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Luke 04:01-13 Forty days of fasting of the Messiah


FORTY DAYS OF FASTING OF THE MESSIAH

INTRODUCTION

The season of the Great Fast is a period of spiritual renewal and preparation for the Great Feast of Easter. Jesus spent 40 days in the Judaean desert after his Baptism, to be in communion with the Father, and to be free from worldly distractions. At the end of that holy period, he faced temptations to misuse his power for bodily desires and self-glory. Satan misguided our First Parents when they were in Paradise and trapped them into sin by manipulating God’s words. Jesus overcame such Satanic delusions by the proper use of Sacred Scripture. Through the 40 days of spiritual strengthening in direct opposition to Satan’s overawing tests, Jesus gained the potential for self-control which, in turn, enabled him to joyfully accept the cross to save humanity. We remember the 40 days’ fast of Jesus by our special Lenten exercises like the Imposition of Ashes, Stations of the Cross, Fasting, Abstinence, and Philanthropy. Like Jesus, let us also use the Holy Bible to overcome all temptations for worldly ambitions and inordinate self-glory. Let our Lenten observance gain us strength to follow his narrow path that will lead to eternal glory with God.

BIBLE TEXT (LUKE 4:1-13 )

The Temptation of Jesus

(Lk 4:1) Filled with the holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert (2) for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. (3) The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” (4) Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” (5) Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. (6) The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. (7) All this will be yours, if you worship me.” (8) Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.’” (9) Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, (10) for it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ (11) and: ‘With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” (12) Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” (13) When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.

INTERPRETATION

Difference in the Great Lenten Observance

In the Latin Rite, the great Season of Lent starts on Ash Wednesday. There are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Since Sundays are the remembrance of Our Lord’s resurrection, they are exempt from the Lenten observance. When we thus exclude the six Sundays during the season of the Great Lent, there are only 40 days left.

The Churches of the Eastern Rite have 50 days for the Great Lent, starting with seven Sundays before Easter (Petratha) and ending with Easter. They observe the Season of Lent for 40 consecutive days in keeping with Jesus’ fast of 40 consecutive days in the wilderness. This ends on the 40th day, which is Friday before Palm Sunday. During the following 10 days, they adopt a stringent observance of Our Lord’s passion, death, and glorious resurrection. Thus, the 50 days Lent starts with the feast of Petratha (The Eve of the Great Fast) and concludes with Easter. So, instead of the observance of Ash Wednesday in the Latin Rite, the Eastern Rite Churches have the Imposition of Ashes on Monday after Petratha.

Background

No one was witness to Jesus’ fasting and temptations. So, Jesus must have shared his 40-day experience with his disciples. The temptations for making bread out of stones and jumping safely from the pinnacle of the Temple were impossible for humans. Jesus knew he could do them, but avoided giving in to such temptations. He never used his divine power for personal gain but only to help people and to convince them of his Messiahship so that they would cooperate with him for their salvation.

In chapter three, Luke presents the preaching of John the Baptist on repentance in preparation to welcome the Messiah. “He went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Lk 3:3). He advised the people who came to him: “Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance” (Lk 3:8). His emphasis was on the fruits of repentance: “Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Lk 3:9).

John gave practical suggestions on how to be fruitful. “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise” (Lk 3:11). John gave appropriate suggestions to people based on their profession. He said to the tax collectors, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed” (Lk 3:13). His advice to the soldiers was: “Do not practise extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages” (Lk 3:14). So, our Lenten observance should help us renew our lives for more acts of Christian charity.

After presenting John’s discourse, Luke recounts the baptism of Jesus (Lk 3:21-22). After John baptized Jesus and while he was praying, the Heavens opened, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus as a dove and a voice came from Heaven, saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Luke then gives the genealogy of Jesus tracing back from Joseph, his foster father, to Adam, “the son of God” (Lk 3:23-38). That reminds us that Jesus, though the Son of God, was also a son of man, and thus a perfect human, who was subject to human weaknesses. God allowed Satan to test Jesus like his human ancestor, Adam. Jesus won over Satan and redeemed humanity from Original Sin through his prayer, fasting, and self-sacrifice. During this season of the Great Fast, we also renew our lives to imitate Jesus for our salvation through our intense prayer, fasting, and acts of charity.

