The Lectionary includes the passage about the temptation of Jesus as the reading for the first Sunday of Lent every year. This passage is important as we consider how our Savior was led by the Spirit to the wilderness for the purpose of fasting for forty days and being tempted by the devil.
How have your first two and a half weeks of Lent gone? Have there been many temptations so far? Are you finding your journey exciting and surprisingly pleasurable? After I visited the actual wilderness where He went in February of 2012, I will never think of the Wilderness journey Jesus took the same. I fully entered the wilderness using all my senses to see, hear, feel and taste its offerings. I found it to be the opposite of what I expected. A few days before, I had driven through it on our journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. Driving by the wilderness confirmed my impression that the wilderness wasn’t inviting, and seemed a rather harsh and bleak environment, especially compared to all the previous fertile places I had visited in Israel. That was my opinion until I fully crossed the threshold of the vast wilderness. Completely enveloped in the dull grey of the desert sand, the universe took on a holy, pure, unimaginable aura. I saw Gedi (deer-like animals) dancing and prancing in the distance. Everywhere I looked I saw entities like rock formations that fascinated the mind, while the sunset and moon shimmered incased in a heavenly blue as I breathed in sacred pure air. I could not get over how beautiful and holy the wilderness was. For the first time I began to consider that Jesus’ journey to the Wilderness had moments of a refreshing reprieve. Perhaps that’s how you are feeling your first few weeks of Lent.
My experience has remained with me as I considered the Temptation of Jesus once again when the first Sunday of Lent came around. Though Wilderness life does have its surprising comforts, there is no question that it can be harsh and lonely after more than a few hours. Added to that for Jesus was that He did not feed His body for forty complete days. What was that like? No wonder Satan started with the temptation to turn the stones to bread. I think he went for the hardest temptation for Jesus to resist. Though Satan doesn’t exist in flesh and blood, he has learned about those of us who seem willing to sell our souls for a piece of bread when we are starving. Satan is cunning and deceitful, so he chose the one area that Jesus might be most vulnerable—His new human flesh—to carry out his assault. It must have felt good for Jesus when he said NO to that temptation. Satan comes back with two more, but those were about spiritual realities rather than flesh; and he had to know that God in flesh wasn’t as vulnerable in those areas.
I’ve noticed that Satan uses the same tactics with me. The only difference is that I don’t stand up quite as well as Jesus. He came with the hardest of all temptations for me, and I can’t believe it but with God’s help I have overcome. It is such a good place to be. I feel so complete and so amazed at myself for not giving into that temptation. Just as with Jesus, Satan came next with a softer sell, something that I didn’t think I would be tempted with again and I fell for it. Jesus didn’t let His victory go to His head. He remained just as serious in defeating His adversary even when the temptations seemed less tempting. I could see how foolish I was to think that I could not be tempted in that area. Jesus shows me how to have victory over temptation through humbly accepting that my adversary can only get the upper hand if I let down my guard. During your Holy Lent, I hope you experience victories that you don’t let go to your head and that you always remember:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13).