The Temptation of Jesus
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
JESUS’ temptation in the wilderness is a story that implores us to remember who we are. If we see this passage as a display of Jesus’ inability to sin, and our inability to measure up, we do ourselves and the world a great disservice. Rather, if we read it as an invitation to come home to our true selves, we can begin to operate on a divine frequency. Jesus, responds to temptation with a deep-rooted sense of his familial tie with God, who declared at his baptism “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased”. Thus he shows us that he is dependent solely on God, for strength, identity, and life itself.
Repentance is often understood as a turning from sin. Sin is not simply making mistakes; sin is separation from God. Repentance is about remembering who you are and whose you are, coming home to the person God has called you to be.
We are invited to participate in God’s redemptive and restorative work in our world. We have the opportunity to tap into the work God is doing, God’s mission, even in our world today, where we may feel weary, weak, or prone to despair. God is still working, and constantly searching for those of us paying attention to this mission. Knowing that we can be used by God teaches us what to say No to, giving more power to our Yes.
God is always chasing the other, the outsider, the lost sheep. The person you were called to be is for the sake of someone else. However, in order to partner with God on this mission, you must tend to your own hunger pangs. The Message version of v.3 says, “the devil, playing on his hunger, gave the first test”. In order to ensure we are not hungry, we must remain in God just as Jesus did, remembering that we are all God’s children, and that his grace is constantly available to us, equipping us to do all the work he has called us to.
Luke’s first readers would have been aware of the parallel between the Israelites’ 40 years in the wilderness, and their experience of temptation, and Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, and the similar testing of his faith and identity. The Israelites continually witnessed God’s provision and rescue, yet they were not always faithful to God. Jesus, by contrast, remains steadfast in his faith; secure in the knowledge that he is God’s, and that God has called him to something higher. We are similarly called to remain faithful to the cause, knowing all the while that there is grace in abundance, and God is always faithful, even when we fail.
So this Lent season, what should we turn from, in order to pursue the life that God has set in motion for us? In which areas of your life do you need to rely on God’s version of events?
For God’s sake, for the sake of the world, save your Yes for what God has for you. Know who you are. Know whose you are. And partner with the Divine to bring radical love and justice to our world.
4:1 - The river Jordan was historically, geographically and religiously significant for the nation of Israel as it was where they crossed from the wilderness into the Promised Land. Jesus’ journeying into the wilderness and return would have reminded readers of Israel’s history and God’s faithfulness.
4:2 - ‘Where for forty days he was tempted’ would have evoked images for Jewish readers of the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.
4:4, 8, 10-11 - Jesus responds to each temptation by quoting the Torah (the first five books of what we call the Old Testament today). He succeeds where the nation of Israel failed. To dive deeper, explore Deut. 8:3, 6:4-15 and 6:16.
In 4:1-2, Luke writes that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where he was tempted by the devil. Have you ever felt led into a time of testing? How did it impact your faith?
Many writers have reflected on these temptations and on what the equivalent temptation would be in our modern world. Jesus’ temptations were to use his power to feed himself, to accept the devil’s help to take authority over the nations of the world, and to put God to the test by throwing himself off the pinnacle of the temple, thus gaining a throng of admirers. What three temptations would the devil offer Jesus in a modern version of this story?
When tempted, Jesus falls back on his understanding of Scripture and who he is as the Son of God. How do you deal with temptation or hardship? Are there any verses or stories in Scripture that you find helpful, encouraging or empowering during those times?
Spend some time in silent prayer asking God for awareness and guidance about what he is inviting you to turn away from or resist during this Lenten season.
Take some time to share these temptations with one another (to the extent that you feel comfortable).
As a group, pray for each other that you may each have a deep and profound understanding of God’s love for you and that this knowledge will equip you with self-awareness, strength and perseverance.
Katie is an aspiring writer, an eternal intern, and a passionate Jesus-Feminist. With a Master’s in International Development and a Bachelors in Sociology and French, she is qualified for ... making lattes and pulling pints (skills that she has put to great use). She recently returned to Ireland after working in New York and studying in Edinburgh.