Scripture: Luke 4:1-13
Key verse: (1) “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, . . .”
Reflection: After his baptism by John at the river Jordan and before beginning his ministry, Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tested and tempted by the devil. The temptations in this passage are related to the everyday temptations that human beings face in life: appetites, position, power and wealth. I like how one commentator summed up these temptations: hedonism, egoism and materialism. These temptations are enticing and Jesus in his humanity experienced the pull of each of them, yet chose to be faithful to God. He was free to choose, like we are. The questions the devil asks are quite reasonable.
After 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus is hungry. So, why not turn a stone into a loaf of bread? If you want something, why not get it? But, there is more at stake here than a loaf of bread. Our appetites can go far beyond food when we are hungry to an insatiable desire for more and more. Our culture is full of messages about “you are worth it” and “you deserve it” in order to fill this hunger. But, Jesus quotes from the book of Deuteronomy: “one does not live by bread alone.” In other words, there is more to life than fulfilling base appetites.
The second temptation is about position – our need to be in control and have our own way. The devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and promises that Jesus can have authority over them all, if he will worship him. The ego loves this kind of opportunity to be so important. Many people will sacrifice their integrity and beliefs to attain positions of prominence, but Jesus (again quoting scripture) says: “worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”
Finally, there is the temptation of raw power. The devil takes Jesus to Jerusalem and tells him to fling himself off the pinnacle of the temple because he will not die. Angels will protect him and lift him up. In other words, Jesus is so important that nothing can kill him. His final reply is “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
How do these temptations manifest in our lives? How many of them have we given in to? Do we have an insatiable desire for things? Do we try to fill our inner hunger with that which will never satisfy? Are we serving gods of materialism and position clawing our way to whatever we believe is the “top”? Do we test God again and again with our reckless behavior thinking that nothing can harm us? My guess is that we have all faced these temptations in one way or another.
What choices are you going to make today?
Prayer: Loving God, thank you for being patient with us. We are tempted by many things – things that sometimes look too good to resist. Give us wisdom and discernment as we seek to live lives of integrity and purpose. Help us to find our deepest needs satisfied in you so that we might reflect something of your love to others in our world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Author: Deborah Conner
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].