Posted by Forrest Parkinson

The Temptation of Jesus

Q 6
Part 1 Into the Wilderness

Filled with Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was guided into the wilderness. Here he was put  to the test by the devil for forty days. During that time he fasted and when it was over he was very hungry. Then the devil said to him, “if you are God’s son, turn this stone into a loaf of bread.” But Jesus replied, “Scripture says ‘People cannot live on bread alone.’”
Borg-Powelson-Riegert Reconstruction (1996)

Matthew 4:1-4
http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=232866407
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness
to be tempted by the devil.
He fasted for forty days and forty nights,
and afterwards he was famished.
The tempter came and said to him,
‘If you are the Son of God,
command these stones to become loaves of bread.’
But he answered,
‘It is written,
“One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’

Luke 4: 1-4
http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=232866480
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.” ’

Dear Jesus Way Friends

Is there a desert that you fear? Or that you ought to fear?

In the Palestine desert, there were maybe a few lions, and more frequently jackals, which would be happy to make a meal of a pilgrim. Then as now, the Bedouin tribes-people considered themselves separate from and unfriendly to the Hebrew people. There were robbers and slavers in the wilderness fully prepared to relieve a wanderer of their valuables, their freedom or their life. Water could often be tainted and unhealthy. Lack of food and uncomfortable weather is why the wilderness is unpopulated in the first place. Imagine wandering alone on the high plains of Nevada. The wilderness is not safe.

The wilderness is not safe, then as now, because the wanderer is isolated from the strength of their community. Alone, a wanderer is left to their own strength. Alone, the wanderer surrenders control over his experiences. A bag of bread makes him a target and increases the danger of injury in a robbery. Rags mean he is worth no ransom. A Holy Man makes a poor slave. Bringing the comforts of home into the wilderness is dangerous. The wilderness requires a dedicated purpose, to hunt, to traverse,  to settle, to find Holiness.

In the powerful story that forms every Hebrew heart and spiritual consciousness to this day is the forty year journey of the Hebrews guided by Moses in the Sinai. Those Hebrews did not hunt; they found the Manna, the bread from heaven. They did not settle; God promised them a land of milk and honey. They did find holiness, but not so much through striking interior revelations as through the spiritual formation of a generation to trust in a power greater than themselves to provide their purpose, way of living and daily bread.

The story of Jesus being tempted in the desert is also just such a powerful story in the spiritual formation of people who find themselves guided to follow Jesus’ teachings. If Jesus encountered temptation in the wilderness and it proved his mettle; so shall we? And if so, how so?

The trouble with identifying a wilderness is the personal quality of the wilderness in our lives. I enjoy going on silent retreats for several days and once took the thirty-day Ignatian exercises, which is silent retreat. It was a powerful turning point in my life, but suited my personality and I liked it. I’ve spoken with friends who are concerned that even a one-day silent retreat would be torturous for them. But to put me in the middle of a strange city where I do not speak the language is a terror in my imagination, just as it would be a thrilling adventure for my friend.

For one young Israeli, who believes in the use of armed force but not in the way Israel is using the Army the West Bank, his wilderness is the dangerous lanscape of conscience. His resistance to induction in the Army has resulted in repeated incarcerations and strained relations with family and community. The military lock-up and lonely Shabbat suppers are his personal wilderness testing his ethical mettle.

I think a wilderness is place that seems dangerous and which deprives us of our accustomed props of safety and comfort. Your wilderness will match your character, your circumstances and your psychology.

For many people, psychotherapy is a wilderness where testing dangerous psychological states can bring freedom through awareness and uncomfortable clarity. Some wilderness I would run away from… like a party that becomes drunken. Some wilderness may require my humble self-control; testing my commitment to love all my neighbors… like being seated at a table with folks who discuss healthcare and the “parasites” that want it. Maybe the desert of political opinion is a wilderness in which I need to be tested. Maybe I fear disapproval and censure as much as I fear hunger.  Maybe I want to judge my neighbor and feel self-righteous? A critical question is “who leads me into this wilderness?”

Moses had God leading him and the Hebrew people with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Jesus was lead into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the way God is leading our lives seems like stumbling along. Still, there will come a point where following a teaching of Jesus will isolate you from some prop of safety and leave you alone to be tested.

Friends… what has been a wilderness for you? What have been the signs, or indication, that God is leading you there?

Faithfully,

Forrest

Seeking Jesus’ way.

Next Week
The Temptation of Jesus
Q 6
Part 2 Tests and Temptations

Filled with Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was guided into the wilderness. Here he was put  to the test by the devil for forty days. During that time he fasted and when it was over he was very hungry. Then the devil said to him, “if you are God’s son, turn this stone into a loaf of bread.” But Jesus replied, “Scripture says ‘People cannot live on bread alone.’”
Borg-Powelson-Riegert Reconstruction (1996)

Matthew 4:1-4
http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=232866407
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness
to be tempted by the devil.
He fasted for forty days and forty nights,
and afterwards he was famished.
The tempter came and said to him,
‘If you are the Son of God,
command these stones to become loaves of bread.’
But he answered,
‘It is written,
“One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’

Luke 4: 1-4
http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=232866480
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.” ’