Today marking the first Sunday of Lent, we hear in Matthew of Jesus’ forty days in the desert. Hearing of Jesus’ time being tested by Satan prompts us, perhaps somewhat naturally, to ponder the ways we are tested in our lives. No one of us is without weakness. The gospel clearly links with the Lenten themes of fasting, penance and reconciliation with God and with our brothers and sisters.
Today’s Gospel story follows immediately on Jesus’ baptism and endorsement by his Father as his “Beloved Son” to whom we are to listen. Note that Jesus is led into the desert by the Spirit of God. The purpose clearly is not to lead him to do evil but as a testing of his fitness for his coming mission. Will he fail like our First Parents or like the Israelites of old? Or will be prove himself worthy of the mission he has been given?
The testing will be done not by God directly but by the Evil One, the Tempter. It is pictured as taking place in a barren region between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. Jesus, like Moses before him, had fasted for 40 days. He is alone in the wilderness without food. He is hungry, weak and vulnerable. Now is the time for the Tempter to move in.
Each of the three temptations touches on Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, which had been revealed during his baptism. “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” the temptations are seen later in the gospels although they do not present as the tempter wished.
1. Jesus did produce large quantities of bread on two occasions but not for himself but rather to feed the hungry.
2. He rejected calls from his opponents to prove who he was by performing some striking signs.
3. After one of the feedings (as told in John’s gospel), he had the crowd at his feet and they wanted to make him king. Instead, he fled to the mountains to pray to his Father and packed his ambitious disciples off in a boat and into a storm which gave them something else to think about – survival.
The true telling of Jesus' life is fulfilling His Father's calling. The way of the Father is the only way that will lead him – and us – to the life that never ends and when all tears will be wiped away. In the midst of our forty days of Lent, let us place similar trust in God. Though knowing our weakness, let us also realize the strength and grace that God bestows so we, like Jesus, may overcome the temptations placed before us.
God bless each of you and your family this week.