♦ ♦ ♦ LUKE 4 : 1 – 13 ♦ ♦ ♦ THE TEMPTATION OF JESUS
Like Mark and Matthew, Luke explains that it is the Spirit who leads Jesus into the wilderness after his baptism. This is the training camp that will prepare him for his future ministry, and the devil is the sparring partner who will toughen him up for the challenges that lie ahead. In Luke, Jesus has been tempted throughout his 40 days of fasting. These final three temptations represent the greatest tests of all.
Hunger isn’t the only issue at stake in the first test. One of Luke’s main themes is our attitude to material things – food, money, possessions, property – and he has already set out the new world order in Mary’s joyful song: ‘He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty’ (1.53). Drawing inspiration from the Scriptures (Deuteronomy 8.3), Jesus refuses to let his own hunger distract him. The words of God are what give life, offering far more strength and satisfaction than material possessions.
The second test is about power. Falsely claiming that all the kingdoms of the world are his, the devil invites Jesus to worship him and receive all the glory and authority that come from them. Jesus resists the lie, quoting Deuteronomy 6.13 – the power belongs to God, who is the only one to be worshipped and served. Again, Mary has celebrated the new truth of God’s kingdom in which the imbalances of power are corrected: ‘He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly’ (1.52).
The final test is about security. Luke places this last, seeing it as the most significant. Quoting the Scriptures himself (Psalm 91.11-12), the devil urges Jesus to throw himself off the Temple, trusting that God will rescue him. Jesus quotes
Deuteronomy 6.16 in reply, refusing to test God in such a way. He has not come to save himself, but to give his life for others. How many of our prayers are concerned with our own safety, and the safety of those we love? Can we learn to pray in a more sacrificial way? Yet again, Mary offers a better alternative: ‘Let it be with me according to your word’ (1.38).
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