14 February 2016

Luke 4:1-13

“Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”’ When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.” (vv. 12-13)

Psalm: Psalm 91


Here, as the public ministry of Jesus is about to start, we see him facing the implications of what has been said about him at his Baptism: "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22).

He has been led from his Baptism in the power of the Holy Spirit and into the wilderness for a 40-day retreat - a mirror of the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering in the wilderness with God providing for them.

We read later in Scripture that Jesus was "one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15) and yet those 40 days fasting leave Jesus famished and wrestling with the most obvious and most human of temptations:

  • Sort yourself out some food.
  • Grab yourself some power.
  • Check that God is still watching your back.

The devil, trying to undermine Jesus' identity, comes with a repeated phrase: "If you are the Son of God …" (vv. 3, 9).

The challenge is there: prove yourself; do something remarkable; seize the moment.

Jesus has answers for each of the challenges - and those answers come from God's word to confound the tempter and from the Son's confidence in his relationship with the Father. Eventually the devil leaves Jesus on the edge of the wilderness, and the edge of his new ministry, "until an opportune time".

Luke's Gospel leaves us with the hanging threat that something more is to follow and his choice of Jerusalem as the location of the final temptation seems to point us to a moment in the future. Jesus is determined to be obedient, confident that God the Father knows. We know, of course, that there is unfinished business.

To Ponder

  • How easy is it to make space to be alone with God in our crowded schedules? What may help?
  • When has finding a quiet space helped you face temptation?

Bible notes author

The Revd Gareth Hill

Gareth Hill is a Methodist minister with a particular interest in pioneer ministry and fresh ways of being Church. He is​ in circuit ministry in the Winchester, Eastleigh & Romsey Circuit in the Southampton District and has pastoral charge of six churches in Romsey and on the edge of the New Forest.