BREAD, GLORY AND POSSESSIONS
(A biblical refection on THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR A] – March 5, 2017)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 4:1-11
First Reading: Genesis 2:7-9;3:1-7; Psalms: Psalm 51:3-6,12-14,17; Second Reading: Romans 5:12-19
The Scripture Text
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But He answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took Him to the holy city, and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will give His angels charge of you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, lest You strike Your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord You God.’” Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to Him, “All these I will give You, if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! for it is written, You shall worship the Lord Your God and Him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matthew 4:1-11 RSV)
Today’s Gospel shows that Jesus was tempted by the devil in three areas, they are “bread”, “glory” and “possessions”.
BREAD. This is the lure of catering to bodily comforts, giving free rein to all our appetites for food, drink, sex, leisure, etc. the easy and comfortable life. It is only natural to want the best if we can get it, and forget about self-denial and discipline. Jesus knew, however, that this was not the way to prepare for the cross, where He would be thirsty, naked and tortured. So Jesus resisted the temptation.
GLORY. Here Jesus was tempted to show off and be spectacular. He could, if He had wanted, put on a dazzling display and the people would have jumped with excitement and applause. He could even convince Himself that it would be good for His cause, for it would have attracted an enthusiastic following.
How often we love to be the center of attention and be popular in the eyes of others. Sometimes this clouds our minds, causing us to say and do foolish things. Jesus had to be in control, for later He would be challenged to come down from the cross and save His life. He would not do that, either. In resisting this temptation, Jesus manifested the divine strength which destroyed our sins.
POSSESIONS. Just imagine all the things that people do for the sake of money. They kill for pay; endure cold, darkness and fear to obtain gold and riches. Soe sacrifice every decent principle to obtain and exalted position. The devil does not truly own the world and could not give it to Jesus. But he could remind Jesus of His freedom to forsake His Father’s will and take possession of the world. Abandoning the Father was tantamount to worshipping the devil and the tough Redeemer told His adversary to get lost. “The devil made me do it”, has no application here.
Today’s Gospel reading causes us to ask: Can Jesus really be tempted? Some would say “no”, for He is divine. Others respond “yes”, for He is human. But one thing is sure. We can be tempted, but when the mind is resolute, evil will flee. Then peace, like a ministering angel, will gently settle within our souls.
Prayer: Jesus, You are my Lord and Savior. Thank You for your victory over the devil! Teach me to recognize my enemy’s strategies and to overcome through faith and trust in You. Amen.
Jakarta, 4 March 2017
A Christian Pilgrim