Matthew and Luke share more details about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness than Mark does (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). In those Gospel stories, Satan openly exposes Jesus’ food insecurity, how dangerous the world could be to his personal safety, and how a compromise of his true authority could lead to a quick rise to power. In both Matthew and Luke, Jesus is defiant – directly resisting Satan’s ploys to undermine his mission.
Mark’s Gospel is always on the move; racing at breakneck speed; telling us that Jesus was tempted for forty days in one short sentence. As a reader I am left wondering if that temptation was an ongoing threat as Jesus begins calling people to “repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15).
The Gospel of John doesn’t mention a temptation in the wilderness at all – yet the struggle between the darkness and the light is ever-present.
Sometimes the things that draw us away from who we are called to be and what we should be doing are blatant and require direct action and resistance. Other times the attack is ongoing and hostile; it is only through perseverance and a clarity of mission that see us out of the wilderness. Yet most of the time the struggle is subtle, in the background of our lives, present but real behind the scenes of our day to day routines and experience. These can be the most dangerous kinds of temptations where one can slip into new or bad habits that keep people (myself included) from being the version of our selves we long to be.
Lent is a good time to refocus. For some, it is a time to intentionally weed out bad habits or distractions. For others it is an opportunity to pause and reflect or take up a new practice. Whatever you decide to do across these 40 days in the wilderness, remember that Jesus is right there with you and you are not alone. We all walk together toward the cross.
Let’s encourage each other along the way.
Do you give up something or take up something for Lent? If so, what are you doing this year?
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