1st SUNDAY OF LENT – THE TEMPTATIONS OF JESUS
It is rather unpleasant when a preacher in his sermon has to mention the word “devil” more often than the name of God, as if he is preaching the devil! It’s very unfortunate that today I’m trapped into this situation!
Jesus in the midst of fasting and prayer encounters the devil who ambitiously attempt to wrestle Him down. In the Garden of Eden the devil appeared to Eve in the form of a serpent, but here we are not told which form he took. Now if you think you have never encountered the devil physically in your life just be mindful of the different forms and shapes he appears to you when he tries to con you down.
First the Evil One says to the Lord, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” The idea here was not about proving whether Jesus was the Son of God or not. Neither was his intention to save Jesus from starving – Jesus was hungry not because he had no bread to eat. He was voluntarily fasting. The trap was to make Jesus work a miracle at his command and play his divinity simply for showoff. How often do we fall into this trap – power mongering, conflicts and bloodiest wars just to show how powerful they are!
The second trap in the first temptation is to have Jesus break his fast. Fasting, prayer and alms giving is not a very good idea for the Evil One. Jesus’ fasting and prayer threatened the domain of the Evil One. St. Anthony of Egypt, the father of monastic life says exactly the same thing out of his own experience that Satan is very afraid when people engage in fasting, prayer and doing good deeds.
Jesus answered, “It is written, one does not live on bread alone.” (Deut. 8:3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.) Jesus uses Scripture to win temptation and conquer the Evil One.
In the second temptation the Evil one says: “I shall give you all this power and glory; it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whoever I wish. All this will be yours if you worship me.” The Evil One is the biggest liar and always brings fake promises. All kingdoms and power belong to him? What does Scripture say about Jesus and creation?
- Jn 1:3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
- 1:16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
The pursuit for power and riches by all means and at any cost has entrapped many. Some have practically ensnared themselves into satanic worship for temporal promises of power and riches. Jesus stable and unshaken simply said: “It is written: ‘you shall worship the Lord your God, and him alone shall you serve.’” (Deut. 6:13 Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him.) And again he uses Scripture to win temptation.
See that Jesus is so straight forward when it comes to issues of serious concern, unlike most of us who, even when we know the truth that this particular issue is totally against God’s law and the Scripture but we begin hedging around: ‘Yes, but I’m not sure…. I cannot judge…’ and so we entertain evil in our midst. We should just remember that our journey to holiness starts from where we are and never from where we should be. Albert Einstein once said ‘the only reason for evil to triumph is when good people say nothing.’
Finally the Evil says: “If you are the Son of God throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Where is it written? Look at Psalm 91:11-12:
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
Yes, Scripture says exactly the same thing but here is an inappropriate use of the Word of God; quoting with a very bad intention. Since Jesus seems to be well versed with the Scriptures the Evil One also uses Scripture to trick him. Jesus refuses to misuse of power. The Evil One will come to you in the areas of your competence and of one’s own absolute discretion to throw you into the misuse of power and wealth justifiable with scriptural verses or very smart excuses.
What is Jesus’ answer to this temptation? “It is also written: ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Deut. 6:16 says: “You shall not tempt the Lord your God, as ye tempted him in Massah.” Jesus rejects the misuse of power.
In all occasions Jesus conquered temptations using Bible verses – the Word of God. This is reminiscent of the fact that in our own temptations and spiritual challenges fidelity to the Word of God everything. In this Lenten season we are called to trust more in God through, with and in ordinary events of our life in the path to become great saints living in extraordinary holiness. We pray the ‘Our Father’ daily and ask God to ‘lead us not into temptations but deliver us from the Evil One.’ Yet we do suffer temptations and we wonder why. St. Peter has the answer to it:
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1: 6-7)