First Sunday of Lent:
by Victor Hoagland, C.P.
the Temptation of Jesus
Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-15; Luke 4:1-13
of Jesus in the desert probably reveal his human side as much as any
other gospel story.
says he was “like us in all things except sin”,we tend to see Jesus
unlike us: a miracle worker, an assured teacher, a master of circumstances,
someone above it all.
But look at him
in the desert, weary, vulnerable, struggling for footing in a dangerous
land. Was much of his life really like that?
Think of the demands
people made on him. The blind man shouting from the roadside, the paralytic
lowered from the roof, the woman pleading for her daughter were just
some of the many who pressed their cares on him at every turn. Did he
tire of it all?
Is the Evil One’s
first suggestion, that he turn stones into bread, a lifelong temptation
Jesus had to lay down this everyday burden, the burden of doing good,
Lord, art thou weary? Is the work
the father trusted to thy care,
his ruined temple to restore;
beyond thy mortal strength to bear?
Is thy omnipotence indeed
too sorely pressed in this our need?
Lord, art thou weary? --Janet Erskine Stuart
And what of the
other temptations in the desert? Think how pressured he was by the political
and religious establishments of his day to conform to their standards
and be quiet. Just go along, they said, and you have a place with us,
even a place of honor. Jesus called those powerful people “children
of the devil”.
Yet was he tempted
to conform and go along just the same?
Even his own disciples
were his temptors. Listen to their advice to him: “Leave this place
and go up to Judea, so that your followers will see the things you are
doing. No one hides what he is doing if he is well known. Since you
are doing these things, let the whole world know about you.” ( Jn 7:3-5)
Why waste time
here in out-of-the-way Galilee? Use your spectacular power, they told
him. You can be a world-wide success.
He must have responded
to them as he responded once to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan.”
The desert temptations
must have been temptations Jesus faced everyday. If they are, how like
us he is: tempted to give up under our daily burdens, tempted to compromise
and follow the crowd, tempted to seek some extraordinary power rather
than the quiet power found in ordinary life.
Can we be like
him? Tempted, but still victorious? Will he not deliver us?
Illustration: Temptation of Christ, stained glass of JoKarl Huber in the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Weil der Stadt, Germany; photograph by Rebecca Kennison, 1989
we would rather see you strong
than hungry and weak.
Forty days alone,
no miracles, no eager crowds,
no friendly space to buoy you up,
no companion but the Evil One.
This is not the Jordan
where the Father said:
"Here is my Son, listen to him."
And the Spirit, like a dove,
watched your every step.
you are a weary man,
tired by the daily strain,
at the limits of your strength.
Where would we learn this story,
but from you?
And did you speak of a lifetime
more than forty days
Were your days like ours?
"Turn these stones into bread."
Were there days like desert stones,
when you walked in waterless places,
and grew weary doing good?
"All these kingdoms will be yours, if..."
Were there days
when promises looked better broken;
right and truth only unreal dreams;
and life secure somewhere else?
"Throw yourself down..."
Were there days
when the journey step by step,
simple words and simple deeds,
hardly seemed to make a difference?
By the mystery of your temptation
in the desert,
Lord Jesus, have mercy on us.