Today’s post begins with this passage from the gospel of Luke:
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”
9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you,’
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
While re-reading this passage again, I was struck by the particular avenues of attack that the Evil One used. He offers Jesus different things- just as he “offers” us certain “gifts” in exchange for turning our backs on God.
He first starts by focusing on base, material concerns- our appetites, in this case quite literally with Jesus’ hunger. Jesus, being both fully man and fully God, experienced hunger just as we do. And that ache would have been pretty intense after 40 days. But at the same time Jesus knows that there is more to our life than just satisfying material needs. St. Paul touches on this in his letter to the Philippians:
17 Brethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an example in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
The second attack that the Adversary makes is by offering all earthly authority to Jesus. This is an attack via pride and greed. Again, as a man, Jesus experienced the same sense of ego and desire that we all experience. But He rejected those desires, for they ultimately lead to naught but ruin. What good is there to gain the world, but lose one’s soul? Such a trade is that of a fool:
16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Finally, the devil makes a much more curious kind of attack. It is harder to explain- the devil is seemingly trying to pervert the protection and help that we know God gives us by making us squander that help, or use it in appropriately. In particular, by putting God to the test. It seems to me that putting God to the test is particularly sinful because it is an act of rebellion- we no longer act to serve God, but instead try and make him serve use. Almost like a child trying to order a parent around, as it were. I am curious as to how my readers see this particular test. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.