by Jennifer DiFrancesco
Scripture: Luke 4:1-13
Jesus returned from the Jordan River full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. There he was tempted for forty days by the devil. He ate nothing during those days and afterward Jesus was starving. The devil said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”
Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread.”
Next the devil led him to a high place and showed him in a single instant all the kingdoms of the world. The devil said, “I will give you this whole domain and the glory of all these kingdoms. It’s been entrusted to me and I can give it to anyone I want. Therefore, if you will worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”
The devil brought him into Jerusalem and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down from here; for it’s written: He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.”
Jesus answered, “It’s been said, Don’t test the Lord your God.” After finishing every temptation, the devil departed from him until the next opportunity.
“Worship the Lord your God and serve only God.” ~Luke 4:8
Holy God, You are with us when things are going well.
You are with us when things are hard.
You help us to make good, loving choices.
You guide us by your Holy Spirit.
You teach us through your words in the Bible.
For all this, we give you thanks. Amen.
I once heard someone utter, “If you don’t tell your own public story, someone else will tell it for you.” Our lives have worth because of the string of stories that we collect. Today, our stories align with Jesus in the desert.
In the text we just read, Jesus has just begun carving out a place for himself in this world. We are meeting Jesus at a crucial point. Newly baptized, newly initiated, Jesus comes to us at his own crossroads. Jesus must determine for himself at this moment who he will be. At every turn, Jesus encountered expectations. He encountered a pre-existing public narrative of a mighty one who would baptize with the holy spirit, bring to earth the kingdom of heaven, and fulfill all those wild visions and dreams of the Old Testament Prophets. It was a ready-made, slip-on narrative. The metaphor presented by the three temptations is a universal and powerful one.
I don’t know about you, but my memory of this passage before I read it over and over again was just how “Mr. Cool” Jesus seems to be in the moment. My takeaway from this text is that Jesus had all the right words at just the right time — and he didn’t need many of them. Jesus goes into the desert for awhile, the devil shows up one afternoon and tosses out three temptations. Jesus responds quickly and accurately with the right scripture quote and “Bingo!” Temptation is all done. He leaves the desert and goes about his ministry untroubled. The more I read this text, the less I think it was that simple — even for Jesus. It certainly isn’t easy for us to so easily discard temptation, but Jesus does leave us with some good advice: “Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”
Questions to Spark Conversation
~Jesus must have shared this experience with his disciples. Why do you think he shared this with them?
~When have you been tempted? Did you talk to someone after the experience?
~ Sometimes we make make mistakes and give into the temptation. What is one thing that can remind you that God loves you very much no matter what?
bowl with sand
bowl with water
Lent begins this week with Ash Wednesday. The Lenten season is the 40 days (not including Sundays) before Easter, set aside for reflection and renewal.
As we begin our Lenten journey, you hold and feel sand between your fingers as a reminder of the wilderness where Jesus spent 40 days fasting and praying.
Now wash your hands in a bowl of water, feel the grit wash away. As the water washes over your hands allow God to refresh and encourage you as begin this Lenten Journey.
*Idea taken/adapted from a workshop I attended 5+ years ago at a Baltimore Presbytery gathering.
You are forgiven.
You are clean.
You are loved. Amen.