THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS
(A biblical reflection on the 1st Sunday of Lent [Year C] – 6 March 2022)
Gospel Reading: Luke 4:1-13
First Reading: Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Psalms: Psalm 91:1-2,10-15; Second Reading: Romans 10:8-13
The Scripture Text
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to Him, “To You I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If You, then, will worship me, it shall all be Yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’” And he took Him to Jerusalem, and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘He will give His angels charge of you, to guard You,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear You up, lest You strike Your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time. (Luke 4:1-13 RSV)
Temptation is an ever-present reality in life. Even the Lord Jesus was tempted as shown in Scriptures (cf. Luke 4:1-13). Jesus withdrew to the wilderness for a long retreat. There He encountered Satan who offered Him the ultimate in power, money and material comforts. The offer was, of course, conditional. Jesus was to acknowledge Satan as supreme being. “All these I will give you if you will fall down and worship me,” the devil said. Jesus answered with an emphatic “No.”
The struggle in the wilderness between Jesus and the devil goes on within each of us, every day of our life. The urge to be true to God is real, but so is the urge to be untrue. St. Paul describes the inner struggle or spiritual combat in his letter to the Romans: “I can’t understand myself; for I don’t do what I would like to do, but instead I do what I hate” (Romans 7:15).
Note that temptation is not a sin. It is an incitement to evil. It is a testing. God allows Satan to test someone to see how good she/he is. It’s like a girl testing the fidelity of her suitor. God allows Satan to test us so that we can prove whether we are on Satan’s or God’s side.
In temptation the devil does not always appear as a horrible looking half-man, half-animal with horns and tail. He could appear in the form of a well-dressed man with pleasing personality but offers “indecent proposals” like approving an anomalous contract or bribing people. The devil could be a smart, charming lady, say, in the office who seduces you to be unfaithful to your wife. In other words, individuals and institutions can be used, and are being used today by sweet-talking Satan.
Temptation is related to free will. God gives us free will to test our love for Him. I have to make decisions for or against God when I am tempted. If I have no free choice to love or not to love, if I am simply compelled by human nature to love, my love for someone would have no value whatsoever. Destroy free will and you destroy the very concept of love for God that is free.
St. Paul writes in 1Corinthians 10:13 “God will not allow you to be tempted beyond your power to remain firm. Every time you’re put to test He will give you the strength to endure it, and provide you the way out.” The ideal thing to do is to ask the Lord to help you.
One thing we have to remember, when the Lord shooed Satan away and left Him, the struggle didn’t end there. The Gospel writer tells us that “when the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left Him, to await another opportunity” (Luke 4:13).
Temptation is a continuing struggle in our lives to keep God at the center. And as someone quipped: “When you flee temptation, be sure you don’t leave a forwarding address.” Sometimes we are attracted to infidelity, to excessive drinking, or to cheating in money matters. In all these cases we are tempted to substitute the lesser for the greater, the superficial for the real, the trivial for the essential.
We’ve begun the season of Lent. It’s a season of testing and discipline, of choosing good and evil, of focusing on the greater and better choices. Are we making the right choices?
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, You know the temptation I face every day. Put Your truth deep in my heart so that I can stand against Satan’s lies. I want to take up the authority You gave me against Satan through Your cross! Amen.
Jakarta, 5 March 2022
A Christian Pilgrim