March 4, 2001

Luke 4:1-13

Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by the Devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up he was hungry.

The Devil, playing on his hunger, gave the first test: "Since you're God's Son, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread."

Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: "It takes more than bread to really live."

For the second test he led him up and spread out all the kingdoms of the earth on display at once. Then the Devil said, "They're yours in all their splendor to serve your pleasure. I'm in charge of them all and can turn them over to whomever I wish. Worship me and they're yours, the whole works."

Jesus refused, again backing his refusal with Deuteronomy: "Worship the Lord your God and only the Lord your God. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness."

For the third test the Devil took him to Jerusalem and put him on top of the Temple. He said, "If you are God's Son, jump. It's written, isn't it, that 'he has placed you in the care of angels to protect you; they will catch you; you won't so much as stub your toe on a stone'?"

"Yes," said Jesus, "and it's also written, 'Don't you dare tempt the Lord your God.'"

That completed the testing. The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity.

<The Message >


1. There is hidden sweetness
     in the stomach's emptiness.
     We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox
     is stuffed full of anything, no music.
     If the brain and the belly are burning clean
     with fasting every moment a new song
     comes out of the fire. . .

     A table descends to your tents,
     Jesus' table
     Expect to see it when you fast, this table spread with
     other food better
     than the broth of cabbages.

          from The Illuminated Rumi

2. "As unpopular as the idea of fasting is to most people today, few Lenten experiences can be fully real unless one takes the trouble to watch and wait and fast with the Christ as He meets the awful reality of evil in the wilderness. The encounter with Satan is a real one. Jesus does not project the evil onto any group or individual, but meets it head-on in temptations which have not changed much from that day to this. T.S. Eliot bridges the centuries in his stirring play Murder in the Cathedral , showing how similar and yet contemporary the meeting with the evil one was in the death of Thomas a Becket. Evil is always tempting us to use power or good works or spiritual clout rather than love as our motivating force. I find only one way to set out living my life as Jesus lived His, fulfilling my own unique destiny. And that is to stand beside Jesus in the desert as He searched His own soul and listened to the devil's words and rejected them."

     from Morton Kelsey, The Other Side of Silence

3. "It is probably unnecessary for me to be saying any of this; you already have your spirituality and you probably have your religion. You most likely even have your own good ways of being wise with it. I do however want to call you to sharpen your sensitivities and look beneath the surface. What is real for you in faith? What is your actual experience? Take a breath and face into your faith courageously, just as it is. See what is there. Feel what you desire. Sense where your doubts are. Own your certainties. Whether you can justify it or not, claim what you know as true. But claim it with gentleness, with flexibility. Do not freeze it. Let it be free to grow into ever deeper truth.

"In my own faith, there are a few simply things of which I have become certain. First, although I don't know who or what God is, I have no doubt about God's existence. I'm happy that I don't know God's face; it allows God to come to me as God will. Second, I know God is loving and that God's loving is trustworthy. I know this directly, through the experience of my life. There have been plenty of times of doubt, especially when I used to believe that trusting God's goodness meant I would not be hurt. But having been hurt quite a bit, I know God's goodness goes deeper than all pleasure and pain -- it embraces them both. Third I know God responds to prayer. I don't know how or why; but I know it is true."

     from Gerald May, Simply Sane

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