Victory over Temptation

Scripture   Luke 4: 1-13   


Jesus full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan

and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 

where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. 

He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, 

he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, 

command this stone to become a loaf a bread…” 




Lent begins … and so too our 40 day journey of deeper immersion into the mystery of Christ. After being baptized by John in the River Jordan, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the desert wilderness. With those wonderfully affirming words “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him” still reverberating through his being, he is plunged now into the stark silence and prolonged solitude of desert living. While this consolation must surely have supported him, he is now being drawn into the deeper interior discernment of exactly what it means to be the Christ and what the Father is calling him to do as the Messiah. After long fasting, Jesus’ spirit becomes lighter, finer and more sensitive. He becomes aware of his unique purpose and destiny. Then, when confronted by the three temptations, we hear Christ’s purity and singleness of heart concentrated in a radical refusal to go down the tempter's path. What was the meaning of Christ’s three big No’s? Can you imagine the tone of voice in which they were uttered? He faces a decision on the meaning and spirit of his own mission. He comes forth victorious.


First temptation - How would it be if he were to turn stones into bread as the tempter challenged him? This temptation was intended to induce him to turn his life and ministry into an expression of power, to dominate, to be ‘extraordinary’. Jesus says, NO. “Man does not live on bread alone.”  With all the strength of his being, he chose to be a man of the spirit. He chose to live from the heart, refusing any kind of misuse of power. He was not going to be about ‘changing stones’ to meet his own or other’s every need and desire. Rather he would be inviting his disciples to be about ‘changing hearts’ and embracing a little way of gentleness and simplicity, living at peace within the human family. Power does not entice me.      


Second temptation – What if all the kingdoms of the world and their glory were given to him … “if you will fall down and worship me?”  This temptation for Jesus was whether he would opt for political power and success. Will he play the game of power politics? Or will he take the way of the suffering servant?  Political ambition and the desire for success could, of course, be easily rationalized as being for a good cause, God’s cause. Jesus says, “No. I will let God be God. "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him." Going God’s way will be costly, but there would be no compromise here no matter the cost.  He wanted to live in this poverty-stricken world, and to make radiant proclamation of the possibilities of unbounded love within this earthly realm for goodness and kindness to abound. He wanted to witness to unconditional daring, endurance and achievement. Therefore he said NO to this temptation and came back to embracing the poverty of our human condition. Anything else would have been a betrayal of the kingdom of God.  


Third temptation - The final dare. In spirit, he stands now on the pinnacle of the Temple with the tempter taunting, “Leap, throw yourself down. Nothing can happen to you. Angels will bear you up.”  This is a mentally challenging one that seems to contradict the Jewish expectation of the Messiah who was to appear in an extraordinary, startling and wonder-full manner. To this Jesus says, NO. Be gone, Satan. Do not put God to the test! I am not coming as a sensational, grandiose, popular leader. I am coming in humility and powerlessness. The way of selfless love is the strongest power in the world. Truly noble love arises only in humility. Yes, Jesus is bearing the responsibility of guiding the world into the breathtaking adventure of God.


The tempter faced Jesus with three very familiar temptations: to use his power to be materially secure, physically safe and politically successful. The desire for wealth, comfort or political power are normal human impulses and Jesus is human - but he rejects them. He says his three big ‘NO’s . In doing this in his vulnerable hour, Jesus models for all of us how we too can centre ourselves in another kind of power, far greater and more mysterious than anything the tempter offers. It is the power of love. This is the only  power that will save us, ultimately, from destroying ourselves – and our relationships  - and our earth. 


Do you experience the Spirit luring you into the desert solitude of your heart to face there the scrutiny of truth versus compromise with these three alluring temptations? The ‘desert’ is the place of the great purification and the great transformation. Possibly, this Lent, you will be guided into the desert of your daily life routines and there, facing the same struggles and interior pulls … be challenged to ‘give up’ the tempting lure towards acquiring more comforts, more control, more power. Saying our NO’s releases more compassion and more serenity. Pay attention over these 40 DAYS and observe your soul coming into a springtime with fresh growth spurts and new emerging possibilities. Every NO can be an “I’m gonna say YES to life!”   

Carrying Grace    I will say “Yes” to a way of littleness, humility and selfless love.




#2 eleanor weldon 2011-05-23 03:37
Sometimes I cannot even bear to think of being tempted for an hour. My dear Jesus experienced enormous temptations for 40 days.I understand his humanity, frailty, and suffering. I also see his love and devotion to his father. Can I bear my suffering for such a short time.The answer is,for you alone are my God, there is none before you.I await you and love you.
#1 arletteh 2011-03-13 01:00
In this Gospel of Jesus’ temptations in the desert, we see how greatly Jesus loves his and our humanity; how he has integrated it within himself: no magic tricks, no gravity- defying bravado, no power wielding it over the people! How Spirit and Body are one: we are to live “not on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”: bread and word. At Rosemary’s retreat on the Spirituality of the Paschal Mystery, this ordinary humanity was symbolically presented by the meditation on the 40 Days of Easter: coffee cups, Kleenex box(for wiping away tears), a small table light, some spiritual books to meditate on: simple, prayerful, everyday living .The reflection for Ascension had an open Bible: we wait with God’s Word .The Word becomes one with us: spirit and body are one. Jesus won this victory that time in the desert. “We hold a treasure, not made of gold, in earthen vessels, wealth untold, one treasure only, the Lord, the Christ in earthen vessels.”(St Louis Jesuits).

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