Lenten Reader -- Day 32
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:1-13)
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are -- yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Every great leader will, at some point in time, be tested. This was certainly true for Jesus. Immediately after his baptism and the announcement of his public ministry, Jesus found himself in the wilderness, alone and vulnerable. Armed with nothing other than the Scripture he had buried in his heart, Jesus faced the enemy.
If the severity of our temptations is dependent upon the threat we pose against the forces of darkness, we can assume that Christ’s temptation was more than just a battle of words. In fact, this was an assault. For 40 days the devil twisted God’s words, offering things that were not his to give. And for 40 days Jesus resisted, repelling his attacks, forcing the devil to leave him “until an opportune time.”
Throughout the gospels we read of Jesus facing demons, but these seem less temptation and more nuisance. Still, an opportune time did come.
Late one night in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus would find himself alone and vulnerable again. There he would wrestle with his own desire to find another way other than that which his Father had planned since before the beginning of time.
“Please take this cup away from me,” he prayed.
And yet, by the end of his time there, his prayer changed to, “Not my will, but yours.”
He had remained strong in the desert, and now he was able to endure faithfully to the cross. His trial in the wilderness trained him well.
He remains strong to this day, empathizing with our weaknesses and strengthening us to say, “Not my will, but yours.”
God of all comfort and strength, you offer yourself as the ultimate resource for me when I find myself in times of loneliness and vulnerability. Teach me the wisdom of quickly turning to you in those times, for I know that when I face difficulties I am prone to give in to temptation. I quickly seek to medicate myself with short-term pleasures, self-indulgence and other sinful pain-avoidance strategies. But I know these only exacerbate the problem. Your presence, grace and power lift me up when I stumble. Give me the grace to look to you for my needs and to fully submit myself to your good will for my life. May I rest in you and put my hope in your promises and goodness. Only then will I come to know the peace that surpasses all understanding and guards my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.