Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
We’re past the mid-point place in the journey and it’s becoming tiresome. Is it all worth it? We haven’t really seen any sign of where we’re going and things have gotten so incredibly uncomfortable (and some of it is beginning to get a little personal!). We’re ready for all of this to be over. At the beginning of the journey, we heard that Jesus had gone into the wilderness. We already know that. But the writer known as Mark didn’t really elaborate on the temptations that Jesus encountered. This version of the story seems to focus on just that.
First of all, Jesus was fasting. Now it doesn’t say what kind of fast—there are fastings from all meals except breakfast, there are fastings from everything except water, there are fastings from everything that enters one’s mouth. There are also other fastings—fastings from certain input into one’s mind, fasting from doing certain things, perhaps fastings from human contact. Maybe that’s what Jesus was doing. Because forty days and forty nights by oneself doesn’t provide a lot of company. He probably was famished. But whatever Jesus’ fast entailed, it was long and it was hard and he was famished.
So Jesus is tempted when he is the most vulnerable, when all of his guard and his shields were down. He is tempted to guarantee having what he needs, tempted to impress and be liked, and tempted to be in control. Henri Nouwen said that the temptations were to be relevant, spectacular, and powerful. Oh, he could have made excuses. We all do it. After all, think how much powerful his ministry would have been. Think what WE could accomplish if we were relevant, spectacular, and powerful. The truth is, those things are not bad in and of themselves. Relevance, spectacularness (probably not a word!) and power can do great things when they are harnessed in the right way. But when they get in the way of who God calls us to be, when they become the reason we are doing things, when they become our primary focus and goal in life, then they have pulled us away from who God calls us to be.
See, Jesus knew those temptations and knew to resist them. I think the whole reason that Jesus was tempted at all was not to prove that he could resist temptation but rather to put these things in their proper place. They are not bad; they are just not the main thing, should not be the goal that we are trying to accomplish. The truth is, this wilderness journey does not beg for us to accomplish; maybe in some way it calls us to famine, to being famished, so that we know exactly what we need. So, again, why are we here in the wilderness? We are here to empty our lives of ourselves so that they can be filled with God. We are here to realize how our souls hunger and thirst for God. We are here to finally know that nothing fills our emptiness, nothing fills us up, nothing fills our souls but God. We are here to finally know that longing for God is our main thing because our longing will lead us to what we most need.
One needs to keep on thirsting because life grows and enlarges. It has no end; it goes on and on; it becomes more beautiful…[One] cannot be satisfied until [one] ever thirsts for God. (Alexander Baillie)
FOR TODAY: Long for God. Write down what that means. What emptiness do you feel?