Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written,
“One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you”,
and “On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”’
Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.”’
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. (NRSV).
In the above Gospel reading, Jesus is ‘led’ by the Spirit.
Matthew would have us know this as a genuine leading. There is nothing here that suggests anyone other that the very Spirit of God, the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, is the one forging Jesus’ path. But of course, this does not imply no other influences: ‘the tempter’ or ‘devil’ has a voice in this account as well.
It all adds up, even for the Son of God, to a rough path. It is characterised by hunger, thirst, and genuine temptation. It is quite a thought: what if even the Son of God was genuinely and profoundly tempted?
And these are not superficial temptations: the one who took on flesh needs the sustenance of food; the one who perfectly trusted God relies on the protection of angels; the one who came to save desires to have the people of the world as his own.
This devil is calculating.
It all adds up to a confronting challenge for anyone who sees the indwelling Spirit, the very presence of God to us, as merely comfort, joy, and peace. This path, forged by the one who presented as a dove, is hard, rocky, uneven.
As many have observed, each test put before Jesus is met with scripture. Of course this represents more than mindless text quoting. It is staring down ofd evil with the resolve of faith.
There is here, on the part of Jesus, a profound, exemplary, trust in God.
Reflecting on Jesus wilderness experience seems appropriate as we begin the season of Lent. We are encouraged as we move toward our easter remembering to consciously open our lives again to the presence and purpose of God. We can all too easily see this in terms more blissful than reality.
Being open to God in a world claimed by evil can be profoundly difficult.
But here we are assured that this is not a lone trip. The Spirit is saturates this text. Jesus is never abandoned.
Well, not by the Spirit anyway. There is an abandoning but it is by a defeated evil. These deserve to be considered and embraced words: ‘Then the devil left him…’
Our account ends with another presence. It is the angels surrounding and serving. The calculating temptation of the devil is simply not enough to overcome the Host of Heaven.