Jesus was Tempted
Sunday, 10th March 2019
It seems to be a law of life that after every high there’s a low; when you’ve a great experience, watch out for the low that may well follow! I’ve seen in the lives of the saints; I’ve seen it in my own life; I see it even in the life of Jesus! How can I say that? Surely Jesus didn’t have highs and lows. But he did. He was human in every way that we are. Today’s gospel happens just after the high of his Baptism, when the heavens opened and he heard God, his beloved Father, saying to him, “You are my beloved son. My favour rests on you.” After an experience like that he must have felt fit and ready for anything! But what happens next? He’s led, by the Spirit, to the low of the desert where he is tempted in every way that we are! How many times have we heard that? But it’s hard to believe it, isn’t it? Ah no, not Jesus! Can’t have been as bad for him as it is for us! I’m convinced it was even worse for him. The more highly sensitised you are, the more aware you are of all that is going on around you, the more in love you are with people, the more you will enjoy and the more you will suffer!
And Jesus was the most highly sensitised and compassionate human being that ever lived. Because of that, he was all his life wrestling with his vocation. His vocation was to save his people. That was clear but how to do that was not at all clear. Encouraged by God’s words, he was led to consider various possibilities: maybe by improving their lives materially; maybe by choosing the way of power and freeing them from oppression; maybe by jumping from the heights of the temple and having the angels save him from harm and so winning their allegiance. But he saw these were all temptations to be rejected. They seemed good like all our temptations seem good at the time. But they weren’t God’s way! God’s way was the way of slow patient teaching and seeming failure. It wasn’t just in the desert or the garden that he wrestled with this and begged to be spared. It was there all the time!
Remember the day when he was so sharp and impatient with Peter, calling him a ‘Satan’? And all because Peter was saying these awful things can’t happen to you. You won’t be rejected. We can’t allow this to happen! And Jesus is sharp, I’m sure, because he’s afraid himself. Humanly, he’d like to agree with Peter!
But did you ever wonder how do we know what Jesus experienced at his baptism or in the desert or in the garden? It must be that he wasn’t ashamed to tell those close to him about his experiences, good and bad. And while, in the gospel today, they are told like external happenings, they were, of course, struggles in his mind, heart and soul. That’s where the battle rages. That’s where the battle is won or lost. And if it’s won, like in the desert, it’s only for a while, not for all time. With us too, the battle to be faithful is never won once for all. It continues right through life. The battles we fought and thought we won in early life return fresh as ever in later life. It’s normal. We know that. And it was the same for Jesus. (see Hebrews 5:7,8)