He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan...
Jesus purposely went into the desert. During his journey he encountered many things. Besides the obvious desire for water, and food, I do have to wonder what his loneliness must have been like.
I spend hours alone in my car each day driving from one hospice patient to the next. Often, I realize the loneliness I encounter. I remember the years that I worked with others in the hospital or while serving a church with people in the office throughout most of the day. I miss those conversations and times of sharing. My encounters now with people are often surrounded by the reality of mortality, attempts to "make sense" of life, or somehow try to relate the person's situation in a way that they can reflect and discover peace.
I have to admit, some days the loneliness really overwhelms me. On those days, I try to imagine what the desert experience must have been like for Jesus. Imagine having just spent the last few years making friends, calling disciples, and being followed by crowds to suddenly find yourself surrounded by dunes, a monolithic plain, and his own self.
For many of us, this intentional journey into the desert would be something we couldn't do. Within the confines of our own self, there are many desires. I don't know how many of us have the desire to be alone, fast for 40 days, and step out into an area that we knew nothing about and be alone.
We know that Christ was not alone. God was very real and present, however, there was another encounter that scripture speaks of. He comes face to face with Satan.
I'm one of those Christians that does not like to even justify Satan's involvement in anything. When someone tells me that Satan made them do it, or that Satan somehow caused an event to happen, I shy away from the idea that Satan has that much power. To admit this evil power is to relinquish the power that God has over things.
Now don't get me wrong, I do believe that real evil exists in this world. I do believe that we can be the victim of poor choices made by others, or the plans to do harm that others design. I have known a number of people who sabotage themselves as well. These people exist, and sometimes, those people are us.
However, we have a God who is always present. That remains true. Remember in Psalm 23, the writer shares that even as any of us "walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we shall not fear... for God is with us."
Christ's encounter with Satan was all about temptation. Temptation is something we all know about. For any of us, since we were very young, we have learned about manipulation, and what to say or do to create the outcome we desire for a number of situations. So it is with temptation.
Let's face it, the works of Christ was very public, and after all, the Son of God would certainly attract someone like Satan, just as there were those, even while Christ was dying on the cross, yelled to him to "Come down from there."
All of Satan's temptations for Christ in the desert were about having power and seeking ways to benefit himself. But yet, even as Satan asks Christ to:
With each offer, Jesus says, "No."
For me, these temptations aren't relevant to Christ. Of course he was hungry, but Satan is dealing with a man who just told a crowd on the side of a mountain that "blessed" are those who are humble.
He went on to share with the crowd that "blessed" are those who are poor in spirit as well.
And finally, "blessed" are those who seek peace.
In this confrontation, what I realize is that Christ is being a complete mirror of who God is, and what God is for each of us.
When we reflect upon the words that Jesus shared on a mountainside, we are provided with a reflection of the face of Christ. It paints a picture of a person who seeks to love. To be all loving. In the face of temptation, Christ is all that he asked us to become. To be meek. To be humble. To seek peace.
We are to seek justice and peace while embracing mercy.
The temptation of Christ is an invitation for each of us to become more like Christ, who was the complete embodiment of dust and the Divine!
As we continue our Lenten journey, may we come to see that the way of Christ is our way. It is our way of becoming who God desires each of us to become.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2020
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.