1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
This passage is the heart of the Lenten fast. It’s where the 40 days of Lent is traditionally derived. It’s a powerful example of the resistance of temptation and the goodness of God. Jesus reminds us at each moment of temptation to shift our focus away from that temptation and back toward God.
If you’re searching for the rhythm of Lent, this is it. It’s the ebb and flow of hunger, temptation, Jesus, hunger, temptation, Jesus. Whatever you may be fasting from, the longer you go without it, the greater the temptation grows, and the more we need to lean on Christ. It’s hard, and it’s also a microcosm of the Christian life.
As the Spirit begins to sanctify us from the very beginning of our faith and begins to pare away sin from our lives, the temptation for our comforts, our old ways grows stronger. It becomes harder to resist. We’re faced with choice to remain steadfast or to momentarily lapse into our old ways and try to fill the hunger with the idols we used to carry. When this happens we enter into a different rhythm, one of confession, repentance, and belief. We enter back into the cycle and the Spirit continues to work in us.
This is the work of the Spirit, to make us more Christlike through the rhythms of the Christian walk that are magnified during the Lenten season. Maybe think of it like a workout routine. You don’t start with lifting the heaviest weight in the gym, and you don’t start with the marathon. You build your way up to those things. The good news is that with this spiritual exercise, the Spirit guides you and helps you along the way. We don’t do this alone. Not only has He sent the Spirit to help us grow, but he’s also sent other people. We’re never alone in this walk no matter how it may sometimes feel.
If you feel like progress is slow, just know that you’re not alone and that even Jesus is served by angels at the end of this event, and at the end of ours, He’ll be there too, lifting us up in our exhaustion. He’ll be there to feed us the feast He has prepared.
Prayer and Reflection
Reflect and pray the collect from the Book of Common Prayer for this past Sunday. Also, think about what idols you need help shedding and lean into the support of the Spirit, who will guide you to truth.
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations, and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.