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The Temptation of Jesus - Matthew 4: 1 - 11
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.' But he answered, 'It is written,
"One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." '
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, 'If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
"He will command his angels concerning you",
and "On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone." '
Jesus said to him, 'Again it is written, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test." '
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, 'All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.' Jesus said to him, 'Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
"Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him." '
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Everywhere the Spirit of God leads us is not a lush oasis. Sometimes we are led into the wilderness and though we pray, "Lead us not unto temptation," sometimes, temptation is what the wilderness holds. Even the strict observance of our most devout practices cannot protect us.
The objects of our temptation seem innocuous enough... that to which we are entitled... that in which we are very capable... that upon which we stand. After all, stones in the wastelands are dispensable, the desire for flight is a primordial and don't we all secretly believe that things would be much better if we were in charge of the world.
Temptation is not tenuous but persistent and capricious. It is not committed solely to appetites or power or possibility. With practiced fluency and changing offerings, temptation entices. With chameleon-like adaptability, temptation changes the way the landscape looks. But lies are the substance of temptation and deception its character. First our distraction and then our destruction is its goal. Ignoring it is useless, and in the wilderness, there are few places to hide.
When temptation comes to us in the wilderness, let us remember that it was the Spirit of God who led us there. Like practitioners of ancient martial arts, let us use its momentum while we turn and deflect its strength. In turning, shifting and then countering with an unadorned yet unyielding naming of Truth, we can respond. For temptation only masquerades as certainty, and it is unmasked when confronted with Truth.
We have no window into the mind of Jesus in the wilderness. We have no measure of his belief. What we have, are a representation of the words he spoke, the Truth he pronounced.
Let this Truth of the Word made flesh, inhabit us. Let Words from the Mouth of God nourish us. Let our confidence in the nature of God, intimate yet mysterious and undomesticated, strengthen us.
Let us know that God desires and is worthy of our worship and that worship of God leads us to serve and, in service to other we encounter God. May we be so steeped in this Truth, be ones in which Truth so abides that though we be starved, parched, isolated and weak, we can still speak of it and from us, it still emerges, strong to defend. For then, even in the wilderness, in whatever wilderness we have been led, temptation will depart and angels will find us and care for us.
The Rev. June Hardy Dorsey
St. Andrew's, Elyria, Ohio