Collect and Readings for The First Sunday of Lent – Deuteronomy 26:1-11, Psalm 91:1-11, Romans 10:8b-13, Luke 4:1-13,The Prayer for todayAlmighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness, and was tempted as we are, yet without sin: give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit; and, as you know our weakness, so may we know your power to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
We often use temptation as an excuse for sin. It is Satan’s whispered lie that when temptation gets too strong, we have no hope of resisting and can somehow plead diminished responsibility. So, it is quite an eye-opener to watch Jesus in action. After all, the temptations are exceedingly powerful, and the stakes are so high. If the powers of darkness can sabotage God’s plan of salvation almost before it has started, then humankind will be gloriously and utterly lost, and God will have failed.Arrogance, as well as deceit, is a hallmark of Satan.
So how does Jesus deal with these temptations, and what can we learn from him to help us when we too are severely tempted one thing Jesus doesn’t do is enter into an argument with Satan. He would lose, because temptations are always cleverly constructed and entirely logical, with enough truth in them to make them appear plausible. What Jesus does is to recognise the motive under the scheming and address this instead, reaching into the secure promises of God and holding firmly on to these.
Using the vulnerability of Jesus’ hunger, Satan subtly grafts this on to a challenge to his role and authority so that we can barely seethe join. Jesus refuses to get drawn into this, and recognises that the fast is making him vulnerable, so he encourages himself with God’s words which affirm what he is doing and its value. In the next temptation Satan attempts to take Jesus’ pondering over his mission and his urgent longing for the coming of the kingdom, and to distort this into the need for a quick and immediate answer, which Satan offers to provide. Jesus recognises Satan’s apparent generosity for what it is and reaches into the firm law of God to deliver another simple one-liner. We are to worship only God. End of story, end of negotiation.
In the final temptation, when Satan again homes in on Jesus’ longing to draw people to recognise God at work among them, the longing is manipulated into the possibility of bypassing the expensive and time- consuming method of salvation by love. Discerning that Satan’s ‘helpful’ suggestions are really about denying God’s sovereignty and total righteousness, Jesus reminds himself as well as Satan of the command not to put God to the test.
All too often we let ourselves get drawn into Satan’s arguments. Think of those times your conscience will whisper that you shouldn’t be doing what you are, and all the justifications pour into your mind. If we take Jesus’ example, we will refuse to listen to these plausible arguments, and reach instead for the deep truths we know of God, recognising that Satan will use our vulnerable areas, and try to distort our noble ones. If we stick firmly with the truths of God, they will reassure and affirm us enough to resist temptation. Contrary to what Satan tells us, temptation can be resisted and overcome.
God bless and stay safe and well.
Rev’d Fiona Robinson