I am embarrassed to admit how many times I have read the story of the Temptation of Jesus in Matthew Chapter 4 but never even realized what exactly Jesus was doing here. All along, I thought that Jesus was outwitting the Devil! I was so focused on how Jesus could not be trapped by Satan and his empty promises, that I assumed that Jesus was just a better debater. I fundamentally overlooked the most important part of this Gospel and it has affected me terribly in life.
Let me start at the beginning:
- Jesus is “led by the Spirit.” That explains my first mistake. I have lived my life basically leading myself–my goals, my dreams, my life. Really, I did not leave a whole lot of room for the Spirit to even visit, let alone lead me anywhere. I wasn’t open to this or aware of the need for it as a young person.
- “To be tempted by the Devil.” Okay, so this should have taught me that in reality there are going to be temptations in life that are brought on by the devil. I live in a time when most people no longer believe or teach that Satan is real. And don’t even mention “sin” because according to those same people, sin no longer exists either. (P.S. I now know that these are both big lies!)
- “He fasted for forty days and forty nights.” I think about the self-mastery necessary to fast for this long, and realize that Jesus knew that he must cleanse himself first before facing “other.”
- “And afterwards he was hungry.” Do you want to know who you really are? Let yourself get really hungry–do not eat for an entire day or two while still maintaining your usual work load. By the end of the day, review how you have acted towards those around you. How kind were your words? Did you help others before helping yourself? Could you maintain your peace? When I am hungry, I feel my inner toddler coming out and it is not pretty at all. I can only imagine if I had to face Satan after 40 days of fasting. Would I have the inner fortitude to survive?
- “The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’” A-Ha! Eureka! This is the passage that blew my mind and our good Pope Francis was the one who broke it open for me. Jesus was NOT, I repeat, NOT arguing with the Devil. He was quoting God! He turned to verses from the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament for Christians) and quoted God to the Devil. In fact, every single reply that Jesus makes is from the Scriptures.
Now, maybe you are reading this and wondering why I am so excited about this Eureka moment. I think it is because I have lately been seeing very clearly just how duped we are by Satan and his empty promises. People that I know and love are trapped by their ignorance of Satan and his lies and cannot even see it. I was becoming a bit depressed or despairing because I could not figure out how God could expect us to battle such a strong enemy with our limited human capacities. I mean, really? Human versus Angel is not a very difficult contest! That’s when I realized what a gift the Word of God is for us. We already have the answers we need to combat Satan, if we are willing to spend time turning to God’s Word and his Church in our times of temptation. If Jesus Christ, Son of God, would not directly engage with Satan, then neither will I. As for me, I will let Christ’s example teach me how to fight this enemy!