2019-3-10 “The Temptation of Jesus”

March 10, 2019

The Temptation of Jesus

First Sunday in Lent

Luke 4: 1-13

Rev. Elizabeth Aguilar


I once met a young person who said he couldn’t quite relate to Jesus because Jesus was perfect. I agreed. I said, yes He was. He was and is God but He understands our imperfections. He understands our weaknesses, our need to trust in something bigger than us. The young man wasn’t too sure if he followed. I pressed on. I asked, “do you ever get tempted to do something you know isn’t good for you to do?” He said, yes, all the time… I laughed. I said, so did Jesus but the difference is that Jesus was tempted but didn’t give into it. The young man sad, “you see, He’s too perfect.” I pressed on- “yes,  I said, but He ‘gets it’ when we are tempted too…” to which he replied, “well, that’s good because it happens all the time!”  We laughed again…

Well, this story is no stranger to us. It is probably the most famous of the Gospel stories that occurs during this time of Lent. We base our 40 days of Lent around the 40 days Jesus was in the wilderness. The wilderness experience parallels that of the Israelite’s 40 year experience in another wilderness. The difference of course is that the Israelites had failed at their tests while Jesus did not.

Lent literally means “spring time.” “It is a time of preparation, a time to return to the desert where Jesus spent forty trying days readying for his ministry. He allowed himself to be tested and if we are serious about following him, we will do the same….(Pp. xvi, introduction to Bread and WIne. The Ploughing Publishing House, Farmington, PA, 2003.)

Lent of course, is usually associated with seeking repentance, alms giving, fasting, deep prayer, giving something up and now increasingly known as a time of giving to causes or people in need. Yet, it should never be morose. “Instead it should be seen as an opportunity, not a requirement.”

So if  we are to see Lent as an opportunity. Could we also see the story of Jesus’s temptation as an opportunity also? An opportunity for what you might ask?

The Temptation of Jesus invites us into the wilderness with Him. It invites us to reflect upon those times or circumstance we too have been presented the give into a desire for control, power, and prestige.

The first temptation was about taking control and not trusting God. Not waiting  on God to provide. Satan, also known as the evil one knew that Jesus was hungry. Jesus was fully human and so, of course, would be hungry after fasting for 40 days. So, the devil tempts Jesus, during the first test into cutting Jesus’s fast short and turning stones into bread.

Jesus doesn’t give in, of course, and instead relies on the power of scripture to dissuade Satan.

The next temptation had to do with power. The devil tells Jesus that he will give him the entire world only if Jesus worships him. Jesus again looks to scripture to counter-act the devil.

The last temptation had to do with prestige. Making a big splash, be popular. The devil tells him to throw himself down from the pinnacle of a temple. This time we get the sense hat the devil is getting desperate and wants to beat Jesus at his own game, sort to speak because this time he decides to quote scripture too, by quoting Psalm 91, verses 11 and 12.

None of these temptations or tests had to do with Jesus’ mission which was that of servanthood to God. Of trusting God completely. Trusting in God to provide, trusting in God’s time to provide. Trusting in God’s purpose and plan…

The Temptation of Jesus was not to give into any traditional terms of power, strength and conquest. Instead, Jesus models servanthood. Following God’s will, God’s time, God’s purpose and plan for His life.

This takes us back to our earlier invitation. To follow Jesus into the wilderness. Do you want to? Do you want to be tested? I must admit that I don’t want to be tested. I don’t want to be tested into giving into a sense of false power or prestige, or control. All those things that take my eyes and focus off of Jesus’s example of servanthood and trust in God. No, instead, I want my faith to be strong enough to follow Jesus no matter what, never to doubt. Never to be distracted. Never to be confronted with my own weaknesses.

But that isn’t the human condition.Is it? No, this story reminds us that we will be tested and be tested often. It reminds us to be ready for when we are with scripture, with total focus on Jesus.

And let’s not forget about the timing of this event. All three synoptic writers place it happening right after the baptism of Jesus, at the beginning of his ministry. This makes me think about how we are often tested when things are going really well. Jesus was at the beginning of his ministry. GOd’s voice had just declared Him as His very own Son, the Messiah. Things were on the upside, sort to speak.

What about you? What is your temptation or test? Is it power? We see in our country so many examples of abuse of power don’t we? People being asked to work longer and harder for less pay. Women being exploited against their will. Children and youth being taken advantage of.

In this world, it seems that the poor and the weak become poorer and weaker and yet that isn’t that way in the kingdom of God. That isn’t what God invites us to be about. We are meant to share our power. We are meant to follow Christ and His ways. Not our own selfish ambitions. We are meant to trust Him instead of give into our own sense of control and therefore, manipulating something that isn’t supposed to be manipulated.

The good news is that although the walk in the wilderness may not be an easy one, we do not do it alone. We do it with God and we do it with one another. We do it by carrying out spiritual practices like fasting, scripture reading and prayer…

We have tools, we have spiritual resources, we have one another to help us along this journey. Let us take this walk focusing on Jesus, on his call to follow Him, to not give into desires of control, power, or distrust of God.

Instead, let us do what Jesus did- when he told the devil that he was called to worship God and only follow God. Let us trust God to provide in all times.