Lenten Reflection 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, Day 14.

Day 14, Thursday, March 8, 2012

 Matthew 4 states, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1 RSV, also see Mark 1:13, Luke 4:1-2). Exploring the temptations of Jesus Christ in the wilderness is very rewarding. The three most trusted tools with which Jesus confronted the temptations were fasting, prayer, and the Word of God. The Lenten season helps us grow in all three of these disciplines. But the nature of Jesus’ temptations also teaches us strategies to resist the temptations in our wilderness experience.

 In the first two temptations (see Matthew 4: 3, 5-6; Luke 4:3, 6-7), the devil provoked Jesus to prove to him and to the world that He indeed was the “Son of God.” In the first temptation, the challenge was: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread,” and in the second one: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down…” If Jesus was the Son of God then He didn’t need bread to survive and if He threw Himself down, He will not be physically injured. The gospels remind us Jesus’ full humanity by stating that He indeed was very hungry. But the devil asked Him to prove His divinity. Jesus didn’t fall for this trick but instead reminded the devil of His humanity. Just before Jesus was led into the wilderness, He had heard the affirming words of His Father about His divinity. He has been growing in intimacy with His Father during His solitary time of prayer and fasting. Thus, Jesus was sure of His divine identity when the devil tempted Him to doubt it. He tried to bring thoughts of distrust at one of the most vulnerable times in Jesus’ life. When the devil tried to bring doubts about the voice of God, Jesus simply replied by the certainty of the Word of God: “It is written.” It meant that whatever you may say, devil, I am sure of the finality of the Word of God and of the assurance of my Father.

As followers of Christ, we too, are many times led into similar situations where the devil creeps in with doubts at our vulnerable moments. He tries to raise doubts about the authenticity of God’s Word and His promises. He may tempt us to prove something to him and/or to the world around us. In such situations, we too need to respond with “It is written.” However, we can do so only when we have read, learned, and tested the Word of God to be true in our own lives. Remember, the devil also knows the Word of God, and he knows it better than most Christians! We cannot fool him, but we certainly can defeat him by saying and doing things that show our trust in God, His Word, and in His promises made for us. Amen. 

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