Reading 1: Genesis 2:7-9,3:1-7; Reading 2: Romans 5:12-19; Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11
Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
How did the Gospel writers know that Jesus was tempted? They were not around when a dark winged dragon flew around with Jesus from the Mountain top to the Temple Pinnacle! Yet, all the synoptic Gospels report the temptations rather dramatically, in a fable style!
Simple answer: Jesus obviously confided to his disciples about his temptations, and it made an impression! Bad start, at least imprudence, one might say, for a Messiah wanting to win followers. On the contrary, Jesus was open about his own struggles in life to his close friends. He was tempted like us in every way, but did not sin! It was a lesson for them. They too later had the same temptations in other ways. It is scandalous for many that Jesus entertained temptations at all. We should not deny the humanity of Jesus. That would be the most famous heresy of history, Docetism, the denial of the true humanity of Jesus!
The “Temptations of Jesus” are a wonderful parable on life itself! At first God affirms us that we are his sons and gives us a mission, as he did to Jesus at his Baptism. Then comes the rest of our life, one of struggle between our identity as Children of God and the attractions of the world! There is no way of avoiding them, because often God is the author of temptations! In the case of Jesus, definitely he was – who sent his Spirit to lead Jesus into the desert ‘to be tempted by the devil’ (just imagine that)! And of course, he kept a company of angels ready to celebrate his victory! Tempting his beloved ones was an old habit of God. The Bible tells us that he did it to Adam, to Abraham, Moses, Job, and to the prophets. But he tests to strengthen, not to destroy. The poor devil thinks that he is the hero of temptations!
It is interesting to think of our temptations as God’s attempts to strengthen us, rather than a fight with the devil. In Genesis, we find the curious story of Isaac struggling with God and finally winning, even with a little hurt! God was very happy to lose this fight, and bless Isaac, and name him ‘Israel’!
If we stick steadfastly to our identity as God’s children and become capable of putting his Word before everything else, angels will be waiting to serve us.