Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
If we don’t address temptation directly, firmly, and with Christ-honoring resolve—we will succumb to the evil one’s false promises again and again.
In a world of reaction, alarm, and shock, a population reacting to all manner of news and offenses, we read that Jesus responded to the devil. In this passage, Jesus is not reacting, controlled by the devil’s play—he has chosen to answer the devil on his own terms.
When the devil goes unanswered, avoided, or dismissed, he comes back around again with the same question.
Here we have our role model for speaking to the enemy. Jesus doesn’t engage the conversation, mind you. Rather, he provides a clear and soul-born direct answer to the taunt behind the enemy’s temptation.
“Follow my guidance, Jesus; use your power for your own good” is my paraphrase of the satan’s suggestion.
“Bread, even though I am hungry, is not what I need. I need to learn to use the power I’ve been given for the sake of others” is my paraphrase of Jesus’s answer.
This is where we lose some human contact with Jesus. When I have a need, and I have the power to fill it, I do. There is no question. There is no pause. My body is hungry and my mouth is watering. I feed it. No harm in that, eh? Anyone want to fault me? No. We all do it.
But for Jesus, there is harm in that, in this moment. He is not in the wild to answer to his body and its cravings. He is in the wild to learn to act from his vocational center—as the Son of God who came into the world not to be served, but to serve and to give his life for the sake of many (Matt. 20:28).
Sometimes our needs and our response to them get smack in the way of the training of the heart that Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 9:25–26. We are after a crown that will last forever, after a life of love that will feed the masses; bread is not on the menu tonight for Jesus, or for us.
Jesus is practicing for the cross from this first temptation on. The internal spiritual muscles of his calling, his virtue set, are being flexed. How does he resist such a basic suggestion, meeting such a core need no one would fault him for?
He answers the seemingly innocent, yet insidious suggestion. He disempowers it at the source-level, in his heart, and he disempowers the devil from asking it again. His resolve is fire, and his spoken, Word-saturated answer will consume the question both for the vocation-unseater and for himself. He will not look back. His power is not for his own gratification.
Jesus, be the role model for every one of us and the agency we have been given in this life. Let us use it, with cruciformity and from the foundation of love, for the sake of others.
Lord of the Wild, our track record for obedience is less than flawless, but our desire to use our gifts and privileges in ways that honor you and serve others is passionate. Teach us cruciform love; it is the highest love we seek. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Has there been something you’ve recently given up to be faithful to Jesus that others might say you don’t need to give up? What was it, and what do you think the result of your obedience will be?
For the Awakening,