The Gospel which is the story of the temptation of Christ in the desert is a classic Lenten reading.
Each of the temptations that came to Christ, as is each that comes to us, was a temptation to infidelity, to faithlessness. It was the Father’s design that the Messiah would accomplish his saving work by taking on himself the weaknesses of his people and overcoming those weaknesses by infusing them with his own fidelity. The Messiah was to be a patient, gentle servant, not a king, not a general.
Satan tempted Christ with a style of living that must certainly have been attractive to him personally. It would be to anyone. But it was one which was completely inconsistent with the role the Father was asking him to play in the world.
Adding to the temptation, certainly, was the fact that the kind of Messiah Satan urged Christ to become was exactly what all the people around him wanted as well. If Christ had chosen to be a ruler of cities, supported by throngs of Angels who turned stones into bread, he would have been accepted immediately.
There would have been no hunger, no poverty, no weariness, no Judas, no crucifixion. But neither would there have been a Resurrection, nor a Pentecost. The only real change that would have been made in God’s people would have been a full stomach, and people can be just as weak and foolish and vain on a full stomach as they can on an empty one.
If the Messiah was to change and renew God’s people, it was to the emptiness of infidelity that he had to first address himself.
All of those attractive things that were offered, things that seem so good, are in fact evil when choosing them means being unfaithful to the kind of life to which God calls not only his Messiah but every one of his people.
We too are certainly tempted, as a Church, as families, as marriage partners, as parents, as children, as individuals. Tempted time and again by so many things that seem so good. Tempted by so many opportunities that seem to promise to increase our wealth, our comfort, our social acceptability, our power. All seemingly so easy to do …. and all so faithless. All so foreign to what we are called to be.
In the desert, Christ did not debate with Satan, he didn’t try to match wits with him, he simply said “No”. Faithfulness. Fidelity to what he knew was God’s design. That was Christ’s strength in the desert, and it will be ours as well. Fr Andrew