I’m working on an assignment to write daily devotionals on the Gospel of St. Luke.
I got to the story in chapter 4 about Jesus’ temptation in the desert after John baptizes him. At the same time I was thinking about this, I began listening to a talk by Jeff Cavins about suffering. Jeff was talking about suffering being something allowed by God in order to give us an opportunity to trust Him.
With that thought in mind, I read Luke’s account of Jesus’ 40-day fast and temptation in the wilderness. And I got a different impression of the sequence of events Luke describes. I was already aware that different Gospels describe different orders for the temptations the devil throws at Jesus. Matthew places the temptation to jump from the pinnacle of the Temple second in the row. Luke gives it the third place.
Jeff Cavins’ talk gave me a fresh way to understand the significance of this test for Jesus. Was God’s Word truly enough to direct your steps around the snares and traps the devil lays before us? Jesus had a solid testimony and experience afterwards that this was so. It was an example he could call us to follow without hesitation.
What I found interesting was Luke’s order of the temptations.
The first one was about turningt stones to bread. I immediately thought of the temptation satan dangled before Adam and Eve in the Garden. Jesus had been fasting 40 days. Food was a guaranteed winner, an already tried and proven temptation. So that was the first thing the devil tried. Strike one.
It seems like the failure of this first effort got satan’s attention. For his second effort he put everything on the table. All splendor and the authority of earthly kingdoms had been given to devil. He offered all of it in exchange for Jesus’ obedience and worship. It would be a quick way to put an end to his further suffering! Jesus was not interested. Strike two.
There was time for one last effort. But what did the devil have left to offer? Suddenly, that last temptation looked like a stupid, panicky, desperate stunt. Jesus kept quoting the Bible, did he? He wanted to trust the Bible, did he? Satan grabbed for a verse and suggested a way to test it right now. Jesus wanted the attention of crowds, didn’t he? (Actually, that is debatable.) This would guarantee his fame!
I suspect the devil knew it was far likelier that Jesus would simply kill himself if he jumped and that would satisfy the devil just fine. But he had no other offers to make. He had to improvise something in a hurry.
And he got strike three.
Or, to kick the metaphor around, Jesus got a home run.
What occurred to me was that each trial represented a weaker effort by the enemy and a step closer to victory for Jesus.
The difficulty and discomfort of the wilderness trial ended by reassuring Jesus that, indeed, he could trust God’s Word and he could trust his Heavenly Father, even as he faced the worst the devil could throw at him.
It’s a way to look at suffering and not lose hope.