St. Mark’s Corner by Richard Watkins
Today, I am tempted to talk about, well, temptation. As we zoomed through Lent, turned the corner on Easter Sunday and are slowly heading toward the completion of the Easter Season at the end of the month, I would like to go back to the beginning.
The Gospel reading for the first Sunday of Lent is always reserved for the Temptation of Christ in the desert. The time, after Christ’s baptism by John, in which He was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit to fast for 40 days. During that time, we are told by St. Matthew (4:1-11) that Satan appeared and tempted Him three times. First, there was the temptation to turn a stone in bread. Second, there was the temptation of throwing Himself off the pinnacle of the temple to see if the Angels would save him and the final temptation was to be given reign of all the kingdoms of the land if Jesus would bow down and worship Satan. Of course, Jesus rebuked Satan each time. Or did he?
Of course, he did, in the moment. But when you read through the rest of the of the Gospel, you will notice Jesus doing the very things Satan was tempting him to do. Or at the very least, events occurred, and incidents ensued that resulted in the fulfilling of Satan’s desired outcome, without the satisfaction of getting Jesus to turn against God.
First, Jesus made bread. Twice actually. In the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus took five loaves of bread, prayed and multiplied those loaves to number large enough to feed all and even have enough left over to fill twelve baskets full of broken pieces. Likewise, in the feeding of the 4,000 Jesus took seven loaves, prayed, and made enough for seven baskets of leftovers to be collected after everyone was satisfied.
Now, Jesus didn’t make the bread from stones, but rather from other loaves of bread. However, Job 28:5 does mention how bread comes from the earth in terms of using flour from the wheat that grows from the dirt and rocks. Jesus himself makes the connection between bread and stone when he said, “Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread,” (Matt 7:9).
The second temptation was an attempt to have Jesus challenge God’s love. Satan says in Matthew 4:6, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus again shoots the Devil down by saying “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’”.
With that said, though, there was an event in which I believe this very temptation was fulfilled. In Luke 4:29, he writes, “They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away.” Mind you, it doesn’t say ‘passed through them like mist’, rather ‘passed through the midst of them.’ So how did he get away? If the crowd was able to physically force him as far as from the synagogue to the edge of the town, it would stand to reason they would have been able to physically force him off the cliff. How was Jesus able to just walk through the mob and keep on going until he was safe? Angels, that’s how. I am sure you can imagine that with being hurled off a cliff, the person who was hurled, would, at the very least, dash his foot. Because this was a real possibility, as the scriptures testify, God sent the Angels in support of him until “…he went away and was safe.”
Lastly, but certainly not the least of the temptations, was the promise of all the kingdoms in the world in turn for worshiping Satan. It is at this point when Jesus levels the harshest and most severe of His repudiations. He says, “Get away, Satan!” and follows it up with a resounding “It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’” And it is later on revealed that despite refuting the Devil in that moment, Jesus, in the end, did and does rule “…all the nations with an iron scepter.”
It should be fairly clear by now that Satan could never best Jesus by turning Him against God. Not by deceit, deception, dishonesty or duplicity. But Jesus, as the Son of God, in his omnipotence, has and will always be able to “in your face” Satan by taking those temptations, and acting on them after-the-fact. It is the biblical epitome of “hold my wine, I got this”.
Likewise, when we are tempted, if we can hold our ground and not give in to Satan, God can make whole and true and deliver on those empty promises which Satan couldn’t and wouldn’t ever make good on. So, we might as well start with the promise of God rather than waiting around for the Devil to show up with one pocket full of rocks and the other of worthless words.