FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT 2019
The devil is an enthusiastic salesman. He would probably be successful in his words to sell to us the Brooklyn Bridge even though we all know it’s not for sale. If we don’t believe the beguiling tricks of the devil, maybe we should review his efforts in the Gospel today.
The devil so self-assured believes he can tempt anyone with his lies. While he knows who Jesus is, he still approaches Jesus confident that he can even turn Jesus away from his Father. Notice that the devil is very sly about when he contacts Jesus. Jesus has just come out of the desert after fasting for forty days. Hunger, fatigue, loneliness, all good opportunities when Jesus should be the most susceptible for the devil to sell his untruths to him. Are not these the times when the devil can lead us astray?
The devil begins his attack on Jesus’ faithfulness to his Father with a temptation to attend to his hunger, a physical desire. He suggests that Jesus’ hunger can be satisfied by just the use of his Divine power to change a stone into bread. Jesus refuses, responding that a person has higher desires to satisfy than just one’s physical needs. ”Man does live by bread alone.” It seems just a small meaningless enticement. Is that what Adam and Eve thought in the Garden when they bit into the fruit from the forbidden tree? Do we have the strength of Jesus to resist the devil’s temptation especially in a moment of weakness?
Even with the first refusal, the devil still offers another proposition to Jesus. The devil takes Jesus to a high mountaintop offering him power over all the nations. The devil claims possession of all the earth; therefore, he can offer it to Jesus. The only requirement for gaining everything is that Jesus bows in the worship of the devil. Jesus responds that only God who is our creator is worthy of our adoration “You must worship the Lord God and serve him alone. Thinking we have absolute power only leads us to a greater opportunity to sin. David once used his power as king to have Uriah killed so that he could marry Bathsheba and suffered for his sin. How often do we wish for the power to be self-sufficient and not to have any restrictions on what we desire?
Finally, the devil takes Jesus to the top of the Temple wall and demands that Jesus prove that he is the Son of God by throwing himself off the wall so the angels can catch him. The devil suggests that Jesus make God verify his love by putting himself at risk. Jesus responds that God love must not be poisoned by attempting to make him prove it. “You must not put the Lord your God to the test.” The Israelites found themselves wandering in the wilderness for forty years because of their lack of trust in God. Does our faith in God remain even when challenged by the day’s tribulations?
Although the devil was unsuccessful on this day to tempt Jesus, he walks away unconcerned. There will be other times when Jesus’ maybe susceptible to his wiles of evil persuasion. Maybe he will try again when Judas betrays Jesus. Maybe the time will be when the Roman soldiers scourge Jesus or when they drive a ring of thorns into his skull. Or maybe as Jesus falls repeated as he carries the tree of the cross up Calvary’s Hill. Or maybe the time for the devil to offer the use of his power again when the soldiers strip Jesus of his clothes and drive nails into his body. Maybe the opportune time will be when in agony Jesus hangs on the cross, that the devil will once again appear and offer to take away all of the pain if Jesus worships him. Jesus, our brother, even in all of this tortured suffering, resists all the advances of the devil, praying only to his Father who never left his side.
At the moment of his death, Jesus cries aloud, not for the devil but for his Father for it is only through God that he will find hope and his resurrection. What will be our response when the devil comes to tempt us in our moments of suffering and despair? Will our faith remain with our Father?
Deacon Dan Gilbert