“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Matthew 4:1 (NRSV)
In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “and lead us not into temptation.” Wait a minute – the verse above tells us that Jesus was led up by the Spirit to be tempted! Um – hmmm.
Maybe God wanted to test Jesus, so led him up to the mountain in the wilderness. Or maybe Jesus just felt that he needed to get away following his baptism to absorb everything. The devil might have just seen this as a great opportunity to try to get Jesus to renounce his identity as God’s Son. Or perhaps Jesus just needed to prove to himself that he was up to the task.
Because I can’t get into the mind of Jesus, I would only be guessing at what Jesus’ intentions were at this point. However, according to this scripture, Jesus withstood all those temptations of self-aggrandizement, putting God to the test, and the offer of earthly power.
When we think about it, those who tend to think of themselves as magnificent and indispensable, we might realize that most of them topple of the pedestal they had build for themselves. (Read the story of Mordecai in the Book of Ruth.) And those who test God by trying to bargain are almost always disappointed because they couldn’t outsmart God. Power corrupts, and when someone is in a powerful position, they become the target for being brought down.
Jesus’ ministry and purpose on earth were not of earthly things. He knew that the things of this earth aren’t permanent. Ultimately, it is relationship with God that lasts, and because of Jesus life, death, and resurrection, it is a “forever” relationship.
Jesus mission and ministry were to bring people closer to God, to bring forgiveness of sins, and to bring life everlasting. I’m thankful for forgiveness of sins because it means that we can receive a second chance. For some of us, we need those second chances regularly. Of course, the key is that when we ask for forgiveness, we are expected to learn from our mistakes, our sins, our turning away from God so that we can keep trying and moving forward.
I’m fully aware of what it’s like to be tempted and to give in. My biggest issue is eating foods that aren’t the best choices for me, but there are many other temptations. I really don’t believe that God LEADS us into temptation but that God allows us to experience them and learn how to not give in. That takes practice and persistence.
Matthew 4:11 tells us that after Jesus was tempted, “. . . the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.” When we resist temptation or when we repent from giving in to it, I suspect that the “angels” are there to wait on us. In fact, they were probably there all along, watching over us. Who knows. What we do know is that God wants what is best for us, and that is why we have been given a conscience. Let’s learn to listen more and follow our gut feelings when we are faced with temptation.
How have you been tempted?
In what ways have you been able to overcome them?
How have you found forgiveness when you have given in to them?