In this Lenten series I would like to invite you to consider Jesus’ “outstretched arms of love” toward all who followed him as disciples, seeking to emulate his life, self-sacrifice, and humble service to others. Today we will reflect on one distinct time and way Jesus stretched out his arms of love to all who beheld his glory, believed his message, belonged as his disciples, and sought to become more and more like his image and with more of their true identity in Christ Alone.
Read Luke 4: 1-13
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, and on the heels of his spectacular baptism, was led by the same Spirit into the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. This is the account that defines for us the true meaning of Lent. These forty days for our Lord of fasting and temptation were defining and confirming days for his love of his Father, the Word of God, and the Kingdom he represented. Those very same declarations are what we ascribe as well in our Lenten fast this time around.
Each time Jesus was tempted by the devil, he responded with the strength of the Word of God. Tempting his appetites, by urging him to tell stone to become bread, Jesus responds, “Man does not live on bread alone.” Tempting his authority, by offering him all the kingdoms of this world, Jesus replies, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him daily.” Tempting his abilities, by suggesting he throw himself down from the highest point of the temple, Jesus retorts, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Each rejoinder was quoted from the book of Deuteronomy, the Law that was on the heart of Jesus.
It’s remarkable to consider the immediate challenge given to Jesus after the joyful experience of his baptism. From heaven’s declarative of love and affection, to earth’s most difficult trials and tribulations. To be given over to the devil’s schemes in the middle of the wilderness, showed all who would learn of this drama how Jesus was tempted as we are too. And yet, unlike us, he exits those forty days unscathed and never succumbs to any of the luring temptations offered to him. His willingness to enter this season of temptation is another very poignant example of Jesus’ outstretched arms of love toward all who would eventually listen to his voice, obey his call, and follow his example.
All of us understand the enticement of temptation, because we’ve all faced our fair share of allurement. Each time we are tempted to walk away from God and toward sin, we are brought face to face with our basic human condition. In the dark corners of such trials we are confronted by a much deeper choice of the will. It’s only in the light of God’s Word, and the enlightenment of God’s Spirit, that we will have the prayerful courage to say no in order to say yes to Jesus’ invitation to walk his way.
What temptations are standing in your way most consistently? What are the vulnerable places in your life that the enemy of your soul knows best to torment? How will you lean on God and your spiritual friends to defend you from such anguish? Will you trust Jesus to stand in the gap and keep you from falling prey to such temptations even today?
Behold him In the wilderness confronting the devil’s enticement; believe Jesus to strengthen you to say no to any temptation; belong firmly to the family of the empowered; and become steadfast in your soul.