This week as we come to the first Sunday in our Lenten journey we encounter Jesus, the human being, being tempted by Satan. We find him in the wilderness, having been fasting for 40 days, his body would be screaming at him to eat something - anything. How easy it would be to listen to Satan, at this point when He is at his weakest. We can assume that he is emotionally and mentally drained after enduring 40 days of temptation and torment from Satan and that as a human being just like us he would be becoming desperate to break free of this torment and return home to comfort and shelter - to food! Yet Jesus does something remarkable - something that we all must look to in our own struggles and through our own temptations.
When he is literally starving Satan whispers in his ear - If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Oh how truly tempting it must have been for the Jesus to say yes to Satan's temptation. After 40 days he could simply say to this stone 'become bread' and he could have his fill. Yet our saviour doesn't say 'become bread' ... he rather replies “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” This is a quotation from Deuteronomy 8:3 which says - He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
You see when he is tempted to follow his own desires - to fulfil his own wants and needs instead of God's he turns to the Word of God - and he refutes the Devil's temptation by declaring that he lives on the Word of God - and not of earthly things. Contrast that to our reading from Genesis, where Adam and Eve find themselves likewise facing temptation. The serpent in the garden – a symbolic representation of Satan, whispers in the ear of Eve… you will not die, there is nothing wrong with it – it will make you better… like God… Satan by now is becoming desperate - after all he has been trying to get this bloke to crack for 40 days, and even now in His state of weakness and desperation he still won't turn away from God. So he shows Jesus all the Kingdoms of the World, and offers Him dominion over all of them if only He will bow down and worship Satan. Now this may have been tempting - after all think of all the good that could be done if Jesus was in complete control of the world, the oppressive Roman empire would be transformed into a Utopian paradise - yet the price for this is to turn from God and worship Satan. Jesus again turns to his knowledge of the Word of God to reject Satan's offer “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” again he draws from the book of Deuteronomy, this time chapter 6 verse 13 which says - The Lord your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear. Despite what good could come from accepting the temptation of Satan, Jesus knew that in doing so he would be committing a grievous act - he would be turning His back on the creator and sustainer of all things - No matter how good it seemed, nothing is worth turning your back on God and bowing down to Satan, or any other false God, as the remainder of Deuteronomy 6 makes clear.
Finally, Satan in a final act of desperation tempts Jesus to throw Himself from the temple - this time attempting to use God's Word to confuse and trick Jesus. Satan quotes from Psalm 91:11-12, in order to show that Jesus is under the protection of God and can do whatever he pleases. Jesus' reply - “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” is a direct quote from Deuteronomy 6:16 .
Jesus rejects all of Satan's offers, no temptation that the evil one can muster up is enough to make Jesus turn away from God. You see this whole passage is about something that affects all of us, just as much as it affected Jesus. It is about choice. Jesus has free will, just as every human who has ever lived has free will. Jesus could have chosen of his own free will to turn that rock into bread, or to rule the world's kingdoms, He could have thrown Himself off that temple, confident that He would be caught by the hands of Angels - yet he did not. Jesus made a different choice... every time He was tempted to sin, Jesus made the conscious decision to be obedient to God. Obedience to the will of God is what Jesus exemplifies, and it is what He calls us to also. When we are tempted to go the way of the world, just as Jesus was in this Gospel account, we are being presented with an opportunity to make a choice - do we listen to the voice of Satan whispering in our ear, or do we instead choose obedience to God. In a few minutes we are going to baptise little Rex, but before we do his parents and God parents will make some solemn promises about their own faith and trust in God and about their commitment to help Rex grow in the sure knowledge of God’s love for him. They will promise to reject sin, they will renounce evil and reject selfishness and all that is false and unjust. And the final commitment they will make is to seek to live their whole lives following the will of God. Of course all of us who have been confirmed, or who were baptised as adults have also made these promises.
Many will say though, 'but how do I determine what the will of God is? ... I want you to pay close attention as I read to you Jesus' responses to Satan's temptations.
“It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
“It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”
“It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Did you notice something familiar in each of those responses? It is written; It is written; it is said... Jesus points us to the Word of God in order to show us the will of God! There is no better way for you to learn the will of God for your life than to be familiar with His Word. We must build a relationship with God modelled on Jesus, and His relationship with God. You will remember throughout the Gospel accounts we repeatedly see Jesus in prayer, often away from others. You see Jesus gives us the model, and sets us the example. The only question is are we ready to follow Him?
I encourage all of you to reflect on this reading, and especially on Jesus willingness to be obedient to God, even in the face of extreme hardship. I pray that you fortify your own hearts against the temptations of this world through deepening your knowledge of the Word of God, and through regular prayer.
Finally take heart, because while you may have missed it, the Spirit of God never left Jesus during His temptation and hardships. Our Gospel account tells us at the outset that Jesus was 'led by the Spirit in the wilderness...' It doesn't say that the spirit took him out there and left Him - but that it led Him during His temptation. Likewise the Spirit of God is always with us, and will give us strength to endure any temptation or hardship.