“At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert,
and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan.
He was with the wild animals
and the angels attended him. (Mark 1:12,13)”
Temptation! Now there is another subject. “That donut just jumped in my mouth. You see, my friend gave it to me and I did not want to hurt her feelings. I haven’t had one for ages and I’ll cut back tomorrow.” We all know the self-talk that leads us down a path that usually ends in regret.
James talks about temptation specifically in his first chapter verse 13,
“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil nor does he tempt anyone, but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown gives birth to death.” The Holy Spirit led Jesus but did not tempt him.
Today we have multiple sources of temptation to embrace that that does not please God. God created us “good” but ads offer whatever to help us be “more good” — beautiful or healthy or secure or anything. Desire shifts from pleasing God to pleasing people. Doing something spectacular, like Jesus jumping from a building like Superman, would certainly bring quick popularity for Jesus. But how long would that last? The temptation that our culture today is struggling with is the road of impeachment. It is so easy to believe “the other party” is hateful, wrong and needs to be punished. It is so easy to stereotype and demonize that which threatens our path. Impeachment is not that different than going through the cupboard and eliminating all the food that is unhealthy for my diet. Eliminating, getting rid of what we consider wrong, is a common coping approach.
I note in this passage that Jesus was tempted. He understands our temptations. He understands the philosophical battle we are immersed in right now. I also note that he did not eliminate Satan for testing him. He had the power as true God but he did not use it. His answer was the choice of the cross and resurrection. The temptation report in the Gospels affirms to us that temptation is real, is not coming from God, and is something we grow through. When I am tempted to resort to violence or when I am tempted by anger, I am walking in the desert with a God who loves people on both sides. Jesus did not create bread to feed himself, did not do something spectacular to impress, and did not short-cut the painful path being faced by bowing down to Satan.
As we walk these next days may we too examine the motives and purposes of our hearts and continue to ponder how God would have us respond. Prayer, being in the Word, and seeing “the other” as God’s concern also helps. Lord, have mercy as we walk this wilderness with you.