The Temptation of Jesus

(Lk 4:1) Jesus returned from the Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit. He was led by the Spirit into the desert.

Filled with the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit, that came upon Jesus at the time of his Baptism, remained with him. He always had the guidance of the Spirit that empowered him. That helped him to overcome the devil. The same Spirit came on the apostles to energize them with wisdom and courage to preach the gospel and to face persecution with boldness. The Christians receive the Holy Spirit at the time of baptism and renew it through other sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Confirmation. We should be conscious of this presence of the Holy Spirit within us and keep ourselves as the temple of God.

Jesus returned from the Jordan

Jesus went to the River Jordan for his baptism from John. Jesus did not need the baptism of repentance because he was God incarnate and, thus, free from original and actual sins. His baptism was for his official anointing as the Messiah, for the manifestation of his glory to John and for the formal commencement of his ministry. Thus, John got the conviction he needed concerning Jesus as the Messiah for whose coming he was preparing the people.

and was led by the Spirit

The Spirit of God, that descended and remained on Jesus after his baptism, led him to the desert in accordance with the divine plan. That was to strengthen him through his spiritual union with the Father for 40 days, just as Moses did on Mount Sinai for 40 days. Moses’ test after the 40 days of union with God was overseeing the idolatrous worship of his people. For Jesus, it was whether he should use his divine power to satisfy his hunger.

into the desert

The desert was essentially considered an ideal place for fasting, prayer, and communion with God. It supplies the silence, seclusion, non-proximity to material goods, and the concentration necessary for prayer. Moses, Prophet Elijah, the Essenes community, John the Baptist, and many ancient fathers of the Church selected the desert as an ideal place for communion with God. Jesus also chose the desert for his spiritual nourishment to prepare for his public ministry.

(2) where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. He did not eat anything during that time, and in the end he was hungry.

for forty days

According to Biblical numerology, 40 stands for preparation, purification, spiritual strengthening, and test. Examples of forty in the Bible are: Moses spent forty days and nights on Mount Sinai with God as a part of his training from God (Ex 24:18). During the same period, Israel had the temptation to fall into idolatry and they made a golden calf and sinned (Ex 32:1-6). Israel spent 40 years in the desert for the cleansing from their sins before entering the Promised Land. Israel also faced temptation in the desert during that period (Deut 8:2). Jesus spent 40 days of prayer and fasting to prepare for his public ministry. There he experienced the harshness of poverty and homelessness of the less fortunate in society.

to be tempted by the devil

Unlike the narrative of Matthew (4:2), and Mark (1:13), Luke states that the devil tempted Jesus during his 40-day fast. He does not specify how that happened. Only the three temptations that took place by the end of the fast days are specified, maybe because they were stronger or relevant to the faithful to learn from. The order of the three temptations at the end of the 40-days period is different in Luke. While Matthew and Mark mentioned the angels’ ministry of Jesus after the temptation, Luke skips that.

The Jews considered wilderness unoccupied by the humans and dominated by wild beasts as the mouths of Sheol with the powerful influence of evil spirits. When Korah took leadership to rebel against Moses in the wilderness, the LORD made a chasm, and the ground opened its mouth and swallowed Korah and his people with all their possessions down alive to Sheol. The earth closed over them, and they disappeared from the assembly (Num 16:30-33). According to Jesus, “When an unclean spirit goes out of a person it roams through arid regions searching for rest” (Mt 12:43).

A test comes from God and temptation from Satan, and not vice versa. God would never tempt a person to do evil, but Satan aims to lead us to sin against God like he did to Eve. When God allows a test for a person, the devil will take over, as with Job. The Spirit led Jesus to the desert for testing his integrity as a human. The devil took over as the tempter. A test is a challenging situation where we choose between acceptance and rejection of our loyalty to God.

