The Temptation in the Wilderness

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to him, he said, if thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down; for it is written he shall give his angels charge concerning thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him; and behold, angels came and ministered unto him.

— Matthew 4:1-11 

Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord Thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”

It was when Peter would have withstood him as he set his face steadfastly to meet this death at Jerusalem, that he gave Peter the same kind of answer that he gave to Satan in the wilderness. “Then the devil leaveth him, and behold angels came and ministered unto him,” saith St. Matthew. They brought him the food he had waited for, walking in the strength of the word. He would have died if it had not come now.

“And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.” So saith St. Luke. Then Satan ventured once more. When? Was it when, in the agony of the last faint, the Lord cried out, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” When, having done the great work, having laid it aside clean and pure as the linen cloth that was ready now to enfold him, another cloud than that on the mount overshadowed his soul, and out of it came a voiceless persuasion that, after all was done, God did not care for his work or for him?

Even in those words, the adversary was foiled—and forever. For when he seemed to be forsaken, his cry was still, “My God! My God!”

Commentary

by Leah Bond

The mercy of God, his dealing tenderly with us, is the highlight of this passage.

A tender and merciful Father would quickly deal with our temptation to run into the fires of Hell, thinking it was the warm avenue of escape.  God the Father allowed the ultimate trial of the finite child, upon himself, in the Son.

Christ experienced Mystery. Felt the unknowable and vast void of insecurity in the self, and he felt it completely. 

 There was no partition in his humanity to reserve room for the certainty of the divine.  Christ was tempted as we must and will be; in the moment when His separation from the Father was known to Christ the greatest, his spirit strove against the temptation, he did call out My God, My God.  

He deals tenderly with us.  He forms, inhabits the space of fear, insecurity, finiteness, even futility, hopelessness and despair. And He clings to the word, the truth, to obedience, and to life. 

In some way, Christ completed a work so we never need know the separation that Christ experienced. He came to the ultimate point of humanity, so that he could begin the way back for us, for our sake to follow in his steps.