Reflecting on the temptations of Jesus can be difficult. They touch on our human desires to eat, to have power, and to be immortal. We all feel these desires at one time or another. We certainly wish to eat regularly, and we often overeat to be comforted by food when we feel bad. From childhood we wish to become superheroes who can do good things with our powers and learn how villains use their powers to hurt others. Our mortality constantly gnaws at us. We learn to fear death, and we often struggle to accept our fate as mortal; we even go so far as to make deals with God to stop the inevitable.
Now notice how Jesus responds to the temptations. He uses one powerful tool to stay focused on God: scripture.
Even though Jesus is terribly hungry and would have welcomed a piece of bread, he remembers how God provided food for the people of Israel in the desert to teach them to depend solely on God.
Jesus is tempted with having power over the world in exchange for worshiping the devil. While some power can be used for good, power has unbreakable links to egoism and self-centeredness, which move our focus from God. Jesus remembers the scriptures and tells the devil: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”
Then the devil gets tricky. The third temptation challenges Jesus to test God to save him from certain death using God’s own words from this week’s psalm. From Jesus’ response we learn that we should not make deals to demand God to do our will but should seek God’s will instead.
Almighty Creator, thank you for your word that feeds and empowers us in our journey with you. We renew our commitment to depend wholly on you, to worship you, and to do your will and not ours. Amen.
As we begin the season of Lent, the readings provide several images of how we might prepare our hearts. Deuteronomy focuses on gratitude with a recitation of the history of God’s faithfulness. The people are instructed to offer their gifts to God as a response to God’s generosity. The psalmist focuses on faithfulness. If we put our confidence in God, God will protect and sustain us. In Romans, Paul emphasizes faith. Our confession of faith from the mouth should come from the heart, and this heart confession saves us. The story of the temptation of Jesus admonishes us to know biblical truth. The devil tempts Jesus with half-truths—even scriptural quotes—but Jesus counters with correct understanding of God’s word and God’s character.
Read Deuteronomy 26:1-11. We no longer offer physical sacrifices to God. How do you give the “first fruits” of your labor to God in thanksgiving?
Read Psalm 91:2, 9-16. Recall a time you have felt abandoned or insecure. How did God respond to your call?
Read Romans 10:8b-13. Paul learned to see those he once despised as his equals in Christ. Whom does God call you to learn to love?
Read Luke 4:1-13. How do you follow Jesus’ example to use scripture to resist temptation?
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