“At That the Devil Left Him, and Angels Came and Waited on Him”
Jesus is our example in temptation. The Gospel makes it clear to us that times of temptation and trouble can become opportunities for our faith to be confirmed. It is not that God tempts us or causes the trouble, but somehow they are allowed. And if we are discerning, they can lead to our own betterment. If we have the proper disposition, the Spirit can use these periods of trouble so that we might empty our human will in order that the will of God might be completely operative in our lives. It is as we empty ourselves that we make room for the fullness of God.
In the first temptation, the lust of the flesh, the devil begins questioning God’s word. “If you are the Son of God…” (Do you hear echoes of his words to Eve, “Hath God said…?”) “Has God really said to you Jesus that you are his Beloved Son?” Always, the devil (the Splitter would be a more accurate reading ) seeks to divide us from the Word of God. He proposes to separate us from those intimate encounters we have had with our Father. He plots to topple us from the objective truth upon which we stand, the inspired and sacred scripture.
Jesus, when confronted with this temptation, turns to the Word. “Man does not live by bread alone!” (Again, notice the parallel to Eve and her temptation – “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food…”). Jesus never once tries to prove that indeed he is the Son of God. He rests secure in the Love of the Father. He does not need to prove anything. Would that Adam and Eve and you and I be so grounded in God’s word and rest so securely in His love. If our identity was so rooted in God’s truth and love, we would not seek to establish it through false and sinful ways.
Next, Jesus was taken to the pinnacle of the temple. There, 450 feet over the Kindron Valley, he was told to jump. This was not so that he could prove his miraculous powers. No, it was the thought of the day that the Messiah would appear in the clouds. In jumping he would be fulfilling the tradition of the elders. The temptation was to live for the expectations and accolades of others…the sin of the pride of life. It was to use craftiness as a means for self and political gain. Like Eve, who was offered a bit of wisdom, He would be using conventional wisdom as a short cut to the authority he would someday receive. Christ’s response informs us that we are not to be people pleasers nor are we to use our gifts and callings as a means of self glorification.
In the third temptation, the lust of the eye, Jesus was shown the kingdoms of this world. Again, we see the similarity to Eve’s temptation where the fruit was “pleasing to the eyes.” But Jesus sees right through this ploy and rebukes Satan soundly. If we were to analyze any temptation we would see that we were not really getting anything. Sure the fruit would be pleasant for Adam and Eve, but there was a lot of other good fruit in the garden. What is not allowed is not sweeter than what is. It always has a worm in it. Even if Satan would have given Jesus the kingdoms of the world, Jesus would not reign supreme. Disobedience to God puts one in league with Satan and places you under the subjection of his evil power.
Let us follow Christ’s example in temptation. If we resist temptation, we will overcome it. If we rebuke Satan, he will flee. And when the trial is over we too, like Jesus, will be refreshed. God’s own angels will bring to us heaven’s touch!
First Sunday of Lent
Gen. 2: 7-9, 3: 1-7; Rom. 5: 12-19; Mt. 4: 1-11
Peace Connections: Making the connection between the Sunday Readings and issues of peace and justice. Copyright 1995, by Thomas L. Garlitz. “Not for profit” permission to reprint granted