We need to remember that Jesus is fully human and fully divine. Our God became a man to experience everything we do, even the temptation of sin. There is an important part of the Our Father prayer where we say “. . . and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Many people have argued that our good God would not lead us into temptation, but today’s gospel says differently. In Mark today we are told that the spirit drove Jesus out into the desert to be tempted by Satan. God permits evil. But this time, Jesus is tempting the tempter. Let me explain.
If you are going to have a great Lent, then you need to understand why we have Lent. That also means understanding the events that lead up to Jesus being driven out into the desert. To obtain that understanding means we need to investigate the shadows of the Old Testament. We talk about the Old Testament foreshadowing what happens in the New Testament to understand. A shadow is caused by someone standing in the sun. We can see their shadow. It looks to be in the form of a person. We can see the shadow of a car and know a car is making the shadow. We can see the shadow of the building and without looking at the building know something of its shape. In the Old Testament we see shadows but not the object making the shadows.
But there are clues.
Let us look at the beginning with Adam. Adam is told that he can eat of any of the trees except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He is not to eat of that tree. In other words, he is to abstain or fast from eating of this tree’s fruit. As we are thinking of Lent, we have planned to abstain or fast from food or something similar. But we know Adam could not keep the fast. He failed and with him we all suffer the consequences. We are removed from God’s graces. We also know from the time of Adam to Noah; mankind became extremely bad. So bad that God had it rain for forty days and forty nights creating the flood that destroyed all but eight people, Noah and his three sons and each of their wives. The people needed to be washed of their sins and the flood can certainly be a symbol of baptism.
Moses led the Hebrew people out of sin in Egypt. They crossed the Red Sea, rather they passed through the Red Sea and we understand the passing through water as a baptismal rite. But the people grumbled against God and for forty years they wandered the desert before they once again passed through the waters of the Jordan River, another symbolic washing of entering the promised land.
So how is Jesus tempting the tempter? Jesus is the New Adam. Where the first Adam failed, the New Adam, Jesus, teaches us how to respond to the tempter. Jesus is driven out into the desert to make himself hungry as any human being would be. The tempter does not recognize the trap. For forty days Jesus fasted to prepare himself for the worst the tempter could do. Mark’s gospel does not list the three temptations in the desert, but we should all remember them. The first temptation, the tempter knows Jesus is hungry. If you are the Son of God change these stones into bread. Jesus is fasting. Whereas the first Adam could not maintain the fast but gave into his passions and ate of the forbidden fruit. Jesus tricks the tempter. The correct answer is live on the Word of God is the bread of life.
The second temptation was to put Jesus on a high cliff and the tempter says throw yourself down and God will send angels to protect you. It took the Hebrew people forty years wandering in the desert before they put their trust in God. In the desert they tempted God. Again, Jesus tricks the tempter. The answer from Jesus, you do not tempt the Lord your God.
And the third temptation, the tempter put him on a high parapet where Jesus could see all the kingdoms of the world. All this can be yours if you but bow down and worship me. The tempter could not recognize the divine side of Jesus. Jesus tricked the tempter. Why would God want any of the kingdoms of the world? God does not need anything of this world, but God does want our hearts. God desires that we love Him of our own free will. The tempter tries to enslave us with worldly temptations. We need this time of Lent to fast forty days, to enter that reality that is God.
As we fast and pray and perform works of charity, we turn away from the tempter’s offers and grow closer to God. The Old Testament foreshadows the coming of Christ. Christ suffered and died for us not only to redeem us to be worthy of heaven but so that we might stand up to the tempter’s tricks and lies. God will give you the grace this Lent to live on the Word of God, to walk humbly with our God, and not be enticed by worldly kingdoms but strive for eternal life with God.
May the Lord bless you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen