Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness is one of the more compelling texts in the New Testament. There are few scriptures where his humanity and deity are more clearly seen together. The story is also uniquely from Jesus. That is, he didn’t write any books and most of what we know about Jesus is what others said about him. They wrote what they saw, heard and understood. Jesus’ episode as a preteen, for instance, is told from the perspective of his parents, they are the likely source of the story. The temptation, on the other hand, was something the authors did not witness; Jesus was alone. They were told the story by Jesus. Jesus wanted this part of his life remembered because the way the devil tempted him to live his life is the same trial we face in ours. (Here’s Matthew’s Version)
Turning Stones to Bread
There isn’t anything definitive in the text about why turning stones into bread would have been wrong for Jesus. This has caused people to read the text in many ways, Dostoevsky’s, The Grand Inquisitor, is a personal favorite. The clue to how to understand this temptation lies in Jesus’ response to it, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” The devil is tempting Jesus to make the point of his life taking care of his personal needs. Jesus’ response is to place his own nourishment, even after 40 days of fasting, at a lower priority than knowing God. We too are tempted to give the best of our energy, of our time, of ourselves to take care of our real needs. Jesus’ desire to eat is not a “want”; it’s not frivolous. He’s at the point of death, but even avoiding death is not as much of a need as communing with God.
Throwing Himself Down
A couple of weeks ago, Kylie Jenner made the news by costing Snapchat $1,300,000,000 in a single tweet. The influence this young lady has is staggering, it’s impossible to truly understand how important she is to the United States that she could move that amount resources in a moment. Having and seeking that influence is the temptation Jesus was presented here. We are also tempted to seek importance, significance in the circle we find ourselves in. We seeks positions of power, even small advances, so we have influence. This is not worth living for. Jesus could have had more people follow him if he had used a public miracle to prove who he was, but to do so would have been to manipulate, to coerce his way to influence. Rather than live to be a someone, we should live to please the Someone.
The Kingdoms of the World
What would you do if you won the lottery? The speed in which we can come up with an answer to this question shows how we already given into this temptation. The pleasure we could have if we didn’t have to work, could travel the world and use all of its splendor! Jesus’ temptation is to own every nation and their glory. We are tempted to make the aim of our days to enjoy life, to be happy, to make money, to have nice things, to give a better life for our family, to have political power and the benefits that come with it. Jesus rejected these things to die for our us We should return the favor and reject the pursuit of pleasure and power and seek peace and its Prince instead.
Jesus’ temptation holds the key for knowing what matters in life. Living to meet our own needs, to gain fame for ourselves or to use the splendor of the nations for our own ends is an exhaustive endeavor that doesn’t leave room for much else. Only when we prioritize these less will we begin to live more freely with less anxiety, less fear and less conflict with those around us.