Jesus’ 40 days in the desert came immediately after His baptism. Filled with the Spirit, just named by the Father as His beloved Son, Jesus was ready to endure the weakness of fasting. Taken his advantage, as he always does with the weak, Satan made three efforts to tempt Jesus into satisfying His hunger falsely.
Jesus faced two hardships–weakness from hunger and the impact of a severe environment. The desert can be cruel. It offers little respite from heat and thirst. Jesus’ hunger and thirst, combined with the severity of desert solitude, intensified His weakness.
Yet the Son remained spiritually acute and clear. He allowed the empty stomach and barren landscape to tune his spiritual eyes and ears. Jesus partook of the Father’s Word. Alive to unseen realities, Jesus might have heard the underground stream and waited for its surfacing. Already He was expecting the burning sand to become a pool. Jesus was ready for temptation.
No respecter of persons, Satan preyed upon Jesus’ perceived weakness three times. The first two temptations had to do with the enemy luring Jesus into proving Himself, the first by turning the desert stones into bread. That of course hooked into Jesus’ physical hunger.
Jesus responded by naming His main gluten-free meal—the Father’s Word. Alive to that Word which both confirms and feeds His personhood, Jesus busted the enemy’s scheme wide open. It’s as if He said: ‘Only the Father can feed me with food that lasts; only His Word validates me as the Beloved.’
Jesus knew the power of the Father’s validating Word over any miracle or meal. Similarly, He refused the second temptation to hurl Himself down and stay intact as the basis for His divinity. Again, Jesus knew such a test was wrong; His divinity needed no such validation. He had it, the Father confirmed it, and that was that.
Against the barren desert wilderness, the enemy offered Jesus his sexy kingdom—a world splendid and exotic, sensual, visually-stunning, enticing—a world married to man’s pride and vanity. (1Jn 2:16)
All Satan wanted in exchange for his realm was a little worship. Jesus knew the cost of such idolatry. He knew that friendship with sexy idols meant hatred toward God the Father. (James 4:4) Even in weakness, Jesus’ devotion was sure—He bowed only to the Father who loved Him.
Declaring that worship and service belong solely to the living God, Jesus sends the deceiver away.
In so doing, Jesus clears a path in our deserts. We follow Him, as we are still learning to be sons and daughters who listen first and foremost to the Father’s validation. Especially in times of weakness and distress, when our worlds seem more barren than fruitful, we are subject to the desert, and its temptations.
Sadly, we in our weakness have often agreed with the enemy’s deception there.
How many times have we demanded that God perform a miracle and give us what we hunger for now, when He is simply asking us to hold fast to His Word that feeds us more profoundly than any other meal? How many times have in our insecurity compromised our worship to the One just to be stroked for a few moments by a sexy idol?
Truly we are the weak and hungry and poor, those still driven and derided by the enemy who claims to validate our souls only to curse them. Like our Savior who goes before us in the desert of temptation, we must learn to respond to God’s truth and so spring the trap set for us there.
More than anything, this is about listening to the truth and upholding the Father’s sure Word to us. Perhaps He would say to us this Lent: ‘Listen to my voice; in your hunger eat my Word, let me confirm your insecure humanity. And where you in your pride and vanity have bowed down to sexy idols, let me lift you up. Let me wash you clean and set you free from the ties that have bound you to evil.’
At times we have failed the test in our deserts. Greater still is His mercy. Let Jesus make the burning sand in your life a pool of mercy.
‘As You have shown us mercy, O God, in the desert places of our lives, would You show mercy to the beleaguered state of marriage in the USA? As the Perry vs. Schw. case wends its way to the National Supreme Court, prepare for Yourself a victory. We shall render to Cesaer what is Cesaer’s but we shall prayerfully fight that what is Yours, O God. Prepare the hearts of each justice, especially Justice Anthony Kennedy, to uphold marriage according to Your merciful design. Remember mercy, O God.’