Daily Advent Reflection
The College of New Rochelle
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Why did Jesus feel the need to go and dwell in such a desolate place as the Judean wilderness. He did it right after he experienced the Father’s commissioning him as the Messiah. The Spirit must have led him to follow the example of Moses and Elijah. Both undertook a forty day journey of prayer and fasting. This was to prepare them for their prophetic missions. Their time of solitude with God empowered them for the call God had given them. Like them, Jesus went into the wilderness to prepare himself for his mission, spending forty days and nights in solitude and prayer to his Father in heaven.
At the end of forty days in the wilderness a visitor came out to test him. Luke calls this tempter the devil. The devil was aware that Jesus had been called to be the Messiah. The devil waited to attack Jesus after he appeared vulnerable, physically and emotionally drained by his fasting and struggle over what the Father was calling him to. The devil sought to persuade Jesus to choose his own way rather than the way planned for him by the Father, an uncertain path that required humble obedience and trust. Jesus struggled with his own rational mind, to replace his concerns and fears with faith and trust. This is the temptation which confronts all of us. And Jesus knows what it is like.
Satan s first temptation appealed to Jesus rational mind and physical hunger. He hadn t eaten anything substantial for forty days. He could collapse in exhaustion and die. When the Jews were in the wilderness, they complained to Moses and Moses talked to God in prayer and God intervened and gave them manna, Shouldn’t Jesus do something to save his life?
The devil suggested Jesus turn stones into bread, both to prove the Father had given him supernatural powers and to satisfy his hunger. Jesus suspected he had been gifted with such powers. For Moses and Elijah had performed miracles. But Jesus had been led by the Spirit to fast for forty days to prepare himself for his mission. Jesus chose to obey the Father, knowing from the stories of Moses and Elijah, it would not be easy. He hungered more for his Father s word and in trust, he put his life in the Father‘s hands. Jesus chose to use his powers to serve the Father rather than to gratify himself. Jesus uncovered the devil s treachery by recalling the words of the Torah, in which Moses warned the people to always put God’s word above everything else.
The devil next tempted Jesus with the lure of secular power - fame and fortune, the privileges and the power to rule over all the peoples of the world. Jesus recognized the foolishness of seeking the world s glory, wealth, and power above doing the will of the Father. Jesus knew how the human heart could easily be overpowered by such attractions, but he knew that the heart cannot serve two masters. The prayer and fasting had strengthened his resolve. The devil cringed as he saw this strength and heard his response from the Torah, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”
The devil tried once more. He urged Jesus to perform a death-defying stunt, jumping off the highest point of the Temple in Jerusalem, God’s dwelling place, and landing unhurt. That’s a drop of 700 feet. That surely would convince everyone that Jesus was the Messiah. The devil even quotes from Psalm 91, "He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you," and "on their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone."
Jesus recognized this as an example of putting God to the test. He remembered that when the Jews were in the wilderness, they put God to the test. Jesus rejected the devil s temptation. Jesus quoted again from the Torah, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”
What can we learn from this story? Do we recognize some of the temptations used to catch us? How can we recognize these temptations and reject them? Lent is our annual 40 day retreat in imitation of Jesus. Jesus knows our struggles. Jesus, himself, did not rely on his own human strength to overcome temptation. He relied on the Holy Spirit to give him wisdom, courage, and self-control. The Lord is ready to empower us with his Spirit to keep us from sin, to recognize the deceits of the devil. So we pray and fast and study the Scriptures to seek God s Spirit more fully so we may avoid harming ourselves and others by sinning. This is our way to prepare for Easter, when we renew our baptismal vows to reject the devil and all his temptations. Then our hearts will be filled with gratitude to God, The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.