March 11

He fasted forty days and forty nights”

Scripture:  Matthew 4:1-11

 1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
   ” ‘He will command his angels concerning you,
      and they will lift you up in their hands,
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”

 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”

 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Reader: This is the word of the Lord.   Response: Thanks be to God.  

Some thoughts:

The clearest model of the forty-day fast and time of reckoning is Jesus himself. Prior to the beginning of his public ministry we read of his temptation by the devil. The devil makes few direct appearances in Scripture. In the Garden of Eden he succeeded in derailing humanity from a perfect sinless world into one of blighted self-rule by tempting humans to doubt God’s word by appealing to human pride. There is the indirect action of the devil in King Herod’s failed attempt to kill the young child Jesus in an effort to abort God’s plan of redemption. He failed. The devil’s next direct appearance to Jesus is at the end of the Savior’s forty day fast. We see in Jesus’ confrontation with the devil, the centrality and power of God’s word. In the face of great temptation, Jesus quotes the Scriptures in each of the three attempts to cause him to yield his will to Satan’s wish. (It behooves us to memorize Scripture; to absorb its content and context. It is truly the “sword of the Spirit.”  Why not set a goal of memorizing some portion of the Bible during these next weeks of Lent? You could start with the Beatitudes and maybe branch out to memorize the whole of chapter five of Matthew, or maybe I Corinthians 13, or Philippians 2:5-11.) If Jesus quoted Scripture in times of temptation and the devil left him alone, maybe he knows something we don’t! As the devil failed in his attempt at causing Jesus to fall, the last phrase is that he left Jesus for a more “opportune” time. He could not drive a wedge between the Father and his Son causing the Son to sin which would have ended God’s plan of redemption. The truth is, the devil never gives up then or now. The next recorded “opportune” time was when Peter, (the devil will use any means), tried to tell Jesus not to allow himself to be killed. The final time before the crucifixion was when Satan entered Judas who then betrayed Jesus. The irony is that throughout Jesus’ life, the devil sought to kill Jesus thinking it would thwart God’s plan of bringing redemption to the whole created order. In the end, Jesus did die, but not by being killed by Satan. Jesus voluntarily gave his life thereby destroying the devil’s hold on humanity and bringing restoration to the whole created order. All of this came in the context of worshiping God alone.

Music: “Ah Holy Jesus”     Sufjan Stevens This video is a little unusual. Sufjan and this band are not particularly “Christian” as such, though there is somewhat of a Christian heritage which you will hear. What I want you to notice is the impact the hymn text and nature of the tune has on a non-Christian crowd…even to the point of coming back to sing an additional verse. Never doubt the power of a biblically substantial hymn text to have a powerful impact. A very interesting video. This hymn is a part of every Holy Week service at some point.

Prayer: ―Thomas Aquinas 1225-1274

Give me, O Lord, a steadfast heart, which no unworthy affection may drag downwards;

Give me an unconquered heart, which no tribulation can wear out;

Give me an upright heart, which no unworthy purpose may tempt aside.

Bestow on me also, O Lord my God, understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and a faithfulness that may finally embrace you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.