In each of the first three Gospels, after his baptism, Jesus is reported to have spent forty days in the desert, fasting and praying. In Luke and in Matthew, the devil presents three temptations to Jesus. The devil tempts Jesus to use his power to appease his hunger, he offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus will worship him, and he tempts Jesus to put God’s promise of protection to the test. In each case, Jesus resists, citing words from Scripture to rebuke the devil’s temptation.
Each temptation that Jesus faces offers insight into the spirituality we hope to develop as we keep the forty days of the Season of Lent. We can trust God to provide for our material needs. We worship God because God alone has dominion over us and our world. We can trust God to be faithful to his promises. Jesus’ rejection of the devil’s temptations shows that he will not put God to the test. Grounding himself on the Word and authority of Scripture, Jesus rebukes the devil by his confidence in God’s protection and faithfulness.
This Gospel highlights for us one of the central themes of the Season of Lent. We are dependent upon God for all that we have and all that we are. Anything that leads us to reject this dependency or to distrust its sufficiency, is a temptation from the devil.
Luke ends his report of Jesus’ temptation in the desert by noting that the devil departs for a time. The implication is that the devil will return. Jesus knows that he will be tempted again in the Garden of Gethsemane. The depth of Jesus’ trust in God is shown most fully when Jesus rejects the temptation to turn away from the task God has given to him. Jesus’ final rebuke of the devil is his sacrifice on the Cross.
Jesus’ responses to the temptations of the devil teach us how we can respond to temptation. As we start our journey through Lent, this Sunday’s Gospel calls us to adopt the same confidence that Jesus had in the face of temptation: God’s word alone will suffice, God’s promise of protection can be trusted, and God alone is God.