The Temptation of Christ

Filled with the holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.’” Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said 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 guard you,’ and ‘With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time. (Luke 4:1-13)

The Gospel account of Jesus tempted by the devil in the desert gives us a lot to think about, especially how the devil tempts ordinary human beings like us. The Gospels tell us that right after Jesus was baptized, He was filled with the Holy Spirit and He was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil (Lk 4:1-2). These forty days recall the forty years during which the Israelites wandered through the desert, where they were also tempted by the devil (Dt 8:2).

But that is not all. At Jesus’ baptism, a voice from heaven said, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased (Lk 3:22).” Jesus, who was proclaimed Son by the Father, was then subjected to a triple temptation. Obedience to the Father is an essential quality of a true Son, and therefore the devil tempted Jesus to rebel against the Father through disobedience, just as the devil and his apostate angels rebelled against God. The devil and his minions basically tempt people to rebel against God, to distance themselves from God and to disobey God’s commandments.

In the first temptation, Jesus rejected the devil’s temptation to turn stone into bread by saying, “It is written, ‘one does not live by bread alone’ (Dt 8:3).” This phrase in Old Testament theology means that all good things come from the gratuitous love of God, and anyone who forgets that is reminded that one’s abilities, health, wealth and everything we have ultimately comes from the grace of God.      

In the second temptation, the devil promised that he would give Jesus all power and glory, but only if Jesus would worship him. In so many times and places, the devil has tempted so many people with power and glory, only if they would turn away from God and worship the false gods of wealth, sex, power and glory. So many people had fallen into this particular temptation, in varying degrees and in varying circumstances. Many have sold their souls to the devil; they have exchanged eternal life for a temporary life of pleasure. Jesus rejected the temptation of power and glory by holding fast to the words which God commanded the Israelites after their deliverance from Egypt: “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve, nor shall you go after other gods. (Dt 6:13-14)”  

In the third temptation, the devil tempted Jesus to put Himself in harm’s way in order to test God. What are the ways in which we test God? The most common way is to ignore precautions and justify it by saying, “I put myself in the hands of fate.” Jesus rejected this temptation by quoting: “You shall not put the LORD, your God, to the test.” But the complete quote adds: “… as you did at Massah.” (cf. Dt 6:16)

At Massah, there was no water for the people to drink, and so they complained and quarreled with Moses: “Give us water to drink… Why then did you bring us up out of Egypt? To have us die of thirst with our children and our livestock?” Moses replied to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to a test?” (Ex 17:1-3)

What many people don’t realize is that complaining and quarreling is another common way of putting God to the test. In the case of the Israelites who complained to Moses, they put God to the test by demanding and not trusting God, who brought them out of Egypt, who performed many wondrous things for them. We say that we love God and we say that we believe in God, but if we complain and quarrel to get the things we want, we are, like the Israelites, putting God to the test.   

In Luke’s Gospel, the temptations conclude on the parapet of the temple in Jerusalem, because it is in Jerusalem that Jesus will eventually face the temptation of the devil again. The Gospel says that the devil departed from Jesus for a time; the devil’s opportune time will come before the passion and death of Christ. Jesus said to His disciples: “Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mt 26:41) But the disciples slept and Jesus faced the final attempt of the devil to tempt Jesus to rebel against the Father’s will through disobedience. Adam gave in to temptation in the Garden of Eden; but Jesus overcame temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the end, Jesus, the true Son triumphed where Israel, which was called God’s first-born son failed (cf. Ex 4:22). Whenever we are tempted to sin, let us say a prayer that Christ may be our strength and our hope.       

Our one-day Lenten retreat and pilgrimage will be on March 19, 2022 at the Purification Heritage Center (PHC). Save the date on your calendar. Children accompanied by their parents are welcome. There are no fees for this retreat. Please register with Daisy. For more information, please check our post: Lenten Retreat and Pilgrimage

Come and join us for Stations of the Cross during Lent. Stations of the Cross in Chinese are held every Wednesday after the 12:00pm Mass, Stations of the Cross in English are held every Friday after the 12:00pm Mass.

Do you want to send aid to the people in Ukraine? Here’s are some organizations that are helping Ukraine now with humanitarian aid: