Bing restricted to our homes even partially, can make things around us overfamiliar. As we stop noticing them, a “wilderness" effect may occur: each object is just the same as the other. We begin to crave for a change. This is when temptation starts knocking on our door. Is there a way to overcome it? The experience of Jesus in the wilderness sets the most profound example of how we can resist.
The Temptation of Jesus
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the tem-ple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also 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. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and wor-ship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Test the Tempter
Oscar Wilde may have been right when he said that "the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it." Yet the best way to overcome a temptation is to put the tempter to the test.
Did you notice that the devil was not just momentarily silenced but actually left Jesus? And this after "just" three attempts in 40 days. This was not only because Jesus knew the Scripture well and could use it as a weapon against the adversary. It was also because he knew that in doing this he gets on the devil's nerves. Yes, he put the devil to the test.
I’ve often wondered why Bible scholars translate the Greek word peirazo sometimes as "tempted" and other times as “tested." This passage from Matthew 4 gives a clue. For while the devil thought he would tempt the Son of God, Jesus tested the enemy of God, and this with God's own force – a piece of Scripture.
In the painting by Kramskoy we see Jesus taking time to pause before the next attack. He is ex-hausted, lonely and hungry in a barren, dry wilderness. A Russian realist artist breaks the can-on by showing Christ as one of us. He is not yet the victor but, equally, the choice between yielding or not yielding to his temptations is not an option for him either. Is it not this which gives him strength?
How many times have we felt tempted during the last 40 days? Or even the last 4 weeks, days, or hours? How many times could we say "no" to it? No to another piece of chocolate after just having one, no to a glance at our smartphone while in conversation with someone else, no to another episode of the soap for which we put that important book aside?
Temptation often comes unnoticed, especially when we are at home. But it also leaves. For indeed, the tempter's nerves are not as strong as he pretends. For he was tested by Jesus personally and found wanting.
Irena Widmann, Pfrn.
» Henri Nouwen, Clinging to God in Solitude
» Session 3
» Session 2
» Session 1
This is the last session of our first Lent Course for the emerging English-speaking congregation in Kreuzlingen. Would you be interested in more sessions like this, life or online? I would appreciate your feedback.
Most of all, you are very welcome to join us for worship. Our next service is planned for Friday 8th of May at 6 p.m.
at the Stadtkirche Kreuzlingen or online. Please watch this space for more information.
Christ is risen!