Meditation of the week

Coping with temptations

Luke 4,1-13.

The temptations of Jesus in the desert are referred to by Mark (1,12-13), and described in detail by Matthew (4,1-11), and Luke.  The forty days remind us of the testing forty years the people of Israel spent in the Sinai wilderness in preparation for their entry into the Promised Land. The temptations come to Jesus at the end of his forty days of fasting and praying in the desert, after which, he would be physically weak but spiritually strong. We don’t know how they were presented to him; in thought, in imagination or in some more realistic way, or whether they came in one sequence, or at different times.

Matthew, Mark and Luke emphasize that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted, while only Luke states that he was full of the Spirit, already, when he came from his baptism in the Jordan (4,1a). In this way Luke is linking the temptations to his Baptism in the Jordan when the Spirit descended upon him (3,21-22) and also to the beginning of his public life in Galilee (4,14) and also at his visit to his home synagogue in Nazareth (4,18). At his baptism, his identity as Son of God and his receiving the Holy Spirit are clearly highlighted. These two truths form a background and atmosphere to the desert temptations.

The first temptation’s refers (hypothetically) to Jesus’ divine Sonship, proclaimed at his baptism, but clearly, too, reminds us of his humanity – “Man does not live on bread alone.” Being hungry, he was  tempted to use  his divine power to satisfy his immediate bodily needs.  Jesus’ response shows that his mission is to give priority to God’s word and values above providing for his own physical needs.

The second temptation is one that most humans are prey to – the idols of power and glory, and the prestige, control and compromise, that go with them. Jesus’ response to the devil challenges us to examine our values, methods and motives as we worship God and promote His kingdom.

In the third temptation Jesus refuses to show off and demonstrate his faith in God’s protection in a theatrical way, which would convince people to believe.  For Jesus to put God to the test/proof is the very opposite of faith.

The devil retreats, defeated, but to re-emerge later as Satan, entering Judas at the beginning of the Passion story (22,3).

The temptations were an attempt by the devil to undermine Jesus and subvert his mission. It shouldn’t surprise us that the devil tries the same tactics with Jesus’ followers today.

The fact that Jesus was tempted shows that there is nothing wrong with being tempted.  Our temptations keep us humble and help us to know ourselves better, especially our weak points.

Jesus repels each temptation with the Word of God, (by quoting the Old Testament Scriptures in his responses), thereby showing its power and wisdom. Scripture teaches us truth and goodness and protects us from what is evil. Christians should be singular for their love and thirst for the word of God in the Scriptures.  Try reading something from the Bible each day during Lent.

Jesus was well prepared to cope with his temptations by his forty days of fasting, prayer, silence, and  solitude in the desert.  How do you prepare yourself to face your temptations?  Do you know your predominant temptations?

Fr Geoff O’Grady