Matthew 4 1 – 11
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. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”
Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”
For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, “Since you are God’s Son, jump.” The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: “He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone.”
Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: “Don’t you dare test the Lord your God.”
For the third test, the Devil took him to the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth’s kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, “They’re yours -lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they’re yours.”
Jesus’ refusal was curt: “Beat it, Satan!” He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.”
The Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus’ needs.
The season of Lent suffers from having what appear to be negative connotations. It speaks of restraint, of self denial, of penitence and self examination. This is a period of discipline, of abstinence. In our better moments, when we are prepared to engage in some reflection, we understand and accept that as in the physical aspects of our lives, so it is in the spiritual, there is no gain without pain. In the times when we are not so spiritually tuned, we find that any check or brake on our self-indulgence goes against the grain, more than we might care to admit.
Through our baptism we are drawn into Jesus’ relationship with the Father and into the realising of his mission, the dream of the Kingdom. But in the circumstances of our daily living it is not always apparent what faithfulness entails, what love really demands.
We were invited on Ash Wednesday to deepen our life of prayer, to reach out to others in compassion and care, and to refrain from whatever harms people and the planet which we inhabit. (Prayer, almsgiving and fasting). There will be many challenges for us in this three dimensioned venture. We may feel disorientated by the noise and speed and stress of our world, disturbed by the individualism and greed around us, alarmed by the relentless march towards ecological disaster.
But we mustn’t forget that we are God’s beloved sons and daughters, and that it is the Spirit of Jesus who drives us forward, and who empowers us as we struggle with darkness in its myriad forms. The ministering angels assure us that God surrounds us on our journey each day with providential and saving love, inviting us to walk on in humble hope.