By Revd Dom Jones
Matthew 4: 1-11
So here we are at the first Sunday in Lent, a time of fasting and prayer as we prepare to walk with Christ towards Jerusalem, his Passion and the Cross.
Lent is a time to stop and look at our lives and our faith, a time of self-examination. A time to look at the choices we make…….
Now I was in a bit of a quandary the other day. Hannah (my wife) and I were out shopping and while she was off looking around the ladies’ department, I found that I had strayed, quite unintentionally, in to the gent’s section – and it was there that I saw it… A wonderful jacket, stylish, colourful and really eye catching. At first I was going to walk on by, because I didn’t really need another jacket, then I noticed a bright yellow card above the rack announcing “One Day Offer - a further 30% off”.
A further 30% off, the already discounted price!!!
I looked around for Hannah, I knew what she would say “you don’t need another jacket Dom”, but she was nowhere to be seen. So I slipped the jacket off the rail, just to feel the quality of the material…..
Suddenly there was a shop assistant at my elbow saying the changing rooms are just this way Sir, try it on see how it feels.
Well it couldn’t hurt could it?
So I took off my coat and looked at my reflection in the mirror as the jacket slipped on.
It looked good.
It felt amazing.
I looked at the ticket price, originally reduced by 20% but now, for one day only – a further 30% off.
That means it was half price, half price, it looked good, it felt amazing – But I didn’t need a new jacket!
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and said “Get thee behind me Satan” and Satan said, Oh Dom it looks fantastic from the back!!!!!!
We are all tempted at some time or another, whether it is buying something we can’t afford or do not need or whether it’s taking another biscuit from the packet.
Temptations is always close at hand and being faced with temptation, the decision of whether we resist or give in is up to us. The decision is up to us.
In today’s Gospel reading we hear from Matthew, that following His baptism, straight after his ministry, identity and authority had been confirmed by God’s Spirit descending on him in the form of a dove and God the Father had said “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life” Jesus was taken into the wilderness and was tempted.
Jesus struggles with his vocation to his ministry that lies ahead – And then he is offered a short cut, a quick win, success.
Yes his was a noble cause, but there are easy ways to achieve good ends…… Is this the road Jesus should take? The decision is down to him.
The first temptation is all about food, Jesus has the power to turn the stones at his feet into bread. During the Exodus from Egypt to the promised land God had made manna in the wilderness, Jesus could do the same. He could feed all hungry people and at the same time show people who he was. We know from all of the gospels that he will feed the 5,000, but here Jesus resists the temptation, he will not satisfy his own hunger for bread or success this way. There is food for the soul to be offered first and verse 4 tells us Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”
Does Jesus know that he is the son of God? The second temptation asks if he wants to find out for sure: The devil suggests that he throw himself of the top of the temple, assuring him that God will save him, the devil goads him by quoting Psalm 91. “He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone.”
But again Jesus resists. He knows that God should not be put to the test. Jesus’ ministry has to be done the hard way, he has to be human. He has to gain people’s attention by the simple truth, by love and by example.
The final temptation is that if he will bow down to the devil and worship him, he would give Jesus all of the kingdoms of the earth. Jesus just had to transfer his allegiance to the devil rather than God.
Taking control by force is not God’s way. Jesus’ road to kingship lies through defeat and death. Kingship is tempting, but it’s not the way. Jesus is his Father’s son and his allegiance is absolute, even to death up on a cross.
It would have been so easy for Jesus to have given in to temptation. Everything he wanted to achieve was being offered to him on a plate, instant success, but at what cost?
In our world today there are so many temptations, so many offers of an easy life, a quick win.
Every break between our much loved TV shows and series seem to hold the promise of fortune and fame….”deposit £10 and we will give you £30 to play Foxy Bingo or Glitzy Bingo or Gala Bingo or I am sure all three…… but if they are giving you £20 of their money, is it because they know that you may not win, but you could very well get hooked and then keep playing even if you can’t afford it.
Temptations play to our insecurities;
I wish I was rich
I wish I was thinner,
I wish I was healthier,
I wish I was more handsome…..
We look to the advertisements for a quick fix, an easy answer, but deep down we know that there are no short cuts, no easy answers. The truth is that life is about love and joy, it’s about hardship and suffering. Fortunately for us Jesus refused to be turned aside, he resisted temptation, instead he lived a life like ours. In a confusing world, with so many competing voices, it is hard to hang on to the truth.
There will always be huge discounts off irresistible jackets, there will always be someone offering you something on a plate, there will always be money making schemes or bargains just too good to be true.
Will you be tempted – yes!
Will you give in – well the decision is yours………..
Jesus, in the wilderness shows us how attentiveness to God and thoughtfulness may help us through.
Now… would anyone like a biscuit?