The Greek word for “to be tempted” (peirazein) means to assess just as we test-drive a car before we buy one or interview a person before an appointment. A Biblical example is Abraham, whom God assessed before He made a covenant with him as the father of all nations (Gen 22:1). God also tested Israel for 40 years before they entered the Promised Land: “Keep in mind the long road along which the LORD, your God, brought you through the desert these forty years. He humbled you, to test you and know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not” (Deut 8:2). The intention was not to lead them to sin but to prove their commitment to God and to empower them to resist future challenges in their faith journey. Jesus succeeded and compensated for the failure of our First Parents.

He ate nothing during those days

The unavailability of food at the place where Jesus spent time in prayer is clear from the first of the three powerful temptations Jesus faced. If there was food there, Satan would not have asked Jesus to transform stone to bread. Did Jesus feel hunger during his fasting? Probably not, and that is why the evangelist mentions his hunger only when the fasting was over. Jesus was so immersed in his union with God the Father that he did not feel the hunger. When we are far too involved in an exciting or distressing experience, we might forget to eat. However, surviving without eating continuously for forty days and nights is a miracle.

Moses and Elijah, who appeared with Jesus during his transfiguration (Mt 17:2-3; Mk 9:3-4; Lk 9:29-30), had observed a similar full fast for forty days and nights in their respective lives. Moses spent with God 40 days twice at Mount Sinai with no food. “Moses was there with the LORD for forty days and forty nights, without eating any food or drinking any water” (Ex 34:28). After the first session of 40 days (Deut 9:9), God gave to Moses two stone tablets of the covenant with Israel. God commanded Moses to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land after Moses spent another 40 days with Him (Deut 10:10-11).

At the direction of the angel of the Lord, Elijah walked forty days and forty nights, without eating, to the mountain of God, Horeb, which is the alternate name of Sinai (1 Kgs 19:8). The prophet had a theophany experience there, and the Lord commissioned him to go back to His people via Damascus, anoint Hazael as king of Aram, Jehu as king of Israel, and Elisha as a prophet to succeed Elijah. God promised him, “I will spare seven thousand in Israel— every knee that has not bent to Baal, every mouth that has not kissed him” (1 Kgs 19:15-18). Similar to the experience of Moses and Elijah, God the Father prepared his Son during those 40 days in the desert for the new covenant and assigned him to lead the people to Heaven, the new Promised Land. and when they were over he was hungry

After fasting for 40 days and nights, Jesus’ hunger was so intense he had a severe temptation to perform a miracle to feed himself. The reason to consider a miracle was the non-availability of human food at that location. His hunger shows his human nature. His spiritual preparation gave him strength to resist the temptations. Our Lenten observance must help us to succeed in our spiritual and worldly tests.

(3) The devil then said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into bread.”

Why three tests?

If Satan tested Jesus for 40 days, were there only three tests? Or why do the Synoptic gospels highlight only three? The numeral three has a special significance in the Bible. Three stands for emphasis whereby Holy, Holy, Holy means, the superlative Most Holy or completeness. The Bible uses the number three 467 times. It is the first of the four numbers that stand for spiritual perfection, viz. 3, 7, 10 and 12. Examples of the use of the number three in the Bible include the Holy Trinity, three righteous patriarchs before the deluge (Abel, Enoch, and Noah), three righteous “fathers” after the deluge (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), 27 books of the New Testament (3x3x3), Jesus’ taking only three disciples (Peter, James, and John) to three special places (the Mount of Transfiguration, raising of Jairus’ daughter, and the Garden of Gethsemane), Jesus’ asking Peter three times to express his love for him before making him head of the Church, Jesus spending three years on his public ministry, the three prayers of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ suffering on the cross for three hours, Jesus being pinned to the cross with three nails, the three hours of darkness at the time of his crucifixion, and Jesus’ rising from the dead on the third day. Hence, Jesus’ overcoming three tests shows his perfect resistance to the evil one. Further, he quoted three verses from Deuteronomy (8:3; 6:13, 16) to counter the devil’s wiles.

