5 March 2017Matthew 4:1-11
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (v. 1)
Psalm: Psalm 32
If you really want to get away from it all to think, what better place could there be than a desert: sand, rocks, an occasional piece of vegetation or a scrubby tree, maybe a mountain in the distance, and lots of open sky and solitude. It is made for meditation and built for a time of fasting. But solitude and fasting can do strange things to your mind. The first emotions of getting away from stress may be thankfulness and relaxation, but isolation leads to self-analysis, which can create positive and negative thoughts and open the mind in unexpected ways.
Jesus had put himself into that position deliberately because he knew that he had decisions to make about his future. It was time to begin his ministry and he needed guidance. However that also meant that now he was open to temptation. Yet, given the way we dismiss the devil these days almost as a figure of fun, what really happened at that tempting time?
The devil tempting Jesus in the desert didn't wear a red body stocking and a cloak, or carry a pitchfork, or have a black beard and fierce eyes, and there was certainly no tail to be seen. That would have given the game away far too easily.
No. The devil tempting Jesus in the desert was far too subtle for that.
How the evil thoughts were introduced, we'll never really know. Whether they were dreams, or hallucinations brought on by hunger after 40 days of fasting, or real words spoken by a personification of evil, is irrelevant.
What we do know is that Jesus recognised that he could take several easy roads to the fulfilment of his mission, yet these would not achieve the end of showing the sacrificial nature of the love of God to all people.
Some might believe that we have reduced the devil to an extraordinary image of a non-existent power. Maybe we need to be wary of that dismissal; remembering that even though Jesus drove the devil from the desert, that power of evil was intent on waiting, as an ever-present threat, for a more opportune time - and still is.
- How do you cope with solitude?
- What is your idea of the devil, or the power of evil?