This week’s Gospel, Mt. 4:1-11, recounts Jesus temptation in the wilderness. He has just been baptized by John and heard the voice from heaven tell him, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Right after this, Jesus is led by the Spirit in to the desert to tempted. These temptations will serve the design of the Spirit. The devils own tool of temptation will be used for the Spirit’s purpose. That purpose: to clarify for Jesus (and us) what it means to be a beloved child of God.
So what do we learn from these temptations? Jesus is tempted by the devil to think that being a beloved child of God means:
He will have his fill and never be hungry (Mt. 4:3-4).
He will be safe and never be hurt (Mt. 4:5-7).
He will have power or his life and the lives of others (Mt. 4:8-10).
But Jesus has a deep sense of what it means to be a beloved child of God. The Spirit dwells within him and as the Eternal Son of God, he knows who he is. The forty days of desert fasting have prepared him to withstand these temptations. He is human. He fully accepts his humanity and as a human being, he knows that he will:
Experience emptiness and hunger
Experience fear and suffering
Experience powerlessness over his own life and those whom he loves.
Prayer, fasting, and an openness to the Spirit have taught him these lessons. The Spirit has taught him that these experiences will not separate him from God. God’s beloved children will suffer, but the Spirit of God will not abandon them.
As we begin our lenten journey may our prayer and fasting teach us the same lesson. Through our baptism we are united to Jesus and because of this we are beloved children of God. Nothing can separate us from His love. Thanks be to God!