Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The
tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones
to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written,“One does not
live by bread alone, but by every word
that comes from the mouth of God.” ’
the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the
temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it
is written,“He will command
his angels concerning you”, and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that
you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’ Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is
written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’
the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of
the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you,
if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you,
Satan! for it is written, “Worship
the Lord your God, and serve only him.” ’ Then the devil left him, and suddenly
angels came and waited on him.
Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness
after his baptism in River Jordan. We are told earlier in the same Gospel, “And
when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the
heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove
and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the
Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ (Matthew 3:16-17)” Reading the two
passages together, we begin to wonder about the work of the Spirit. As soon as
Jesus had experienced the consolation of the Spirit at his baptism, he was led
by the same Spirit out into the wilderness. We may simply ask why consolation
is always followed by desolation?
Emerging out from his hidden life, Jesus wanted to
make sure that his coming public ministry was exactly his Father’s will of him.
Thus, the first thing that Jesus did was going to River Jordan and
asking John to baptize him. Can we see how it was different from us nowadays? Steep
in the culture of instant gratification, we tend to make hasty decisions based
on what we want instead of what God wants from us. It took Jesus 18 years to
pray, contemplate and discern about his next move. How much time do we spend to
contemplate about our next move? Even when he arrived at a decision, Jesus
offered it to God (at his baptism) for confirmation.
The consolation that Jesus experienced at the
baptism was part of the confirmation of his decision. The other part of the
confirmation was found in the desolation of Jesus’ experience in the
wilderness. The consolation experienced by Jesus in his baptism and the
desolation in the wilderness is the benchmark testing our trust of God in
whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in.
Nowadays, our wilderness may be someone or some
community, including our own family, who has hurt us so much. Note that Jesus was led by the Spirit in his
experiencing of consolation and desolation. And the spirit is God’s love. Thus,
it is important to be led by the Spirit into our wilderness. In our prayer, we
try to note how my prayer was led by the Spirit.
The three temptations faced by Jesus in the
wilderness are in fact three aspects of one temptation not to trust God. We
tend to trust ourselves more than trust God because we believe in results and
numbers. Each of the temptations offered by the tempter is result-oriented and
is the obvious choice of our culture.
We can pray with the three temptations slowly, one
at a time, so that we can savour Jesus’ responses and identify with them. The
tempter’s temptations are not only for us as individuals, but also for our
society and our Church.
In the first week of Lent, we begin our journey
with Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus reminds us that if we remain faithful, God
will send angels to look after us at the end of our wilderness. Then, we will
be back to consolation from desolation, because our God wants us to share His
glory and joy. Amen.