Lectionary: Luke 4:1-13; Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16; Romans 10:8b-13
This weekend represents much more than just Daylight Savings Time (Boo, hiss! Change your smoke alarm batteries) or the start of March Break (Yay! Avoid museums, malls and Florida).
We are now comfortably into the forty days of Lent which was ushered in last week on Ash Wednesday. For most people in our culture, this part of the year is a mysterious thing that Catholics obsess over each year as spring approaches.
But the truth is that it is a season of deep importance to Christians of all stripes around the planet as it draws us slowly toward Holy Week and Easter. For some, it represents forty days of sacrifice as a way of centring and disciplining our hearts and minds.
Today’s reading is about Jesus’ own forty days of discipline as he fasts alone in the desert. As the story goes, ‘the Devil’ takes the opportunity to temp him at this vulnerable time with three familiar temptations: physical comfort; political power; spiritual authority.
Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry.
Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”
But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone.”
Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”
Jesus replied, “The Scriptures say,
‘You must worship the Lord your God
and serve only him.”
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,
‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you.
And they will hold you up with their hands
so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.”
Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”
When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.
This story confirms to the reader who Jesus is (Son of God) and that he is able to resist even the most raw, human temptations (good to know) but there is something even more important behind the scenes.
It is also a lesson in how Jesus is motivated: how he operates and how he is going to accomplish his ultimate mission.
We don’t see Jesus – you know, kicking the Devil’s butt around the desert or pitching him off the top of the Temple although that would make a great Marvel movie (for the record, no it wouldn’t but it kinda would). Clearly what we look for is a story ending where the good guy is almost overwhelmed but then fights back with sheer will power…
Instead, the story relates that Jesus firmly and simply resists the temptations. He overcomes evil the same way he will overcome it forty Lenten days later with the strong, inner confidence that what is righteous is stronger than what is not. With the inner wisdom of the Holy Spirit and the outer wisdom of Scripture, Jesus’ calmly but strongly inverts the Devil’s truth against him. Do what you will to me, but I will choose what is right.
The Lenten season is a real life story, not just historically but because it is about the contrasts of life. The highest highs and the lowest lows. Today’s reading is an example of this: Jesus is experiencing a spiritual high after communing with God but evil is lurking close, waiting to take advantage.
But if we read between the lines, one of Jesus’ strengths in resisting temptation is that he knows what his vocation is. He knows what he is about. What he is meant to do. What matters more than any temporary comfort of his senses.
What is your vocation? How is your mind and heart oriented? What is it that fulfills you and gives you a sense of God’s pleasure?
Let me give you a kick-start from Philippians 4 to help you begin the process of discovery.
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (NIV)