The Gospel According to Matthew – 2017.03.05
Temptation (In Fable)
Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was very hungry, and the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.’ But he replied, ‘Scripture says:
Man does not live on bread alone
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’
The devil then took him to the holy city and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple.
‘If you are the Son of God’ he said ‘throw yourself down; for scripture says:
He will put you in his angels’ charge,
and they will support you on their hands
in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’
Jesus said to him, ‘Scripture also says:
You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’
Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘I will give you all these’ he said, ‘if you fall at my feet and worship me.’ Then Jesus replied, ‘Be off, Satan! For scripture says:
You must worship the Lord your God,
and serve him alone.’
Then the devil left him, and angels appeared and looked after him.
Temptation (In Reality)
There is no devil, except the deceiver that lies in our heart.
God, the creator of the universe, has given us the ability to know the truth, and to discern good from evil.
God has also given each of us the ability to deny the truth, reject it and lie.
The lies we tell always originate in our own heart. We tell them first to ourselves, before we try to convince others.
We face many temptations as human beings. The reading for today highlights three of the most basic forms that the temptation to do evil might take.
The temptation to turn stones into bread is not the temptation to perform a magic trick, it is an acknowledgement that we are at times tempted toward injustice by the simplest and most ordinary things…by hunger, and thirst, by the necessity of meeting our most basic needs.
Any of us, when faced with making those hard choices, the choice to feed ourselves, our children, the ones we love, we will contemplate not only breaking the laws of the state, but the laws of God as well.
The temptation to throw himself off the wall of the temple, was not the temptation to rely on a supernatural power for safety and protection, it was the temptation to vanity. The temptation was to believe in ourselves so much that we can risk any danger, even risk our own lives, and therefore the well-being of everyone who depends on you, out of a belief that you can do no wrong, or that nothing can harm you.
The third temptation was not the temptation to rule the world, because that is the temptation to fantasy. The temptation is based on the love of wealth and power in any of its species. This is the most ordinary temptation of all.
To succumb to these temptation, to any of them, is to suborn our faith in the way that Jesus taught us, and to put in its place faith in the way of the world.
The way of Christ is the way he summarized in the golden rule; do unto others what you would have them do unto you. Love God with all your strength, and all your heart, and all your mind, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.
1st Sunday of Lent