Overcoming temptation Luke 4:1-13 1 Jesus returned from the Jordan full of the Holy Spirit and was led by the Spirit into the desert, 2 where he was tempted by the Devil for 40 days. In all that time he ate nothing, so that he was hungry when it was over.
3 The Devil said to him: “If you are God’s Son, order this stone to turn into bread.” 4 But Jesus answered: “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone.’” 5 Then the Devil took him up and showed him in a second all the kingdoms of the world.
6 “I will give you all this power and all this wealth,” the Devil told him. “It has all been handed over to me, and I can give it to anyone I choose.
7 All this will be yours, then, if you worship me.” 8 Jesus answered: “The scripture says: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’ ” 9 Then the Devil took him to Jerusalem and set him on the highest point of the Temple and said to him: “If you are God’s Son, throw yourself down from here.
10 For the scripture says: ‘God will order his angels to take good care of you.’ 11 It also says: ‘They will hold you up with their hands so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.’ ” 12 But Jesus answered: “The scripture says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” 13 When the Devil finished tempting Jesus in every way, he left him for a while.
Other Readings: Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Psalm 91:12, 10-15; Romans 10:8-13 LECTIO Jesus on his divine mission is led by the Holy Spirit into the desert. He stays there for 40 days and fasts the whole time. Forty is significant as a time of preparation in the Old Testament. It recalls Moses fasting 40 days on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:28) and the Israelites spending 40 years in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 29:5-6).
We only hear about three specific temptations, but it is clear that this was not the only time Jesus was tempted: the Devil left him “for a while” (verse 13).
The Devil tempts Jesus to use his supernatural power to meet his own physical need. Jesus rejects this misuse of his power. He identifies with you and me.
We need more than just physical food. The implication is clear that we also need “spiritual food” from God.
The Devil then offers to hand over power over the nations if Jesus will worship him. Jesus had indeed come to save people from the Devil’s control, but not this way.
Lastly the Devil tempts Jesus to prove his divine nature by throwing himself off the temple so God will send his angels to rescue him.
These three temptations illustrate the core of every temptation: the desire to push God aside, to regard him as secondary and redundant, to rely solely on one’s own strength, and to put the world right without God.
Jesus is not deceived by the Devil’s cunning deceptions even when he uses scripture itself to tempt him. Jesus rebuts every temptation with scripture, quoting successively from Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:13 and 6:16. Authentic interpretation of a portion of scripture must be consistent with the whole of scripture.
For Jesus, and for us, the essence of all temptation is to be offered an appealing alternative to God’s way of doing things rather than obeying him.
MEDITATIO What helped Jesus reject these temptations? What lessons can we learn to help us overcome the temptations we face? Consider what “spiritual food” will help us stay close to God.
Jesus was single-minded about doing things God’s way. He avoided being deceived into doing anything else. How can we try to follow his example?
Consider this verse from Hebrews 4:15. What encouragement does it offer us? “Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin.” ORATIO The Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) reminds us to pray about temptation. Throughout the week ask God to deliver you from the things that tempt you. Use the words from Psalm 91 to inspire your prayers today.
CONTEMPLATIO: Spend some time treasuring the promises in Romans 10:9-11: “If you confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised him from death, you will be saved” (v9). “Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed” (v11).
Lectio divina, or “spiritual reading”, is an ancient tradition of reading and engaging with God’s Word. These outlines for the Sunday Gospel readings are written by Mgr Anthony Abela and published by Bible Society. They can be downloaded free in several languages from www.biblesociety. org.uk/lectio. Bible Society is a charity that works towards a day when the Bible’s life-changing message is shaping lives and communities everywhere