Luke 4:1-13 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.'"
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'"
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying 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 protect you,'and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'" Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Reflection The devil “departed from (Jesus) until an opportune time.” Hummm. I prefer to think that once Jesus made it through his ordeal in the wilderness, what St. John of the Cross would call a dark night of the soul, that he was free. That he was free from the devil, which is to say, free from vulnerablity to temptation. But Luke’s text in unequivocal. Jesus was free only until “an oportune time” when the devil would return to bait, invite or incite him.
A sure and certain example of the devil’s return occurred immediately following Peter’s identifying Jesus as “The Christ” in Mark 8.29 and Matthew 16.16. Jesus was explaining to the disciples that he would suffer, die and rise in three days when Peter “began to rebuke him” and Jesus returned the rebuke saying, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God but on the side of men.” (Mark 8.32-33) This makes me wonder if Peter represents Jesus’ interior experience of vulnerability to the temptation of the power, privilege and esteem of being identified as “the Christ?” And if this is so it makes me love Jesus even more because over and over again Jesus chose to be on the side of God rather than on the side of men.
Jesus was fully human and subject to the devil who would tempt him at any “oportune time” to use his identity as “the Christ” for his own gain or ambition. But Jesus consistently chose to be on the side of God. Jesus was faithful to his identity as the Son of God. He did not presume to be God nor to use the healing, teaching and life transforming powers that flowed through him for his own benefit. Although he was tempted Jesus did not turn away from his relationship of dependency on God. The way we say this in theological language is, Jesus did not sin.
Like Jesus, we also find our identity as the children of God. And like Jesus we are tempted at every “opportune time” to misuse our God given gifts. As we enter the season of Lent and take time to review our lives and choices let me suggest that the question before each of us is, “In all that I say and all that I do, am I choosing to be on the side of God or on the side of humankind? Am I using my God given gifts and power for the good of my community or am I using them for my own ambition and gain?”