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.
One of the greatest challenges I have to deal with daily, as a White, Western-thinking, Euro-African who now represents only nine percent of the demographics of South Africa; is that I don’t know what to do.
It’s not that I “don’t know what to do“. As a Western trained person I have a ton of ideas in every minute of exactly how the world should be! The world my way! The problem is that I arrogantly assume that my solution is the best, most logical and most obvious to any other rational human being. The frustration and anger that follows when no-one else agrees with me, nor implements my ideas, is proof that I have fallen prey to the Biggest Temptation the Wilderness held out to Jesus and holds out to anyone with ego, energy and ideas. The temptation of the quick fix
It is difficult to wait with a problem when your mind and skills base tell you that you know exactly what to do. Add to your competence a resource of divine power, and we begin to see what the temptations of Jesus were really about.
Overflowing with compassion at the suffering of the people that he had grown up with, Jesus wanted more than anything to see the hungry fed. Stones to bread was a simple solution. It was a quick fix. In Africa we are constantly confounded by how a well meaning air-drop of tons of food to starving people on this continent, can issue in cartels of connivance and control as food becomes another weapon to be used by the power mongers with the assault rifles. How can the well intended dropping of food be so abused to increase the suffering of the starving who can now see the bags of food they still have no access to?
In a world lost and hungry for meaning Jesus knew that he had a secret that could change lives forever. Would it be so bad to enter a coalition with another spiritual super-power, for the good it could bring? Surely together they could do more than when divided?
South Africa really liked the idea of trading with China, and still does. How embarrassing when that alliance meant the South African Government had to refuse a visa to the Dalai Llama who was invited to the country by the Buddhist community here. Quick fix coalitions can have counterproductive consequences.
Who doesn’t love a thrill? Entertainment is a massive global industry. It is fuelled by our need for illusions that will be the quick fix to the agony of reality we face daily.
Travel through any informal settlement in this country and you will see television antennae sticking out from the simplest of shacks. Everyone needs to be entertained.
Of course the media can do a power of good to expose and to educate. That is why every oppressive regime will demand total control of the media. In South Africa we have had experience of that in our dark history.
But fantasy and entertainment can also have devastating effects. What is a young man, with no education and no employment , to do when he sees on the television that to be a real man, he has to drive a German car, wear a Swiss named watch, and wear the shoes that it seems everyone in New York is wearing?
How does that young man become what he is told by the media to become if he has an illegal fire arm and a head full of crack-cocaine. What does he do when he knows where the people live who have what he has to have? If you don’t know the answer, read your next daily newspaper, it will tell the story of young men like the one I have described.
It is very difficult not to fall for the quick fix.
Food, Favours and Fantasy are powerful temptations, that have seduced even the church for centuries. They still do.
So what did Jesus know that made it possible for him to survive?
Based on his answers in this passage he seems to have understood that:
- Food is not the only supporter of meaningful life.
- That Faithfulness is more important than favours.
- Living a fantasy is the ultimate deception for the soul/ego.
The journey through Lent each year offers us the opportunity of cutting through the veils of deception that so easily wind around us.
- We fast, becoming aware of our obsessions with food.
- We seek solitude with God, examining our dependence on networks of favour and power that often supplant our trust in God.
- We simplify, our use of media and entertainment and come to live our God given realities in gratitude without constantly testing God to make things different from the way they are.
And through these forty days we pray to see that the quick fix for ourselves and others, is the biggest temptation of all.