THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT – WEEK OF FEBRUARY 18, 2018
DAILY READING: Luke 4:1–13
FOCUS PASSAGE: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. (Lk. 4:1–2)
This is a core Lenten reading. Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, hearing God say, “You are my son, my beloved, the one who delights me.” In that water, his core identity was confirmed, pressed deeply into his soul. Immediately from those waters, the Spirit led Jesus into the desert, where he fasted for 40 days and was tempted by Satan.
Matthew says more about fasting in his version of this story (Matt. 4:1–11), while Luke gives attention to the leadership of God’s Spirit and to the temptations themselves. Both accounts shape the Lenten season, where we take a 40-day walk with Jesus that involves fasting, self-denial, and inner cleansing.
Fasting involves abstaining from something that is part of our normal life. Whether we refrain from food, conversation, or company, fasting is often accompanied by temptation of some kind. When hungry (for food, talk, or companionship), we are vulnerable and more susceptible to subtle compromises.
Satan (the name means “adversary” or “accuser”) tempted Jesus in three different ways. This period of fasting and temptation came immediately after Jesus’ baptism. His baptism confirmed his identity. It stamped Jesus with the mark of God, which he would live into the rest of his life. For the rest of Jesus’ life, he lived as a fully developed human (Son of Man) and in complete oneness with the Father (Son of God).
The temptations, on the other hand, were lures – at moments of weakness, after fasting – for Jesus to turn aside from his core identity. He was tempted to trade in his most authentic self for some alternative way of doing life. He steadfastly refused to do so.
You and I face the same temptation every day, and we make the trade frequently. We often choose for safety, prestige, or accomplishment to the detriment of our truest self. We choose wealth, judgment, and idolatry over God.
We do not necessarily trade for something evil or overtly destructive, but we are tempted away from the very thing that would give us life and free us to live transformed lives in the world.
At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus would not make that trade. He stayed true to his God-given, God-created identity.
Through Lent, it might be a helpful spiritual discipline to notice how often you are tempted to make that trade in a 24-hour period. In doing so, you might have a clearer sense how deeply Jesus was connected to God.
The Lent Weekly Devotional series is written by Jerry Webber, Community Pastor, The Center for Christian Spirituality/Contemplative Worship.