Over this Lenten season, the Spiritual Formation team at First Presbyterian Church in Bend put a call out to all to submit writings for a Lenten Devotional. I will do my best to post those here daily. You can also go to our website and access all of the devotions on a pdf file.
Here is the next submission:
“This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.” Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights.” (Matthew 3:17-4:3, The Message).
Jesus’ journey to The Cross begins with His baptism and blessing of God’s love. But next, Jesus was led into the wilderness to encounter the Tempter. This seems a strange sequence of events for One beloved by God. We would think that One beloved of God would be protected from such negative encounters beginning with extreme hunger wracking the body with pain and weakness. Yet God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s love for Jesus included strengthening him in the wilderness for His future ministry.
What were these temptations? There are many interpretations of these temptations to deflect Jesus from His calling. The first one: to have basic physical needs met, and right now. The second temptation appeals to religious motivations, good in themselves, but used to gain attention and applause. The third temptation offers wealth and power and control. Jesus was strong in His relationship with God and resisted the Tempter on all counts. Jesus prevailed and marched forward in His ministry, strengthened and clarified as God’s Son to love and serve all people, calling them away from their old self and into God’s Kingdom work. The essence of the temptations was to put self above God.
Are we vulnerable to temptations like those facing Jesus? “In all ways He was tested as we are,” says the writer to the Hebrews (2:18; 4:5-16). Jesus goes before us in our experiences of life, showing His followers ways to respond in the power of the Holy Spirit, given to His followers as the ever-present Helper. We may be tempted to put security first in our priorities. We may be tempted to allow our needs for self-esteem and affection to determine how we speak and act. We may hold on to what we think we control, and live in fear that we’ll lose it. Jesus’ journey to The Cross parallels our own journeys, and He knows the struggles that tempt us to turn from God and go our own way. Many voices come to us from the culture and voices from within tempt us to put the fulfilling of our own needs first rather than to love God first, drowning out the still small voice of God calling us, “Beloved.”
PRAYER: Spirit of the Living God, sometimes You lead us in unexpected ways, but Your presence is always there to guide us. Help us listen to You and to respond when we are tempted to put anything else, or anyone else, before You. Thank You for going before us in Jesus, Amen.