THEMES: God’s provision and protection on the Journey
Today’s scriptures focus on God’s provision and God’s protection.
As Christians begin Lent, Luke 4:1-13 reminds us of the premise and power of following the Spirit in the wilderness for a forty-day journey. It is the Spirit that leads us.
As we enter the season of Lent, we enter a time of self-examination and repentance, a time of preparation for the transforming power of Easter.
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus alludes to Deuteronomy 26, and the devil quotes Psalm 91.
In the Epistle reading, Jesus assumes the role of protector and provider for all who confess that Jesus is Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead.
Let us journey together in this season of RENEWAL!
On the first Sunday in Lent, we always meditate on the temptations Jesus faced in the wilderness.
Even as we read, though, we may find ourselves being tempted as well.
We may prefer not to examine the content of the temptations too closely.
We may find ourselves wanting to move on to how Jesus overcame the temptations with little thought for what he actually overcame.
Perhaps this is because we know, in some part of ourselves, that we are wrestling with the same temptations on a daily basis, yet we may be less effective at overcoming them than Jesus was.
If we would prefer not to do the painful work of honest self-examination, we might turn repentance into a “spiritual” exercise that deals only with little outward “sins” that hardly matter, while avoiding the truly destructive sins of the heart, the attitude, and the mind.
But the truth is that what Jesus faced in the wilderness was no different from the great temptations that all human beings must confront.
Jesus was tempted by his physical lusts, and the desire for immediate gratification with no thought for the consequences.
Jesus was tempted by the quest for power and the ability to influence and manipulate others to do his bidding, while using God’s power for his own ends.
Jesus was tempted by the wealth and glory of the world, and the quest to find security and influence through easy accumulation.
Lust, wealth, and power – these are the true temptations from which all others flow, and which bring really destructive consequences on the world.
Yet, through his willingness to deny himself, his commitment to servanthood, and his embrace of simplicity and generosity, Jesus rejected these temptations and brought life to the world.
This time of testing came immediately after the amazing and affirming baptism experience where God’s Spirit had descended on Jesus, and he had heard God’s declaration of praise.
You would expect, after such an encounter, that Jesus would immediately have gone out to change the world.
But, instead, he retreats into the wilderness and experiences one of the toughest times of his life (up to that point). Where God has proclaimed him as God’s son, now he finds his relationship with God questioned.
Yet without this trial, Jesus would not have had the confidence to fulfil his task in spite of all the questions and persecutions he faced.
Notice how none of these temptations were “sinful” in themselves.
Each of them would feature in Jesus’ ministry at some point – he did miraculously create food for the crowds; he did receive all authority in heaven and earth; and he did defy death.
It was not what he did that was the temptation; it was how and why. God’s first call is on our hearts, on the values and attitudes we will embrace to form the foundation of our lives.
We may do great good, but if it’s for our own selfish gain, we have failed to embody God’s Reign.
Yet, the smallest things, done in love, service, and generosity, have great value for God’s Reign.
How can you embrace the values and attitudes of God’s Reign more completely in your life today?
It can be tough to know our own motives sometimes. It can be hard to acknowledge when our hearts are more filled with our own desires than with the justice and love of God’s Reign. The only way to be sure, and to change our hearts, is to take time to examine ourselves. Today, make time to reflect on your life and actions and identify the motives of your heart. You may find writing in a journal helps you as you do this.
As you know my heart, O God, reveal it to me and change my motivations to align with yours