February 15 #5 Temptation Luke 4:4-12, 22:40
Luke 4: 1-13
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.” ’
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.” ’
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you”,
“On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’
Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’ When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
This is one of my favourite paintings of Jesus. Its by the British artist Stanley Spencer (1891-1959) who was fascinated by Jesus and the themes of resurrection in the ordinary.
Sit with the painting for a while –
What do you like/dislike about this depiction of Jesus?
What do you think Spencer was trying to convey about the wilderness experience?
For me its about facing the risks ahead. Jesus is holding the scorpion in his hand – contemplating the risks ahead of embracing the unlovely; the treacherous; the vindictive ones, knowing that at any moment they can sting and fatally harm him. He welcomes these symbols of risk (notice a second scorpion by his feet). He does not shrink from them or bash them with a rock, but holds them in love and attentiveness.
And it is in this commitment to accepting the risks of his ministry that Jesus recognises his temptation or vulnerability to take the short cuts to achieving his goals, and to avoid the pain and suffering that might be entailed.
As we consider the year ahead – what risks will we embrace?
Where might we be tempted to take an easier path?
What are the temptations we face to avoid pain or sacrifice?
-Anne W. H.
Traditionally, Lent is the period in the Christian calendar when followers of Jesus imitate his journey into the desert. In the forty days before Easter we remember the time when Jesus fasted for forty days, before being tempted by the devil. This year, I wonder what we might “give up” in our own Lenten journey. For some it might be our drug of choice – the morning cup of coffee or an evening glass of wine (or two). Others might choose to limit their retail spending or TV viewing. In doing so we seek to remove those things that inadvertently take the place of God. Those things that draw our attention away from God. With that in mind, this year I am planning to give up God for Lent. Well perhaps not God, maybe just my idea of God. We all construct our own picture of God. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but over time this picture begins to look a lot like us. It reinforces our own ideas and worldview. Like Jesus, we need to spend time in the desert, re-evaluate, re-centre, re-discover. As we enter the desert, we leave behind our preconceived notions of God. And yet ironically, this is where we find God. We search, we long, we grow thirsty. Like Jesus, we are tempted by a picture of God that gives us all we desire. Bread and water, a safety net to fall into. Like Jesus, we must recognise this is a picture of a God as we would like God to be. The One who promises to meet all our needs and make all our dreams come true. Jesus resists this picture of God, and we should too. He doesn’t seek the Oasis in the desert, rather, he lets the desert be desert. The quiet place where God might be heard, perhaps even known. And so, as we enter into the desert this Lent may we let the desert be desert, may we let God be God. Grace and peace,
– Mark. P