Important Link ~ Jesus Is Tempted: Matthew 4:1-11
It is the season of Lent, and this story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness tells us much about how to put sin behind us and grow spiritually, seeking holy alignment with God.
Not that Jesus, who was in a mysterious way fully divine and fully human, had sin in his life. He did have the potential to sin; he simply did not succumb to temptation, as we so often do as frail humans.
Just before the temptation story in Matthew, the Father in Heaven affirmed Jesus’ sonship at his baptism. In our baptisms, we become children of Father God, siblings of the Savior Son. As the author of Hebrews notes, “The one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”
Think of baptism as God lifting up his children, gazing upon them and claiming them as his own. God also kneels down with his children. Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness was God, through Jesus’ eyes, seeing life from our level.
And what a painful place the wilderness can be. When I read this story, I imagine Jesus walking about in the chalky, sun-baked wilderness, hungrily praying about everything that draws humans away from God.
We hear specifically the lures old Satan dangled before Jesus: You know you’re hungry; make bread from stones. Throw yourself from the highest point of the temple; angels will save you. Bow down to me and I’ll let you rule the world!
Jesus was ready, though, and I’m reminded of our need to find time apart for fasting, meditation and prayer. Folks, we’re really not very good at these disciplines in our culture. It is as if our goal is to fill every moment with something to tingle the ears or penetrate the eyes, as if time spent in unstimulated silence is somehow wasted.
We fail to do what Jesus did. We fail to go without, so we fail to remember our fragility and dependence. That’s the real purpose of fasting. The act helps us become more conscious of the voids within us, deep depressions in the soul we too often try to fill with excesses in eating, sex, recreation or other diversions.
Having consumed the wrong kind of sustenance and thinking we are satisfied, we then fail to gather our strength through direct communion with God.
I don’t talk about our failures to make us despair, however. No, I point them out so we can, with God’s help, overcome them and be amazed at all that God wants to do for us!
Never forget that in the midst of what seemed like vacant, dry wasteland, a place of constant danger, there were angels ready to tend to our sibling savior. Do you not think they will do the same for us, his little brothers and sisters in the family of God?
Lord, your Bible stories in the Lenten season remind us of sin. But more importantly, they remind us of the joy and power in a life redeemed from sin, a life connected to eternity by Jesus Christ. Help us to make and hold on to that connection. Amen.