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JESUS TEACHES US HOW TO RESIST TEMPTATIONS

Father Francis's picture
First Week of Lent

Mt. 4:1-11

St. Matthew tells us that “Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights.” This raises a few questions. Why should Jesus be tempted? How did He spend those 40 days? Why did He tell this episode of His life to His Apostles?

Yes, why was Jesus tempted? It was because He was not only God, but He had taken to Himself a human nature and like us was subjected to temptation. We are tempted so that God can see how much we love Him and how able are we to work in His service. In being tempted we are not meant to sin.

How did Jesus spend those 40 days? 40 days is a long time. Since He did not eat at all there were no meals to prepare. Preparing food and feeding ourselves can take up to at least one to two hours of our waking day. I presume Jesus did drink water. Surely He would have slept, for He could not have gone without sleep for all that time? If He did, let us presume He slept for 7 hours. 7 from 24 leaves 17 hours. What did Jesus do during that time? The desert for most people would be a very boring place – just sand and more sand! We can say for certain that He would have spent most, if not all that time in prayer to His Father. In the wilderness you have to face God and yourself with all your emptiness. In everyday life we have so many things to make us feel good and distract us. We don’t have them in the wilderness. We know that Jesus as God enjoyed the Beatific Vision and that must been a tremendous help while being alone. So Jesus was not lonely. He was in constant union with His Father and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was a man and as a man He had needs. Fasting for 40 days would make Him extremely hungry. A little food would be most welcome. This gave Satan an opportunity to tempt Him. All through Jesus’ life Satan didn’t like what he saw in the life of Jesus and His Mother Mary. They were different from the rest of human kind. He had been able to tempt all others to sin, but he had never managed this with them. Besides there was an important matter he wanted to know, was Jesus the long awaited Messiah, the Son of God? If He was, He would be the One who would crush his head. Here was his opportunity. He tempted Jesus to change the stones, which looked like loaves, into bread. Jesus chose not to use His Divine power to satisfy His natural desire for food. Jesus was in the wilderness to fast, not to eat. So He would not use His power to change stones into bread.

Jesus was not going to play into Satan’s hands. He was not going to let him know who He was. He would have to find that out for himself. Jesus’ answer was, “Man does not live on bread alone.” It was a subtle way of telling Satan that there are more important things to life than food.

Jesus was able to resist all the devil’s temptations because He not only knew Scripture, but He also obeyed it. St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians tells us that God’s word is a sword to use in spiritual combat. Knowing Bible verses is an important step in helping us resist the devil’s attacks, but we must also obey the Bible. Yes, Satan had memorised Scripture, but failed to obey it. Knowing and obeying the Bible helps us follow God’s desires rather than the devil’s.

Next Satan shows the dreadful liar he is. He makes out that he owns the world and if only Jesus worshipped him he would give it to Him. Jesus was being tempted to take the world as a political ruler right then, without carrying out His plan to die on a cross to save the world from sin. Satan was trying to distort Jesus’ perspective by making Him focus on worldly power and not on God’s plans.

Today the devil offers us the world by trying to entice us with materialism and power. We can resist temptations the same way Jesus did. If we find ourselves craving something that the world offers, we should quote Jesus’ words to the devil, “You must worship the Lord your God, and serve Him alone.”

Next Satan took Jesus to the parapet of the Temple. Are we to believe that Satan physically transported Jesus? I don’t think so. Satan would have done this through Jesus’ imagination. He tempted Him to throw Himself down and God’s angel would see He came to no harm. God is not our magician in the sky ready to perform on request. Jesus dismisses Satan by telling him not to put God to the test. God wants us to live by faith, not by magic. We must not try to manipulate God by asking for signs.

No one but Satan witnessed these temptations. Jesus deliberately told them to His Apostles so that we could learn how to resist temptation. Jesus’ temptations could be summarised under three P’s, Power, Possession and Prestige.

Lord Jesus, these are the areas where the devil likes to tempt us as well. What we must remember is that we are not on our own. We have You at our side. With You with us we too can resist all the temptations that Satan can throw at us.

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