Jesus begins his ministry not by joining with family and friends to celebrate his ordination but rather by being cast into the wilderness where he is tempted by Satan.

When I think of temptation, I think of sin—lust, pride, greed, the seven deadlies, and other self-evident wrongs. Sin is complicity with evil, doing wrong, succumbing to bad desires.

The temptations put before Jesus by Satan are different. “Jesus, I know you want to help people. Think of the good you could do for hungry people by turning these stones into bread.”

“No? I can see your point. Feed somebody today, and they’ll be hungry tomorrow. You should do sustainable good by the only means we have of doing systemic, effective good—politics. Take over the kingdoms of the world.”

“No? That’s true, you are a spiritual leader. Throw yourself down from the pinnacle of the Temple. Give solid, miraculous proof to struggling believers!”

Jesus refuses.

Satan’s temptations are not sexual, abusive, or immoral. Bread for the hungry, power used responsibly, and miraculous evidence—these are good things. And yet Jesus says, “No.”

Note that Satan begins by saying, “Since you are God’s Son” (CEB). “If you are who the voice at your baptism said you were, God’s Son, act like it! Be the Messiah we thought we deserved, not the Messiah you are. Prove you are the God we wanted” (AP).

Jesus says, “No.”

Why did Jesus refuse such tempting offers? What kind of savior would refuse to align with our expectations for God? We must wait and watch Jesus in action for the next forty days of Lent. Satan departs and Jesus goes his way not as the God we thought we had to have but rather as the Savior he is.

Lord, help us to follow where you lead, rather than walking where we think you should go. Amen.

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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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