Confronting Temptation, Luke 4: 1-13
Temptation: its taunting stretches from the earliest records of human beings to today’s newest technological gadgets. People make money flaunting it and trying to cure it. Temptation washes over us and erodes the ground on which we stand. Lent forces us to look at our particular confrontation with it.
Temptation was waiting for Jesus to dry off from his baptism; it practically handed him the towel. For forty days Jesus was led by the Spirit and tempted by the devil (vv 1-2). A tug of war in the wilderness may sound all too familiar to some who read these words. It’s not any fun. In fact, Jesus would later include, “Lead us not into temptation,” in his model prayer for his disciples. He’d had enough of that, even though he knew how to defeat it. Jesus was fully human, and we get as much hope from that as we do from the fact that he was also fully divine.
According to scripture, Jesus returned to God in his battle with temptation. Angels could have ended it; Jesus and the devil both knew that. Miracles could have ended it, and they both knew it. But scripture was tested even as Jesus was tempted, and the devil learned that scripture was a formidable weapon. The lesson is there for us to learn as well.
The scripture didn’t function as a magic spell or formula; instead, it served as light for each step through the wilderness of temptation. Lent puts us in touch with some enlightening scripture-strange and tough stories of just enough light in otherwise dark surroundings. The way out is the next step revealed, believed, and acted upon. We are tempted to think of that as overly simple and naive. But Lent tells us that the step-by-step journey in the footsteps of Jesus is not an easy path.
Jesus’ journey through the wilderness was just the beginning. His steps would finally lead him up the slope of Mount Calvary, involved in a tug of war all the way. Jesus got the upper hand on temptation, but it never left his side; neither did the Holy Spirit (v 1) or scripture. From the cross Jesus quoted Psalm 22 as his deep and lonely cry.
Temptation: its defeat by the Holy Spirit and Holy Scripture stretches from the journeys of Jesus to today’s step-by-step struggle. Temptation is personal, spiritual, and opportunistic. Lent calls temptation from the shadows and calls the tempted to return to God. Lent is an arena for the great struggle, but Lent demands that the struggle be on God’s terms.
Angels are always standing by, and it would be wonderful to be whisked away, a proven winner with no scars. But we walk the path behind Jesus and we know what he thinks about the angel option. We also know that, despite the temptations he faced, he was faithful. We know that he bears scars on his back, head, side, hands, and feet for the temptations we face. Now, when the devil shows up, we have Spirit and scripture, rehearsed each Lenten season, pointing to the scars on the Man who also walks beside us.
We have scars, but in Christ we will stand before God, spotless. We are healed by his stripes.
Jesus, we would walk with you,
for temptations lose their power when you are near.
A word about the series
The Lenten season has always inspired many people to create everything from poems, art and music to a completely new direction in their lives. This Lenten season Tabernacle will be exploring many of those creations in the hope of inspiring you to compose in a medium that is natural for you. The paintings in the Sanctuary are of the Biblical Stations of the Cross. The artist, Grieg Leach, completed them in 2010. They will help us to visualize the events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus. In addition to the paintings there is a Lenten devotional booklet, Return to Me, which is available in print or online. The Stations of the Cross also inspired these devotions, written by Terry York of Baylor University. Living with these two bodies of artistic expression based on the Biblical Stations of the Cross throughout the season of Lent should help us as we seek to return our lives to God by walking with Jesus though his final days.
Pray, read, think and return to God.