The story of the temptation of Jesus challenges and encourages us to take time to examine our own faith and see where we have been tempted away from God's true path. In the letter to the Hebrews the writer tells us '...because he has himself been through temptation he is able to help others who are tempted.'(2.18) and again later 'It is not as if we have a great high priest who is incapable of feeling our weakness with us, but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are..'(4.15)
Having been in the wilderness for a long time Jesus was hungry and alone. The physical cost of this vital period of reflection must have been great. When we feel down or vulnerable, lonely or upset, it can be easy to lose touch with God. 'How could God let this happen to me?' we ask. And yet it is precisely at these times that we need to find God most. Turning the stones into bread would have met an immediate need but Jesus had higher priorities from which he did not want distracting. It is easy for people at a low ebb to seek comfort in food, drink, or even drugs in order to find a way of taking their minds off the pain. Unhappy with themselves, having low self-esteem, it can be uncomfortable to be alone and they search for reassurance that others find them attractive, funny or powerful. Jesus in saying 'Man cannot live by bread alone’ was pointing out that it is important to confront the causes of inner unhappiness. The time comes when we must be at peace with ourselves and to be truly at peace requires an open and honest relationship with God that allows Him to carry our burdens, and in which we realise that we are special enough for him to die for us. Knowing how priceless we are in God's eyes, low self-esteem seems sinful. The passage Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy refers to the hard time in the wilderness for the children of Israel and concludes, 'Learn from this that the Lord your God was training you as a man trains his child.. so follow his ways.'(Deut 8.5). The discomfort of personal reflection yields a reward worth the hardship.
Secondly Luke tells us of the offer of power over all the kingdoms of the world. This really throws up the contrast between the power of Jesus, and earthly power. When we think of powerful people on earth we come up with 'fat cat' directors of multinational companies, national leaders with vast defence budgets, people waited on hand and foot. But as Mark tells us 'the son of man came not to be served but to serve, to give his life as a ransom for many.' (10.45) Had Jesus become a military leader, or perhaps a first century multi-millionaire by applying his considerable intellect to the pursuit of earthly power or wealth, then his influence would have hardly outlived his human lifespan. Today however his power is still reflected in the living hearts and mouths of those who have been inspired by his love. Earthly power corrupts. Often people are so caught up in the process of accumulating wealth that they have no time for their families, working so hard to earn money that inevitably money drives their lives. Politicians have also worked their way to positions of power in the House of Commons, to find that they give up their power to judge an issue on behalf of those who elected them, and instead bow to the party whips. 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.' was Jesus reply.
With all this quoting from scripture the devil decides to do a little himself from Psalm 91, taunting Jesus. God will not allow you to be harmed, so throw yourself down and He'll save you! And Jesus replied 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ Deuteronomy (6.16) then continues '..as you tested him at Massah'. At Massah the children of Israel in the wilderness had complained that God had let them down, where Moses had struck the rock and water flowed out. Even though they had already been given Mannah they still questioned God's ability to sustain them. The Israelites looked towards Moses to see whether the Lord was among them or not. They were looking for a God who was outside, divorced from their own responsibility.
To find God, however, we need to search inside. Paul, in his letter to the Romans also quotes from Deuteronomy. (30.14) 'The word is near you, it is in your heart and mouth.' God's power and his will for us is not remote, to be accessed from a distance, it is to be found in our own hearts and in our mouths, in the way we think and feel and in the things we say, both in our inner dialogue and to others. So we are reminded that lent is a time for us to examine our relationship with God, how we feel about Him in our hearts, and how that is carried through in our words and actions. Through a sincere and honest relationship with God within us we allow his power to work through our lives so that those words and actions can help build the kingdom of heaven around us.