge, I came here to heal, to deliver and establish a better way, different than before. I know that's not what you expected, and I know that that's not what you want. I know this makes you angry, but this is the path that I see forward.” It's almost as if Jesus is saying, “what if what you're wanting isn't revenge? It's not a flip flop of positions, but what if what you're wanting is true liberation? And I think that I can offer that.” Perhaps in this instance, Jesus is reminding the people that he's teaching that true liberation looks like wholeness and connection and not a trade for one power that denies humanity for another, but rather connectedness, community, and true collaboration with each other.

[00:18:55] And that is the radical path that Jesus was offering. And that is a challenging ask for anyone to do. And so it's not that Jesus was asking people to discount their anger or their want for change, but to rather transform it and radicalize it in a way that truly offered healing for everyone. 

Elise: [00:19:13] I just feel so happy that we get to work in the New Testament this year. It's very, very inspiring and energizing. So I think the last few things that we want to talk about is just briefly touch on some of the miracles that Jesus is performing in these chapters. Although not a miracle, one of the things that did stick out to me was when Jesus is calling his Disciples.

[00:19:36] And in episode two we talked about the phrase that Jesus uses where he says, “come and see.” Like, “come and see for yourself what I'm all about.” But in these chapters for this week, Jesus is using the phrase, come and follow. 

[00:19:53] And so I think that we see here this leveling up of discipleship. Jesus saying something like, “now that you've seen and learned, it's time for you to act.” And I think this is really nice, this is like a nice call for us too, because it reminds us to move from information gathering and learning phases into tangible material, organized action that literally helps, heals, and saves people the same way that Jesus is doing. And the disciples are so immediately ready they drop their nets and turn around and start following Jesus which to me suggests that they had been prepared and preparing for this call.

 [00:20:38] Some of the things I'm asking myself are what other calls do we hear today? I'm thinking of things like Land Back, police and prison abolition, trans justice. And to this call of “Come follow us”, how are we responding? Are we dropping our nets and immediately following in their footsteps? Or do we feel hesitant and slow to move?

Channing: [00:20:48] Some of the other things that we see happen as Jesus moves out into the community and broadens his ministry, is his actions of casting out devils, healing Simon's mother-in-law of a fever, offering so much fish in the nets of the people who are fishing that the nets end up breaking, and healing lepers. We also see an instance of people lowering down a man into a house so Jesus could heal him of palsy. We wanna offer a little caution or a side note to this verse, making it really clear that we believe that sin does not make one disabled or cause disease. 

[00:21:23] This reading is an ableist line of thinking, which leads us to thinking that disabled folks did something to deserve or warrant their disability, which then leads us to thinking of disability as a punishment that one needs to be cured, fixed, or forgiven of. 

Elise: [00:21:39] Yeah. Thank you for that. Cuz they have this whole conversation about the person that is being healed is also being forgiven. 

Channing: [00:21:48] Right. And it's not that the disabled person couldn't have possibly sinned at some point. But like that the disability and the sin are two separate things and not a cause and effect. 

Elise: [00:22:00] And then a final few things that caught my attention, very small. Luke chapter five, verse 26. The people or the disciples, I'm not exactly sure. They—after Jesus is kind of running about town, doing all this miracle-working—the people say “we have seen strange things today”. I dunno why, but I just really, really love this line.

[00:22:23] Just the thoughtful bewilderment of the people who are witnessing a complete revolution in the way things are done. All they can think of to say is, “it's strange!” But in the back of their mind I also think they're probably thinking like, “-and it's awesome!” 

[00:22:39] Or even if it's not awesome, that phrase “we have seen strange things today,” things that we can't totally piece together or comprehend just yet, so I really care about that line. And the final thing that stuck out to me from this week's episode is that Jesus wants to be alone. Not all of the time, but sometimes.

[00:22:58] And this really connects with me because I am also a person who desperately needs alone time. And so I felt really connected to Jesus in these moments. In Luke chapter four verse 42, it says, “and when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place.” Right? He's going off by himself to be alone because maybe he's introverted.

[00:23:18] But then what happens? It says, and the people sought him and came onto him and stayed with him, that he should not depart from them, which is obviously they wanna be around Jesus. And Jesus is really nice enough to let them continue to be around him. But if I were in his shoes, I would've been like, “no, I came to the desert because I needed a break, because I need to have some quiet communing time in order to recharge my battery so that I can come back tomorrow and continue being with all of you.”

[00:23:45] And then in Luke chapter five, verse 16, Jesus finally gets a little bit of alone time, he says, “and he withdrew himself into the wilderness and prayed.” Perhaps he prayed that no one would come and disturb him. I’m kidding.

Channing: [00:24:00] No, that's so good. I'm keeping that in there.

Elise:  [00:24:01] I'm not sure. But those are just two moments where I can connect with Jesus in a way that looks really humanly, in a way that feels really personal and reminds me of Jesus' humanity. 

Channing: [00:24:14] Yeah, I like these verses too. And I think that it's also that reminder that like even Jesus has a limit to what he can give and offer to others, and recognizes that there are times to give to others, and there are also times to give to oneself.

[00:24:31] And he doesn't feel bad. The verse doesn't say, “And he withdrew himself guiltily into the wilderness and prayed.” He's just like, “okay, I'm leaving now. Bye.” And it was fine. If Jesus can do it, so can y'all. Take a break for yourself and until then, we'll see you next week. Bye, friends.

Elise: [00:24:54] Friends, thank you so much for joining us today for another episode of The Faithful Feminist Podcast. We know your time and space is sacred, and we're grateful to have spent ours with you. If you enjoyed this episode, we would love it if you showed your support by sharing the podcast, leaving us a loving rating on iTunes, or connect with us on Instagram as The Faithful Feminists.

Channing: [00:25:13] We're deeply grateful for your kindness and encouragement. We love you so, so much, and we hope to spend more time with you again soon. Bye friends.
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