Youth and Family Minister
First Lutheran Church, Little Falls
Most of us are familiar with the three temptations of Jesus as related by the Gospel accounts of Jesus in the desert. The same Spirit which descends on Jesus during his baptism leads Jesus into the desert for 40 days to then be tempted by the devil.
Those who follow Jesus cannot become dependent on the things of this world. When we are so dependent on material things, and not on God, we give in to temptation and sin.
The third temptation deals with the adoration of the devil rather than God. Jesus once again reminds the devil that God is in control. This is so important for us to hear and believe; when our own temptations seem to overpower us, when everything around us might indicate shadows, darkness and evil, it is God who is ultimately in charge of our destiny.
At the very beginning of his campaign for this world and for each one of us, Jesus openly confronted the enemy. Jesus began his fight using the power of Scripture during a night of doubt, confusion, and temptation. It will do us well to remember Jesus’ example, so that we won’t be seduced by the devil’s deception. We are tempted in the same ways Jesus was – wanting to have power over life and death, wanting to control our economic futures, putting our appetite for food ahead of our appetite for God, and perhaps some of us are in deeper darkness and are tempted by drugs and alcohol and other things that can have a negative impact on our lives. But trusting in God, as Jesus did, will make us strong.
A great divide between Jesus Christ and ourselves, our own trials and weaknesses, have become the privileged place of our encounter with him, and not only with him, but with God himself. Jesus has been tested in all respects like us– he knows all of our difficulties; he is a tried man; he knows our condition from the inside and from the outside – by this did he acquire a profound capacity for compassion. From Jesus, we learn that God is present and sustaining us in the midst of test, temptation and yes, even sinfulness.
As Christians, we are in a constant fight with the desires born of our sinful natures. We are unable to resist temptation without God’s grace. We are called to trust the Lord (not ourselves) for strength to resist temptation before it becomes sin. It is not the temptation itself that leads us to sin, but the lack of resistance and trust in the Lord for deliverance.
Jesus, the friend of tax collectors and sinners, knew well that temptation could simply overcome people. Victims of poverty, ignorance, prejudice, oppression, abuse, violence and drugs, reveal to the rest of us how people can simply be driven beyond endurance.
This all sounds so negative, but Paul in his letters to the Romans reminds us of the reality of humanity. We sin. Full stop, end of story.
But there is hope. To quote Romans chapter 5, verses 18 and 19, “Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”
That is good news. Amen.