The devil said to him

The devil is personified here. Maybe he appeared in human form or spoke the way he did through the serpent to Eve in Paradise.

If you are the Son of God

Both Jesus and the devil knew Jesus as the Son of God. God the Father had acknowledged it at his baptism. However, Satan challenged Jesus to prove his Divine Sonship by performing a miracle for his self-interests. The devil’s statement implied that “well, you are not the Son of God if you cannot do this miracle for yourself.” Satan knows very well how to manipulate the Word of God to tempt humans, as he did with Eve and Jesus.

command

God’s command by His Word created the universe in six days. Satan knew Jesus was the Word of God that took human flesh. His words are powerful to perform miracles. Jesus controlled his miraculous power to avoid misusing it to appease his hunger.

this stone to become bread

After a severe 40-day fast, Jesus’ body craved for food. But no food was available around. The rocks in the Judaean desert resembled loaves of baked bread. Satan pointed out one such bread to prompt Jesus to misuse his divine power. It was a temptation of lust to satisfy a bodily desire. It resembles Satan’s first temptation of Eve. “The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom” (Gen 3:6). Jesus resisted such impulses to misuse his power for his personal gain during his life on earth. However, he used it to serve the sick, the hungry, and the sinners.

God might give us more resources than necessary for us. He also provides the abilities and opportunities to serve others. Satan might tempt us to be selfish rather than share our resources, time, and talents with others. Those are the sins of omission.

(4) But Jesus answered, “Scripture says: No one can live on bread alone.”

Jesus never compromised with Satan. His goal was to defeat Satan and rescue humanity from his influence. Jesus had no reason to prove to Satan his sonship with God. So, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3, “It is not by bread alone that people live, but by all that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD” to reveal his preference for obeying God than appeasing human desire. Moses emphasized the importance of adhering to all the commandments of the Lord and the prophetic revelations. Besides the body, we have souls we need to nourish by obeying God and his representatives. Then God, who provided manna for 40 years in the desert, would provide what is necessary for his faithful. Firmly rejecting Satan’s suggestion, Jesus indicated his reliance on his Father for food, just as the Israelites did. At the end of the trial, God provided him food through the angels (Mt 4:11). When we keep trust in the Word of God, He would supply our needs. We should acknowledge that the good things of life that we enjoy are from God.

Though Jesus multiplied food twice during his public ministry, he did so when there was a genuine need. After the miraculous multiplication of food, the people wanted to make Jesus their king. They thought Jesus could keep feeding them just like God had fed their ancestors with manna in the desert for 40 years. Then they would not have to work for food. But Jesus was disinterested in an earthly kingship (Jn 6:15). Instead, he established the Church as his spiritual kingdom and feeds his people with the Word of God and the Holy Eucharist.

(5) Then the devil took him up and showed him in a flash all the nations of the world.

Scripture does not specify the top place where Satan took Jesus to show him all the kingdoms for this temptation. It could be a mountain somewhere near Jerusalem, though Luke does not mention the word “high mountain” as Matthew does (Mt 4:8). How they went to the elevation is also unclear.

Moses had a similar experience towards the end of his life, when God instructed him, saying, “Go up to the top of Pisgah and look out to the west, and to the north, and to the south, and to the east. Look well, for you shall not cross this Jordan” (Deut 3:27). “Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, the peak of Pisgah which faces Jericho, and the LORD showed him all the land … as far as Zoar. The LORD then said to him, This is the land about which I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your own eyes, but you shall not cross over” (Deut 34:1-4). God offered the land of Canaan to the Israelites, though He denied entry there for Moses.

