Jesus is in the wilderness being tested by the devil. When we think of testing or tempting we usually think it will involve doing something bad, like stealing a car or robbing a bank. Something obviously evil that we choose to do in spite of knowing it is wrong.
But what we hear in today’s gospel doesn’t sound anything like that. The tests the devil puts before Jesus seem to be good actions that would help people or make the world a better place.
The first temptation is about bread. We will see later in Luke’s gospel that Jesus has the power to multiply bread when Jesus feeds more than 5000 people. Imagine how many starving people in Israel He could feed if he trusted his own power and turned all the stones in the wilderness into bread!
The second temptation makes us wonder if the devil heard what God said at Jesus baptism, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” The devil promises Jesus dominion over all the kingdoms of the earth, if he only will worship him.
Imagine all the good Jesus could do if he just took control right away instead of following God’s plan!
And the third temptation: throw yourself down and the angels will save you thus proving that you are God’s son!! Jesus doesn’t need proof of who he is, but why not do something publicly by himself to remove all doubt?
Trust seems to be the common theme in these temptations. Each time Jesus responded to the devil with scripture he used the book of Deuteronomy, Moses’ sharing with the people how to trust in God Just before they enter the promised land.
We know the story of the Israelites journey in the wilderness. They had lots of trouble trusting God didn't they? They were hardly out of Egypt when they began whining about being hungry or thirsty, they built a golden calf to worship, and were constantly wanting to go back to Egypt.
Each time the people failed to trust in God and instead relied on their own strengths
There were consequences, but each time God remained faithful took care of the people.
That was Jesus temptation, to rely on himself rather than trusting God.
Just like the Israelites in the desert we tend trust in our own power rather than relying on God. We want to be independent, but as we see time and time again
We end up in a mess
Just as with the people of Israel, God is always faithful to us,
And responds to us in love as well.
So what does this have to do with our journey through lent? I remember as a child having to choose something to give up for lent. I always gave up the same thing
Candy. I admit that for a long time I didn't get why I had to do this, it was just what we did for Lent. But I think that the reason behind this Lenten practice isn’t about being disciplined or repenting or showing how perfect we can be.
It’s about trust, trusting God more than whatever else it is we place our trust in
Because let’s face it the things of this world that we put our trust in just don't last.
Food is good for us and necessary for life, but if we place all our trust in food,
no matter how much or how good the food we eat is we are still going to get hungry again.
And political power can be a good thing if it is used properly, we know that political power used for good can save lives. But if we put all our trust in political power rather than trusting in God, we end up with division and dysfunction.
Even believing in ourselves is a good thing. Having self-esteem is important for a happy life, but it too can lead us into trouble. Too much faith in ourselves rather than God leads to pride and self-centeredness and misery
God's love for us on the other hand never changes, never leaves us hungry or hurting or miserable
Giving up something for lent just because that’s what we always do is not a good thing.
Giving up something, or better yet adding more time in prayer, reading scripture, reflecting on our lives, caring for people in need, and going out of our way to help those in need. These practices can all point us in the direction of trusting God’s love for us.
When we focus on trusting and following God we come closer to following Jesus, that’s what lent and the disciplines of lent need to be all about. So as we continue our Lenten walk to the cross, let us remember who it is that we can trust and rely on beyond anything else, our loving and grace filled God.