At the end of Jesus’ forty-day fast in the wilderness, he is
starving. So not surprisingly, the devil’s first temptation
invites Jesus to turn stones into bread—not only for food but to
prove that he is the Son of God by performing a miracle. Miraculous
food figures in two other places in the Bible. The first
comes in Eden. After God gives our ancestors everything to eat,
they want more. The second arises in the story of the Israelites’
forty years in the wilderness during which God miraculously
supplied bread and quail.
Both of these stories involve testing God. If Adam and Eve
eat the forbidden fruit, will God really let them die? If the Israelites
want more than manna will God really supply them with
something else, like quail? Will God live up to God’s word?
This background sets the context of Jesus’ temptations. If
you are really the Son of God, says Satan, find out if God will
turn these stones into bread. His second temptation is to hurl
himself off the top of the temple to prove he is the Son of God
by having God rescue him. Jesus states the following in reply,
“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Jesus’ third temptation
does not test God—only Jesus. If Jesus will worship Satan,
Satan will give him the whole world. Jesus resists, quoting
scripture, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”
In resisting temptation, Jesus models faithful discipleship.
When he shouts, “Away with you, Satan!” He exercises an inner
power that even the devil obeys. Jesus refuses to let himself be
trapped into proving himself and forgetting his primary focus.
We can find ourselves tested in similar ways. Standing strong,
we may find ourselves being waited on by angels.
Loving God, help us to recognize where we too are being tested. Save us by your grace. Amen.
The texts for Ash Wednesday are all ominous in nature, pointing forward to the redemptive power of God’s grace. Lent is a time when Christians reflect on their mortality and sin, as well as on the creative and re-creative power of God. The original parents of humanity could not resist the seduction of the serpent, but that narrative stands beside the story of Jesus’ lonely and painful resistance to the power of Satan. In Romans, the “one man’s obedience” by which “the many will be made righteous” is the quality that endures. The Joel passage is an alarm bell in the darkness of the night. Those who are caught in this terrible moment cannot hope to save themselves, for they are powerless to do anything on their own behalf. They are powerless to do anything, that is, except to repent and to open themselves to God’s intervening mercy.
• Read Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7. What choices have you made that put you outside God’s intention for your life?
• Read Psalm 32. Are there unconfessed wrongdoings in your life that need God’s forgiveness? Will this Lent be a time when you can nd the freedom forgiveness brings?
• Read Romans 5:12-19. Have you experienced a relationship that has died? How has God renewed that time in your life?
• Read Matthew 4:1-11. What has tempted you to set faith aside and to trust only in yourself? How did that work out?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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