Satan showing Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant” is impossible from one location on the earth. So, some interpreters view this not as physical transportation, but as Jesus’ mental vision of the entire world with a strong temptation to gain the world in an easy and worldly way.

(6) And he said to Jesus, “I can give you power over all the nations and all their wealth, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.”

Satan pretended as if he had authority and glory over all the kingdoms of the world. He did not claim to be its creator, nor did he specify who gave it to him. He claimed that he had received it and that he had the freedom to give to anyone he chooses. Ancient rulers like the Egyptian Pharaohs and Roman emperors had claimed divine origin, authority over everything, and demanded the imperial cult of their subjects.

By the fall of humanity, Satan exercises influence over the world. Therefore, God said to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel” (Gen 3:15). Jesus, who came as the promised offspring of the woman, had referred to Satan as “the ruler of this world” (Jn 12:31; 14:30). There are also cases where the Bible presents Satan as having power over this world (Eph 2:2; 6:12; 2 Cor 4:4; and 1 Jn 5:19). However, these refer to the sinful opposition of Satan to God in the present age.

(7) “All this will be yours provided you worship me.”

Satan here behaved like a thief bargaining to sell stolen property to its very owner! Satan knew Jesus as God and had come to reclaim humanity by defeating Jesus. However, he tried to deceive Jesus when he was weak out of hunger, just as Jacob exchanged stew with his hungry brother Esau for his birthright as the firstborn (Gen 25:29-34).

Jesus had to resist the temptation of gaining worldly power during his public ministry. In fact, people even sought to make him king (Jn 6:15). Since the Jewish authorities falsely accused Jesus of claiming kingship of the Jews, Pilate questioned Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” (Mk 15:2)

The devil tried to tempt Jesus to give up spiritual kingship for worldly royalty. He wanted Jesus to make a deal with him.

However, Jesus Christ, the very Creator and Prince of the Universe, did not need to make any contract with Satan. We ourselves likewise face temptations to make agreements with sinners for material gains. But Jesus has shown us a model way to work for heavenly possessions and glory by utilizing the talents God provides us with in this world.

(8) But Jesus replied, “Scripture says: You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him alone.”

Jesus refused the Devil’s tempting offer by quoting from Deuteronomy 6:13. Jesus’ response reminds us of the First Commandment. Our worship and service must go only to the one true and triune God.

Though Satan failed to win Jesus over, he has won many humans as his worshippers over the past many centuries. Satanism has developed into a philosophical and ideological belief that hounds humanity no end even in the modern world of the 21st century. Let us be watchful that we and our children do not fall into such devil worship that will lead to our eternal damnation.

(9) Then the devil took him up to Jerusalem and set him on the highest point of the Temple; and he said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here.”

Then he led him to Jerusalem

Luke has a different order for the three temptations. Unlike Matthew, he ends the temptations at Jerusalem, the destiny of Jesus’ public ministry (Lk 9:51; 13:33).

made him stand on the parapet of the temple

From Solomon’s time, the Temple was on a levelled Mount Zion. The parapet or pinnacle that overlooked the Kidron Valley was at the south-eastern corner of the Temple where Solomon’s Porch and Royal Portico met. The height of the pinnacle down to the Kidron Valley was 450 feet. At this parapet, a priest stood every morning and sounded the trumpet to announce the time of dawn for the morning sacrifice. The evangelist did not specify how Jesus and Satan came to the parapet of the Temple. It could be by walking or by a supernatural way of airlifting. The Biblical significance of Jesus appearing there, and amazing people was the fulfilment of Malachi 3:1. By jumping off the pinnacle of the Temple, remaining unharmed, according to Satan, could be an easy way of convincing people about the Messiahship of Jesus.

and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here”

Here also, Satan tempts Jesus to establish his divine Sonship through a miraculous performance of jumping from the parapet of the Temple and emerging harmless. Jesus knew he could do it with his divine power. But he declined to fall prey to Satan’s tactics.

(10) “for it is written: God will order His angels to take care of you (11) and again: They will hold you in their hands, lest you hurt your foot on the stones.”

