Feb. 19: Temptations in the desert
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The season of Lent is a time not usually found among most people’s top 10 favorites. However, this year’s Goshen College theme “Holding On and Letting Go” cries out for notice, especially in view of the temptation narrative found in Luke 4:1-13.
Focusing on the encounter between Jesus and Satan as a cosmic good versus evil battle may allow us to be mere spectators viewing the drama of the three temptations. Instead, I invite us to examine the personal implications of these temptations within the context of a contemporary desert experience.
This desert involves spending time without TV, Internet, iPod, etc. The quiet of this non-media desert allows contemplation of questions inherent in each temptation calling for important choices.
The first temptation considers who I am in this world. Am I so important that the world cannot get along without me? Or, am I a child of God with a unique role in making the world a better place?
Next, the second temptation addresses my actions in the world. Am I going to lead an unreflective life, merely moving through each day? Or am I going to explore how I might act for the greatest good?
Finally, the third temptation requires examination of my motivations for acting. Am I doing what I do just to get ahead, oblivious to how others are affected? Or am I conscious of my connections with both friends and enemies?
Personal consideration of Jesus’ temptations can assist our choices of holding on and letting go this Lent.
SCRIPTURE: Luke 4:1-13 (NRSV)
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 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. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.” ’
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 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. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.” ’
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, for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you”,
“On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’
Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’ When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.