Luke 4:1-13 (NRSVCE)
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 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. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 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. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’”
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, 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.’”
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.
I love the temptation in the wilderness, because it really showcases the fullness of Christ’s humanity. It’s said all the time “Christ is fully human, here are reasons X, Y, and Z proving it so.” It’s also enshrined in our creeds. And that’s all great. But in this passage, his humanity isn’t some metaphysical reality discussed by theologians. It is much more visceral—much more real.
Think about it. Would the devil have bothered trying to tempt God? Of course not. God cannot be tempted. God is immutable, by nature. He does not change. But in Jesus, God took upon Himself a human nature. Human nature is mutable. We change all the time. The devil succeeded in tempting man once before, and thrust the world into chaos. So it stands to reason that the devil could do it again. If Jesus is truly man, he is able to be tempted—he is able to change. The devil uses all his wit and all his powers of deception and coercion, because he knows this is his chance. It worked on the first Adam. But this time, with the Second Adam, he fails. Jesus resists the temptations that Adam succumbed to.
This isn’t merely a symbolic story of how the new Adam prevails where the old Adam failed. It instead showcases the reality of what man is capable of becoming, when he is properly ordered to the will of his Father. There is no more perfect union of man to the will of the Father than in Christ. And Christ shows us how to reorder ourselves: through prayer and fasting. Like Jesus, we must spend this Lenten season denying ourselves the material pleasures we too often put above God. All the world offers us is bread. But we do not live by bread alone. Our life comes from above. By releasing our dependency on things of the world, we are able to focus ourselves on conforming to the will of our Father, by the grace of the Holy Spirit. And it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit within us, as He was in Christ, that we will find ourselves able to resist the temptations of the devil.
Christ was tempted, as we are. And we will continue to be tempted. Christ shows us our salvation. Our only hope is to hold fast to our Father, to God. Because it is God who will deliver us from the snares of the devil.