The devil quoted Psalm 91:11-12 that was addressed to those “who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shade of the Almighty” (Ps 91:1). It is not a prophecy about the Messiah, but a prayer of a person who would take refuge in the Lord, especially in the Temple where God will protect him even in a dangerous situation. Satan, who is said to be very smart, cited the scripture to back his tactics and applied it to Jesus to do a purposeful fall to win people’s faith in him as the Messiah.

According to Satan, if Jesus obeyed him, he would show that he believed in Scripture, and if he did not, it would show his distrust in the Word of God. Jesus knew he was the “Son of God”. He did not have to prove that to Satan by an amazing show. Jesus knew that such apparent wonders were short-lived and could not convince people from the perspective of their conversion. Many people who witnessed Jesus’ miracles did not follow him.

(12) But Jesus replied, “Scripture says: You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”

Expecting God to protect Jesus if he dared jump from the pinnacle of the Temple would be equivalent to testing God. Jesus notified Satan that he did not intend to commit the same mistake of testing God as the Israelites did at Massah in the desert (Deut 6:16). There they tested God by quarrelling with Moses and preparing to stone him for lack of drinking water for them, their children, and livestock. Then Moses cried out to the LORD for help. As per His instruction, Moses went with the elders of Israel to the rock of Horeb. The LORD stood in front of them. Moses struck the rock with his staff that he had used to strike the Nile for partition and water flowed from the rock. The place got the Hebrew names Massah (the place of test) and Meribah (the place of strife, of quarrelling) (Ex 17:1-7). Jesus was sure that God would rescue him if he fell from the pinnacle of the Temple. But that test would be a sin against God, as had happened in the case of the Israelites at Massah.

Satan might manipulate the Word of God, to make us sin against God as he did to Eve and tried with Jesus. Like Satan, some people use Holy Scripture to justify their sins and tempt others to fall in their misstep. Our response is significant. Jesus succeeded where Adam and Eve failed. God protects us when we take risks for his Kingdom as He did often in the history of Israel and for those who laboured for the Church. However, we cannot expect God to safeguard us from the consequences of our wilful choices and actions.

Luke omits Jesus’ command, “Get away, Satan!” that Matthew reports at the end of the third temptation (Mt 4:10). However, when Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:16, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test,’ it also implied that Satan should not test Jesus, who is the Son of God.

(13) When the devil had exhausted every way of tempting Jesus he left him, until a more opportune time.

When the devil had finished every temptation

The devil cannot tempt God. However, he could try it on Jesus because he was also human, and he became one among us in every respect except sin. Therefore, Jesus subjected himself to Satan’s test to show us how we can overcome temptations in this life.

“Every temptation” means all tests typified in the three that a Christian might face in this life. Jesus won over Satan’s temptations and then God the Father provided all that he needed.

(1) After Jesus triumphed the test to satisfy his hunger by misusing his power, the Father sent the angels to minister to Jesus with food (Mt 4:11).

(2) Jesus overcame human greed for gaining worldly accomplishments. Afterwards, Jesus could perform many miracles to help the people and to reveal his Messiahship. The Father glorified Jesus at the time of his baptism and transfiguration. After his mission, Jesus sits at the right hand of his Father on the heavenly throne. The world acknowledges Jesus as the most popular person that ever lived.

(3) Satan tempted Jesus to test God’s protection by jumping from the pinnacle of the Temple. However, the Father protected Jesus from the untimely assassination attempts of his enemies. When Jesus prayed at Gethsemane to take away the cup of his passion, God sent an angel to strengthen him (Lk 22:42-43). After his death and burial, the Father honoured him with the singular grace of rising from the dead on the third day.

Without misusing the power and testing God, Jesus could get everything that Satan falsely offered. So also, God will provide what we need when we labour for the Kingdom of God in our given situation as we see in the annals of Church history.

