March 2020 – Lead us not into temptation?

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. Luke 4:1         

By the time you get to read this, we will already be a week into the Holy Season of Lent, a time when we are called as Christians to reflect on how we deal with the world’s temptations and trials.

The line of scripture above defines the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, why should he start by having such a miserable time in the desert, temped to make food from stones, to take unbelievable risks, and to rule as king of the world?

I believe that the forty days in the wilderness were a form of training for Jesus, learning the self-discipline he would need as he exercised his ministry on earth.  He could have fed every beggar in Israel for years to come; he could called on an army of Angels to save himself when he faced his agonising death on the Cross; he could have taken Caesar’s crown and ruled the world.  But not without failing in what he came to earth to do.  

Emmanuel – God with Us.  If that was to mean anything it had to mean that God would come and live fully as one of us, suffer as we do, laugh, cry, dance and weep.  And for a person with infinite powers, learning to conform to that human experience, and to suffer infinite pains to do so, must have been hard, it needed a bit of preparation, that is what I think those forty days in the desert were all about.

There is a beautiful Christmas Carol, first written down in the Appalachian Mountains in the USA, “I wonder as I wander”.  The third verse has the lyrics:

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,

A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing,

Or all of God's angels in heav'n for to sing,

He surely could have it, 'cause he was the King.

I think this sums up the strain and the beauty of Jesus’ life, he could have anything and everything, but for our sake he chose to have nothing, to live a hard life and then to die with the lowest.

But this is not all just theoretical thinking about the bible verse that gives us the season of Lent, I believe we all have a lot to learn from Jesus’ wilderness example in our daily lives.

We will all be tempted almost every day, we have opportunities to have so much more than was available even a couple of generations ago.

But with so much more opportunity comes so much more temptation:

How do we find the money to get all the things we want, do we end up hurting those around us by sacrificing time with them to achieve the added luxuries we crave?

We can communicate with people all around the world at the click of a button, but do we always treat those we don’t see, and who don’t know us with love and grace?  Are we more likely to say things remotely that we wouldn’t dare to say face to face?

We can see into the private lives of so many people now through social media, we can chat more easily with others night and day without raising anyone else’s attention, how do we resist the temptation if we find we are intellectually or socially drawn to another person, when we are already in a relationship?

I think the answer to all these questions are in the few lines at the beginning of St Luke’s forth chapter.  Jesus knows life will be full of temptations, so he doesn’t just blunder on and hope he will be able to resist, he prepares himself, he thinks through the traps which may seed his path, and he works out ways to avoid them.

This Lent let us think about the world’s temptations, and think how we may better deal with what comes our way.

Malcolm Wearing