This Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent, the few weeks before Easter when we all are asked to think about how we are living our lives and if we need to work on any areas to try to improve. We should also take the time especially now to remember and thank Jesus for His sacrifice He made for us on the cross. For this first Lenten week, I’d like to talk about a big word—temptation. Temptation, or being tempted, is when you want to do something even though you know it’s not the best choice. Adults and children are all tempted, so it never really goes away. The temptations just may change somewhat as we grow older.
Some of these may seem minor, but some are very big ones and hard to resist, and you will have to decide what you will do right then. Maybe it will be something just like sneaking a piece of candy after your Mom has told you not to, or it may be something like cheating on a test at school or keeping money you just found on the ground. Doing what is right and what we’d like to do are often hard, hard decisions that face us all throughout our lives. The flicker that goes through our minds is that no one will know or find out, so just this once won’t hurt, but in our hearts, we know differently. Yes, all of us are tempted to make wrong choices now and then. That is not a sin; it’s what we do when tempted that sometimes turns into sin. But guess what: even Jesus was tempted in our story this week as found in Luke 4: 1-13.
After Jesus’ baptism, He went into the wilderness all by Himself to pray. He was there for forty days and forty nights—over a month! He prayed and prepared Himself to begin His ministry of preaching and teaching to the people about God. He didn’t even eat during these forty days and forty nights. At the end of His pilgrimage in the wilderness, the Bible tells us He was tempted by the devil.
As I said, He hadn’t eaten for over a month, so He was really, really hungry. He noticed some smooth stones that looked like loaves of bread on the ground. The devil said, “I know you’re super hungry. Turn these stones into loaves of bread if You are the Son of God, that is.” Jesus was tempted because He had never been so hungry, but He answered, “No. The Bible says man does not live by bread alone.” Jesus knew He shouldn’t use His power for selfish reasons. Jesus knew God sent Him to do more important things.
Next, the devil told Jesus that He could have power over all the kingdoms of the world—all of the armies, castles, and riches—Jesus could have it all. He could be the boss of everybody and everything! He just needed to do one, tiny thing. He would have to worship the devil instead of the one, true God. Jesus said, “No. The Scripture tells us to worship the Lord and to serve only God.” Jesus knew that God was the One truly in charge and that to be faithful to God was right – to follow the devil, even for all the money and power in the world, would be absolutely wrong and lead to unhappiness.
The devil took one, last shot at tempting Jesus away from what He was meant to do and be in this world. The devil took Jesus to Jerusalem and lifted Him up to the very tippy-top of the Temple. He said, “Okay now, show me Your stuff. Throw Yourself down from this high place, and let’s watch God save You.” Jesus said, “No. It is not right to test God in such a way.” Jesus knew His power was not for show but to do good and bring people to God.
The devil gave up, and Jesus got to work, teaching and preaching about God, God’s love and forgiveness, and showing people how to be God’s faithful servants.
Everyone is tempted to do the wrong thing now and again. Making the good choice to say “No” to temptation is what Jesus did and what we can do too. But when we sometimes make the wrong choice, Jesus understands and promises to forgive us, so that we can move on and make the right choice the next time. All we have to do is pray to Him.
Let’s pray together. Dear God, it helps us to know that Jesus went through the same kinds of things in life that we go through. Help us to make good choices like Jesus did. And when we make mistakes, please forgive us and help us to do better next time. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Ann Moody is a retired pastor, formerly of the Wilkesville First Presbyterian Church and the Middleport First Presbyterian Church. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.