He departed from him for a time

The departure of the tempter from Jesus’ presence was only temporary. The Bible does not record any further tests direct from Satan, except on one occasion. At the last supper, Jesus told the apostles about the coming of Satan, probably at the Garden of Gethsemane, “The ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over me” (Jn 14:30). This can be taken as the devil’s intervention to tempt Jesus at Gethsemane. Jesus overcame it by praying to the Father to take away the chalice of the cross if He wished to. The Father sent an angel to strengthen him to proceed with his passion and self-sacrifice for the sake of humanity (Lk 22:41-43). This also has resemblance to the angels that came to minister to Jesus after the temptations in the wilderness.

Jesus encountered the influence of Satan indirectly through others, including his own people and his opponents. Jesus faced many demons through demoniacs, and he cast them out. When Jesus predicted his upcoming passion to his disciples, Peter rebuked him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” Then Jesus sensed it like a temptation from Satan through Peter and responded, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Mt 16:21-23). Judas Iscariot had deviated from his vocation and betrayed Jesus because Satan had entered him (Lk 22:3). When Jesus foretold Peter’s triple denial, Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat” (Lk 22:31). When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, he surrendered to them, saying, “This is your hour, the time for the power of darkness” (Lk 22:53).

MESSAGE

1. Though the Church instructs us to observe the Great Lent with fasting, abstinence, prayer, and charity, they should come also as our free will decisions. Let fasting and abstinence help us overcome sensual urges and desires. Our Lenten prayers and humble service would help us win over our avaricious ambitions. Charity will give us a deep sense of joy rather than the temporary happiness and the consequent troubles that emanate from greed and self-glory. In keeping with Jesus’ teaching, let us be mindful of the vain nature of rituals lacking in the spirit.

2. Observance of the Great Fast is a period of spiritual renewal and should lead us to be fruitful. John the Baptist preached: “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise” (Lk 3:11). Following his practical suggestions for repentance to the public, to the tax collectors (Lk 3:13), and the soldiers (Lk 3:14), let our Lenten observance help us renew our lives through more acts of charity.

3. Many Christians have fallen into the snares of Satan and have forsaken their religious practices. Without Jesus, the only mediator between God and us, we humans cannot reach heaven. The means to maintain our relationship with Jesus is through his Church and her sacraments. Let us pray for the return of fallen Christians and ensure that we do not become slaves of worldly ambitions as had happened to Judas Iscariot, who renounced Jesus for ill-gained wealth.

4. The numbers of satanic worshippers are on the rise in the modern world. They are losing out on their own salvation even as they recruit others to join their path of spiritual destruction. We have to be vigilant against such movements and help our children and others to be safe from the effects and influence of anti-Christian activities.

5. God would allow tests on us in this world to verify our fidelity to Him and to empower us spiritually. When we succeed, it might come one by one as had happened with Jesus three times. Disasters came one after another in Job’s life. We still need to resist the repeated temptations without fail, seeking the grace of God. Once we withstand the test, God will bless us abundantly as he did for Job and Jesus.

6. The Biblical meaning of temptation is “a trial in which man has the free choice of being faithful or unfaithful to God” (https:// www.encyclopedia.com/religion). Satan encouraged Jesus to deviate from his Father’s plan by misusing his authority. Jesus used Holy Scripture to resist all such temptations. When we face temptations, we should look for a solution in the Bible.

7. The tempter who took the form of a serpent to tempt Eve, made use of Peter to tempt Jesus to avoid persecution (Mk 8:33). Satan sometimes uses us to tempt others, like our friends or members of our family. We need to be watchful lest we become agents of the devil.

8. The tempter can come in the form of any person. Those who love us and those whom we love can unknowingly be our tempters. Many Christians now form groups against the Church and hierarchy. They spread anti-Church propaganda with false information to misguide the faithful. So, we must be vigilant in dealing with such devil-influenced scandals and scandalizers. Let us be steady and strong in our faith based on the Holy Scriptures, Catholic traditions, and the official teachings of the Church.


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