“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” (Luke 4:1-2)
The temptation in the wilderness is a showdown between Jesus and these temptations personified in the devil.
Comfort: “Turn these stones to bread, and you’ll never have to want for anything again.”
Power: “Worship me and I’ll give you the kingdoms of this world who will bow down to you.””
Security: “Throw yourself down from the Temple to reveal your power and God will protect you and keep you safe.”
Three questions emerge from these three areas of life.
- How do we typically respond to these temptations?
- How does Jesus respond to these temptations?
- What can we learn from Jesus?
How do we typically respond to these temptations?
Comfort, power and security form the basis of much of our our competitive/consumer economy, how we often treat our relationships and the world of human politics. Using our agency in economics/relationships/politics for self-interest over the interest of others or for the benefit of the whole we easily pushes us into acting out of greed, exploitation and violence. We respond to one another out of perceived scarcity, fear and dehumanization. We objectify our desires and opponents and seek to insulate ourselves from the world. We turn inward to glorify ourselves, hide from God and negatively judge our neighbors. How we live can be damaging to ourselves, to others and the world in which we live.
How does Jesus respond to these temptations?
Jesus addresses each of these key areas with biblical responses. All three verses he quotes point to God rather than to comfort/power/security:
Comfort: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:3)
Power: “The Lord your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear.” (Deuteronomy 6:13)
Security: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Deuteronomy 6:16)
Depending on God’s promises is of greater value than feeling comfortable. Faith often deepens when our circumstances become the most challenging. True power comes in serving God not by lording what we can do over others. The wilderness teaches humility and respect for things that are out of our control to better focus on our mission. Jesus’ mission is teaching and showing compassion to others, healing the broken, forgiving the sinner, including the outsider and bringing good news to the poor. Placing himself outside of human constraints and definitions of power, reveals Jesus’ heavenly/divine power; as he confronts worldly/human power. The cross will be the place where undeserved mercy and self-giving love will be made known.
What can we learn from Jesus?
The lure of comfort/power/security can draw us away from God and one another. On the flip-side – entering the wilderness can point us to confront within us our temptation to think only of ourselves. In the wilderness we can to learn to trust God no matter what situation we face, and reorient our lives to see the wilderness others are struggling. Remember the wilderness story, helps Jesus find his voice and focus to re-engage the world through the lens of being focused on his mission of mercy and compassion among people.
We could all use a wilderness refresher course this Lent. Don’t forget, you are not alone. Jesus is sent by the Holy Spirit, and so are we!
-What comforts/powers/securities tempt you from the wilderness?
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