What a provocative Gospel Lesson today! This is the passage that recalls our Lord’s 40 day sojourn in the wilderness after His Baptism. You know the story well. The Lord is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to pray and prepare for His public ministry that will eventually lead Him to the Cross, the Tomb, the Third Day rising, the Ascension, and, one day, the Second and Glorious Coming. While there in the wilderness, Satan comes to Him and tempts Him to turn from His path.
The Lord prevails over the evil one through devotion to His Father, a clear understanding of Himself, and an unwavering commitment to His mission.
Look at our lesson today in Luke 4:1-15:
At that time Jesus returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.'” And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I will give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'”
And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.
Notice several pieces of information that may inform us about our own spiritual journey: First, the devil left Him “until an opportune time.” Just because we persevere through a time of temptation doesn’t mean we should let down our guard. While the enemy may withdraw, it is only to wait for the next opportunity to attack. Wakefulness and constant preparation through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving means we won’t be surprised when he attacks again and we’ll be ready for him.
Next, the Lord returned in Power. There’s nothing more debilitating and exhausting than a prolonged time of spiritual warfare, but there is also nothing more empowering than coming out the other end of that struggle. The energy given to us as we faithfully stay our course is meant to refresh us after the fight. We need to heal. We need to recuperate. Just like a prolonged battle with a physical ailment calls for proper time to regain our strength, so a spiritual battle needs the energizing presence of the Spirit to strengthen us for the next battle!
Finally, the Lord didn’t simply revel in His victory over the devil, He got to work! He began to teach and preach and do the ministry He fought to preserve. And the people loved it, and they loved Him. But, as that old TV show said “Danger Will Robinson!” Another place it says “beware when all men speak well of you.” The crowd is fickle, and the Lord didn’t allow the good times to intoxicate Him into abandoning His mission either.
The enemy of your soul doesn’t care which tactic works to knock you off your practice of the faith. He just wants you off the path!
Today, don’t waste any wilderness experience in your life. Even in the middle of the pain of temptation, of despair, of disappointment, don’t allow the evil one to con you into believing all is lost. It isn’t if you just stay sober to yourself and to your “high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” And when the battle is past (and all battles really do end, even though in the middle of it it seems to go on forever) don’t allow the happiness of peace to intoxicate you either. Be Ready! Be Orthodox on Purpose.
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