Living with Temptation

Chapter 4 of Matthew and we are in the desert, at least to begin with. The link between this next story of Jesus and the story of Jesus’ baptism we heard last week is the Spirit. 

We have seen the Spirit descending and heard the voice of God, claiming Jesus as the Beloved Son with whom God is well pleased. Everything is poised for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and yet Jesus is led out into the desert for 40 days.

The number 40 is an important Biblical number. There was the 40 days and nights for Noah and the flood, and 40 years that the Israelites wondered the desert with Moses.  We also have the number 40 in our liturgical calendar.  I’m thinking of the 40 days of Lent, which begins on 6th March this year.  These are the days leading into Easter and reflects this 40 day period that Jesus spent in the desert.

This time in the desert is not the only time that Jesus faces temptation according to Matthew. If we think about it, we can probably remember the other times that Jesus faced temptation.  The temptation that results in Peter rejecting the cross at the end of Jesus’ ministry, the garden of Gethsemane and even on the cross, all times when Jesus was pressed to turn aside from his mission.  We are reminded that these temptations were a struggle,  remember we’re told that Jesus wept blood in the garden.  Regardless of these struggles with temptation Jesus was utterly faithful to God and to God’s mission for him.

In Jesus’ humanity and through his faithfulness to God through the Spirit’s empowerment, Jesus overcomes temptation. This provides great hope for believers, who can rely on the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures for their strength in the throes of every temptation.

After this time of testing Jesus heads to Capernaum near the Lake of Galilee and begins his ministry. As Matthew tells the story he again refers to words from the prophet Isaiah.

From this time Jesus began to preach his message: “Turn away from your sins, because the Kingdom of heaven is near!”

Jay Robinson

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