I would imagine that for many of us, the thought of Jesus being tempted is an uncomfortable one. After all, isn’t Jesus supposed to be the perfect one, the sinless one? How then can he even be tempted to sin? Often that is as far as we allow our thoughts to take us- and when we stop there, we miss the deeper message that our readings are trying to convey to us.
The temptations that Jesus faces in the Gospel are variations of the same temptations that we face in the world today. There is the temptation to satisfy one’s bodily needs and pleasures, the temptation to over-inflate one’s ego and make a show of power, and the temptation to amass great wealth and power in the world. For Jesus, and for us, each of these temptations are meant to try to lead us away from the path to the cross and salvation. They are meant to lead us to seek pleasure, power, and status here and now, and cause us to lose our focus on the future hope of God’s kingdom and reign. Jesus rightly resists these temptations, because he knows that for God’s kingdom to truly come about, his authority needs to be exercised in humility, selflessness, and sacrifice, not through pride and power.
We are called to respond to the temptations that we face in the same way that Jesus did, by following the path of humility and selflessness. However, in our human weakness, we may have a harder time with that- but that does not mean that all hope is lost! And one way that we can begin to have victory over temptation to sin is to change the way that we think about temptation itself.
Temptations are nothing to be ashamed of, because we all experience them. But often our temptations can become a large source of shame. I often like to remind people that “temptations are neither good nor bad- they just are.” It’s how we respond to temptation that matters. Do we try to do it on our own? Or do we invoke God’s protection and help, and ask for his grace to overcome temptation, and grow in holiness?
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews, speaking about Jesus’ temptation, writes: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” As we begin this Lenten Season, let us approach our Lord, and ask for his grace to overcome whatever temptations we face, so that we may know the Lord’s grace and help in our time of need.