Read Matthew 4.1-11

                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.


From Rev. William Flewelling, Proctor, WV

                Fresh from the waters of baptism – raised from the Jordan, met by the Spirit, declared to be well-pleasing to God by a heavenly voice – Jesus is then led up into the wilderness.  The wilderness in the region of the Jordan, on either side, is desert: rock and dryness, a severe, even fierce landscape.  Tradition has it that Jesus went into the hills west of Jericho, a land of harsh rock – sandstone – gouged by occasional bursts of water raging from higher ground, cascading to the Jordan below.  Most of the time, the land is utterly dry, watered little and rarely at best.  There, the Spirit that had come upon him as a dove led him (Mark says ‘drove him’) to be tempted by the devil.

                Precisely at the time when we anticipate freshness and delight in our taste of the life of faith, Jesus is led into a severe land, there to be tempted.  And the temptations are apt: stones to bread for a hungry man in a hungry world; a splash of notoriety for a man with a message to tell; the promise of great power and authority for a traveling preacher in the back waters of Palestine.  In all the ways he would be working, these would gain instant attention, popular favor.  The temptation is for obvious success!

                We meet this text devotionally within the season of Lent, a season of intense brooding, stretching from stories of temptation and ranging through all sorts of misunderstanding of what Jesus is about until we meet again at the cross, when everyone is dismayed that Jesus has failed them in their expectations.  Our season savors our hearts – the core of our awareness – on the cutting edge of our reluctant movement from favored misapprehensions to the victory of God at Golgotha.

                In starting – simply starting – we indulge ourselves in the radical, drastic austerity that meets success in the face of the desert and knows it as a temptation for the less than the fullness of God.  We cannot realize such things without temptation, without engaging ourselves in the severity of standing on our own integrity in the breach between enthusiasm and the pure holiness of God our Savior.

O God, as we are startled by your calling,
grace us with the stamina of vision
and the truth of your holiness embedded in our souls
that we might know the bliss that sears our too-easy ways
and lifts us in the way of Jesus.