Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted 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.’”
Then 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.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 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.
I have read the story of the temptation of Jesus many times throughout my years, and it seems that different things have jumped out at me at different times. (But that’s what happens often when I re-read certain scriptures.) In reading the temptation story, there have been those times when I could hardly get past the statement that Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights. I don’t think that I could practice that type of dedication and focus. There have also been times when I have gotten drawn into pondering the different temptations. Richard Foster, a Quaker author whose biblical and theological reflections have been helpful to me in my Christian walk, suggests that money, sex, and power are the factors that tempt and twist most of us. I think I see at least two of the three in the biblical temptation story.
But right now, the part of Matthew 4:1-11 that speaks most loudly to me has to do with what the Devil himself did with the scriptures. In this story, Satan also quoted scripture (although Jesus rebuffed Satan and kept the Word of God in the proper perspective.) I need to say that again, so that I can let it sink in. “Satan also quoted scripture.” But as we can see from the interchange with Jesus, just knowing some of these words is not the point. Understanding and letting them shape our lives is.
While I am interested in knowing God’s Word from the Bible, knowing the context of the individual passages of scripture is equally important. And seeing how it all fits together as Good News may be how the truth is found in all these words.
God of the Good News that we find in scripture, help me not to be one of these people who grabs a passage from Your Word to try and get my way. Help Your Word to show me the way, through Jesus Christ I pray. Amen