First Sunday of Lent - Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Lent
Wednesday March 5th, 2014
First Sunday of Lent
But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'"
We are meant to see the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness as being similar to those that we also suffer. So the Letter to the Hebrews writes: "[he] was in all points tempted like as [we are]" (4:15). That may seem hard to grasp, since this is fairly spectacular: turning stones into bread when you're hungry; proving your power by jumping off tall buildings and seeing if angels will catch you; taking control of the whole world. People who are tempted by these things are usually judged to be crazy. Perhaps this is the way that the Son of God gets tempted - miracles, global power and so on - but not us.
But look at the responses Jesus gives They are all quotations from Scripture itself. A person "shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God" (from Deuteronomy 8:3); "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God" (Deut. 6:16); "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Deut. 6:13). Each of these answers is a word of God addressed to human beings, and hence speaks to our own conditions and lives directly. In fact, they are words addressed to a particular kind of person: a member of the people of Israel, on their way into the Promised Land, led by the hand of God.
So what kind of temptations are they aimed at? Not just any temptations, but the temptations of those who follow God; of the elect; of the faithful; peculiar to the people of God. In fact, these are Christian temptations in a special way.
Heard in this way, maybe we can begin to see ourselves: the Christian who yearns after other things more than God's own word; the Christian who wants God to prove himself by doing something wonderful (or else...?); the Christian who is less interested in God than in some other desired possession. These are religious temptations, not simply general weaknesses. They are often rampant in our churches and in our hearts as church members and leaders. And this is what the Son of God comes to save us from:
Lord Jesus, purify my faith and my love by your own strength and obedience; let your church cleansed from all temptation so as to be other than the child who rests upon the provision and goodness of her God. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner
Professor of Historical Theology at Wycliffe College, Dr. Radner was rector of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Pueblo, Colorado. His ministerial experience includes service in Burundi, Haiti, inner-city Cleveland and Connecticut. He has taught at seminaries in Connecticut and Colorado. He is married to the Rev. Dr. Annette Brownlee, parents of Hannah and Isaac