Luke 4: 1 – 13
Lord, you are divine energy and living irresistible might;
Since of the two of us it is you who are infinitely stronger,
it is you who must set me ablaze and change me into fire that we may be welded together and made one.
To read the gospel with an open mind is to see beyond all possibilities of doubt that You, Jesus, came to bring us, not only a new life, but also.. A new physical power of acting upon our world. Tielhard de Chardin
Speak Lord, your servant is listening.
You have the words of eternal life.
Once again we need to understand the genre, the literary form that Luke is using. This text is not describing what actually took place; it is not an eyewitness account of the event.1 It is a ‘poetic’ way of saying what took place throughout Jesus’ life and shows us how he handled these trials. We are called to follow his example.
These ‘parables / images’ convey a profound TRUTH. They tell us that Jesus experienced temptations throughout his life in much the same way as we do. This text is emphatically teaching us that Jesus is fully human. Paul is quite clear about this. In the letter to the Hebrews he writes, “For it is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though without sin.” (Heb 4: 15)
“Forty days” and “wilderness” are used symbolically. The first means a life time. The wilderness was a place of disorder where demons dwelt. Jesus is entering a world where he will find good and confront evil in all its forms.
Our reading opens with, “1Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit..” “Led by the Spirit”, means that Jesus was guided by the Spirit in his response to all the problems he faced. He was not left on his own as he struggled against injustice and oppression. The Holy Spirit was with him. We too can be confident that the Holy Spirit is always active in our lives.
Let us now allow the Lord to speak to us through his Word. Read Lk4: 1-13 a number of times searching for the TRUTH in the words.
Twice we hear Jesus being challenged, “If you are the Son of God..” This sounds more disturbing when we remember that a few verses earlier, just after his baptism by John, Jesus heard, “You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rest on you.” Jesus’ relationship with the Father is being challenged, and will be challenged again and again.
As he hung on the cross he was bombarded with the same temptation.
As for the leaders, they jeered at him, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” (23: 35)
The soldiers mocked him too, .. “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.” (23: 36-37)
One of the criminals hanging there abused him. “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well.” (23: 39)
Is this what Luke is referring to when he concludes with “Return at the appointed time.” Is this the appointed time? Jesus continues to be tempted right up to the end of his life.
Luke leaves us in no doubt that Jesus triumphed over all these temptations. On Calvary the centurion said, “This was a great and good man.” (23: 47b) Mark and Matthew go further when they have the centurion say, “In truth this man was a son of God.”
“The Key message for us in this passage is that Jesus mission was to defeat evil in all its manifestations, by the power of the Spirit in love. This conflict and Jesus’ victory is a theme which permeates the whole of Luke’s gospel.” 2
“If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf.” Jesus is being tempted to go against his very nature. The Church teaches that Jesus was both human and divine. Most people have little difficulty accepting Jesus’ divinity, however some struggle with his humanity. The Vatican Document, Gaudium et Spes tells us that:
worked with human hands,
thought with a human mind,
acted by human choice,
loved with a human heart…
like us in all things except sin.
In this first temptation Jesus is tempted to deny his humanity. He is tempted to fall back on his divinity, this he will not do. He will always remain his true self. When we experience temptations we are drawn away from being our true selves. We are called into a deep and loving relationship with the Father. To sin, is for us to abandon this call.
In the second temptation Jesus is tempted to take short cuts in his mission, by buying peoples loyalty, rather than to win the world through love, his way of life and his values.
In the third temptation it is suggested that the way to fulfill his mission is to use the spectacular.
Again and again Jesus uses Scripture to conquer evil. Scripture must have been very important to him. It was central to his spirituality.
Are the Scriptures the foundation of my spirituality?
- Armellini F, Celebrating the Word, p68
- Fallon M, Gospel according to Luke, p 82