Jesus is tested by the devil. Matthew 4:1-11 (NRSV)
Each year one of the Lenten readings that captivate us is the story of Jesus being tempted by satan. The story sets the stage for Jesus to be alone in the wilderness, alone to ponder, meditate, reflect, and pray on the journey ahead. This act of taking time away is most encouraged today as a good practice for mental health, that is taking time away from the busyness of life. By being still in a quiet place it often leads to introspection.
In the book titled “The Gift of Being Yourself” by David Benner, he proposed that,
“Christian Spirituality involves a transformation of the self, … There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self, and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God.”
Perhaps then, Jesus’ encounter with the devil is a human encounter with the dark side of self.
With a closer survey of Matthew 4, the devil encourages him to use the power invested in him to abuse the natural order of the environment by turning stone and making it bread when he was hungry, that is manipulating what is natural just for his personal wants, (a manipulation of what God intended). However, Jesus resists the temptation to please himself and focuses on the fact that God in wisdom will provide.
Then the devil urged Jesus to test God’s loyalty to him as the Son, as God promised. Push your limits to suicide and see if God will respond. Use your power to gather angels and followers who will ensure your feet do not touch the ground, like a king or emperor. It is as if Jesus was being encouraged to be a narcissistic diva, to see how much he is loved by God. However, Jesus reminds himself and us that true love comes with respect, honor, and trust.
Again, the dark side of self prods Jesus one more time. Use your power and with me (the self-serving way) as your leader, we can conquer nations and kingdoms together.
In the field of psychology, Satan could be the outward display of what lies within the heart of each human being. The human drive for food, shelter/safety, status/ambition, emotional security/ego. These are the tendencies that drive human beings to serve their own way, and to use resources and power to serve their own interest. Jesus, on the other hand, displays strength in his obedience to God’s will. He shows patient trust in the ways of the Lord. Though he has the wrestling of our human condition, he is focused on allowing God’s word and way to direct his journey ahead, even to the moment of the cross. This is an example of perfect obedience to God.
As we journey to this season of Lent, can we apply the key principles of the season which are prayer (penitence, contemplation, meditation), fasting, and generosity? In addition, let the Lenten readings, Lenten hymns, and the Lenten study materials, guide us into a deeper contemplation and reflection on our spiritual journey so that we may know, and trust God more than we know ourselves. These practices can bend the knees of the heart against our selfish ways, and the self-serving kingdoms that flourishes today.
Contributed by: Rev Khan Honeyghan