4Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was
led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 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. 3 The devil said to him, “If
you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of
bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by
bread alone.’” 5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an
instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 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. 7 If you, then, will
worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 9 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, 10 for it is written, ‘He will command his angels
concerning you, to protect you,’ 11 and ‘On their hands they will bear
you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 12 Jesus
answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the
test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from
him until an opportune time.
+ + + + + + +
From the time of the ancient Hebrews, the wilderness proves itself a place of
struggle and reflection, a place of loneliness and revelation, of “demonic danger
and divine meeting” (from David Schnasa Jacobsen’s Commentary on Luke 4:1-13, 2019)
At his baptism in the River Jordan, Jesus was reminded of God’s gift to him of the Holy Spirit when a dove flew from the sky and perched upon his shoulder. Immediately after his baptism, that same Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness.
There, Jesus prepared for his mission. In the wilderness he was reminded that his mission was God’s mission. During those 40 wilderness days Jesus came to understand that he must be so in tune with God that every step, every word, every choice must harmonize with God’s divine plan. Luke tells us that at the end of the 40 days Jesus was famished and exhausted. He hadn’t eaten anything. His body was worn down. Jesus was weak and vulnerable.
It was then, after those 40 long days in the wilderness, that the devil appeared.
The word ‘devil’ can be defined as ‘adversary’, ‘slanderer’, ‘deceiver’, and ‘the one who divides’. The persona Jesus encountered was his enemy – and the enemy of God. The ‘devil’ used his prowess to attack his opponent during Jesus’ vulnerable state. The devil approached Jesus to test him. The devil knew who Jesus was. “The issue (was) not whether Jesus is Son of God, but how Jesus will carry out his Spirit – anointed vocation.” (from David Schnasa Jacobsen’s Commentary on Luke 4:1-13, 2019)
Will Jesus do things God’s way or an easier way? Will he choose a way of serving and suffering or a more palatable way proposed by the devil?
Will Jesus feed his empty belly by means of spiritual magic or will he invoke God’s miracles only for the sake of satisfying the needs of others? Will Jesus grab hold of authority over the world’s powers, or will he simply be an
example of yielding one’s life to God’s love and God’s authority?
Will Jesus get people’s attention by angels miraculously catching him as he falls
from the Temple’s pinnacle, or will Jesus attract people’s attention through acts of loving service one life at a time?
Though Jesus was weak and vulnerable, his time in the wilderness both alone and in divine meeting gave him fortitude to face the devil’s tests. Jesus focused on his mission being God’s mission, and only God has the capacity and foresight to direct and empower God’s divine purpose.
Jesus overcame the devil’s tests by focusing on God. Because Jesus overcame the tests, he was able to go forward in fulfilling God’s divine purpose for his life; and we are blessed because of Jesus’ focus and faithfulness.
This story isn’t intended to be a general example of how to overcome temptations. Rather, it is a reminder that through our baptism you and I are joined with Christ Jesus and share with him in a divine mission.
Like Jesus, we are to be bearers of the good news of God’s reconciling love. We are instruments intended to assist in bringing into reality God’s justice, mercy and peace. The only way we can ever fulfill our mission is by focusing on God. The distractions are many, the challenges real, the tests will present themselves, because the evil persona doesn’t want to lose the current power-grip. The persona of evil Jesus confronted is real and working in our world. That entity knows who we are and our intentions of working with God. The adversarial entity will not win but will not go down without a fight. The entity’s voice will come from places anticipated and unanticipated. We must be prepared by focusing on God’s love and God’s mission.
God’s mission of reconciliation, justice, mercy and peace will be accomplished.
The questions to us are: will you and I pass the tests of working God’s ways of
loving, serving and sacrificing for the sake of others? Will we keep faithful and
focused for the sake of God’s love for us and for the world God created?
Whether you’re a parent of a child or a pet parent, you know how important it is to stay focused when doing activities with our little ones, especially activities outside our homes. Love keeps our attention focused. I recall years ago, when I was a school bus driver, there was a curve along a country road on my bus route. The bus seats were vinyl, and they were slick, especially to
my youngest riders. There were a couple of times when a kindergartner or first
grader slid right off the seat and onto the center aisle floor when the bus rounded that one curve along the country road. One time, a little girl was talking and sitting on the end of the front seat when I rounded
that curve. She went flying off the seat and toward the front windshield.
Bus drivers are trained to keep one eye focused on the road and one eye focused on the kids at all times. I reached out and caught her with my right arm before she ever knew what was happening. She looked surprised; I just smiled and told her to get back in her seat. When focused, we can accomplish our tasks. May God help us keep focused, like Jesus, on God’s incredible love and God’s mission.