Sometime ago in a certain city, a man was caught at a motor garage with a bag containing the mutilated and decaying body of a child of about six years. He actually refused to drop the bag in the trunk of the bus he boarded and was thus making the sitting arrangement difficult. The bus assistant suspected that there was something fishy about the bag and ordered the man to open it and clear the air. He refused and one of the passengers forcefully took the bag from him and opening the bag everyone saw the dead body of a child. When he was questioned about his nefarious act he said it was the devil that made him to kill the child and was about to use the body for money ritual.
Very often, most people blame their actions and inaction on the devil in an effort to free themselves from blame. For this reason, it often appears that the devil goes about with some mysterious remote controller that urges people to commit sin without thinking twice!
It is very clear that most people confuse temptation and sin! Put in another way, some people do not know where temptation stops and where sin starts. What primarily happens is that the devil tempts us to sin and we respond by either giving in WILL-FULLY or refusing to give in WILL-FULLY. This means that the devil does not force anyone to commit sin; we still have our free-will which we can give in or refuse to give in!
Today, the Gospel Reading (Luke 4:1-13) tells us that our Lord Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil. We need to take some time to reflect over this. The devil was attempting to make the sinless one to sin. The devil was trying to bring down the one who came to bring us up.
According to the narrative, our Lord just completed forty days of reflective supplications and fasting in the wilderness where he went after his baptism. At the conclusion of the forty days of fasting and prayers the devil came to tempt our Lord. It is pertinent to note here that the temptation did not take place during the forty days period but after. Often the devil waits patiently for us to build up ourselves only to come to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10a) when the building is over. That is why St. Peter would enjoin us to be sober and vigilant, (1 Pet. 5:8) because the enemy, the devil, is prowling round like a roaring lion looking for someone to eat (tempt into sin).
Let us take a very active and attentive look into the temptation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Firstly, our Lord was moved by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. It is important to be aware of what is moving us at every point in time. In fact, what moves us determines the type of result we get. The whole life of our Lord Jesus is propelled by the Holy Spirit. St. Paul would say that those who are moved by the Spirit are children of God (Rom. 8:14).
From the three-fold allurements of the devil on our Lord Jesus Christ, we can derive three major centres of gravity of temptation bothering on the three fundamental aspects of the human person: body, soul and mind. We shall examines these in line with the temptations of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1)The Body Allurement (Temptation).
This has to do with the physical aspect of us. Because it has to do with our material needs often demanded by our human nature. It is the most prominent form of allurement or temptation as it directly deals with the external senses of sight, taste, smell, hearing and touch.
From the Gospel narrative, we are told that our Lord Jesus Christ was hungry after going through the forty days of prayer and fasting. This is expected and normal. However the way and manner to get the food is another thing. This is where the tempter comes in with a very “attractive” and challenging suggestion: “If you are the Son of God command this stone to become bread”. Body temptations will always come from the things you need or desire.
What our Lord needed at that time was not shoe or clothing but something to hold the burning hunger. The devil knows that he is the Son of God with so much power to perform miracles and there were so many stones on that landscape. So he suggested that he makes use of what he has to get what he needed.
It would have being a vain and selfish miracle if our Lord commanded a stone to become bread just because he was hungry. It would have being a misappropriation of miracle. There is need for us to watch our appetites and the things we desire in our lives. There is a proverb in my native home that says: “for the fact that I am searching for something to eat would not make me to eat whatever I see!”
To this temptation our Lord Jesus Christ replied the devil with the word of God in Deuteronomy (8:3) which says “Man must not live by bread alone!” Life is truly not all about bread. There is more to it and that is Jesus Christ himself, the bread of life (John 6:35) and the living word of God (John 1:14).
During this season, we are called upon to look at ourselves and our proneness to body (material) temptation. When we get suggestions to get what our body needs through ungodly means, do we resist like our Lord Jesus Christ or do we give in, often with the excuse that everyone is doing that? There is need for us to be conscious of the suggestions that the devil give us with regards to our body and material satisfaction. The best way to guard body temptation is to be very conscious of the messages that come from our five external senses of sight, taste, smell, hearing and touch. They are the entry point of the allurements even of the soul and the mind.
2) Soul Allurement (Temptation).
The soul is the place where we have the ultimate connection with God. Our likeness to God is chiefly in our souls. Now the fight of the devil is basically to disconnect our souls from God. The second temptation from the Gospel Reading today goes in line with the suggestion of the devil to have our Lord Jesus Christ give his soul to him by worshipping him.
In the narrative, the devil after showing our Lord all the KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD said to him: “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me it shall all be yours”. From this devilish statement we dictate a lot of complications, confessions and lies. Firstly the Kingdom is of the world which is passing. Secondly it was delivered to the devil and not truly his. Thirdly, how possible will it be that he (the devil) will freely give ALL just like that?
It is very clear that the devil makes a lot of promises that are never fulfilled. That is why during the ceremony of baptism and when we renew our baptismal vows, we among other things, promise to reject satan and all his empty promises.
If our Lord would bow down and worship the devil, then his mission would have been a colossal failure. We are thus reminded by this second temptation that the devil not only wants us to fall but more insistently we wants our souls to be delivered to him.
Many people have suffered the loss of their souls to the devil in their search for power and influence by any way and manner. Actually one of the problems besieging the world today is the senseless search for dominant power in certain “kingdoms!” Our Lord’s response should really be our committed and steadfast response in similar temptation: “It is written, you shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.
3) Mind Allurement (Temptation)
The mind is a very strategic aspect of our being. It is the seat of our reasoning and emotions. It is from the mind we become conscious of our environment, we make judgement, take decisions and other mental activities.
In the third temptation, the devil took our Lord Jesus Christ 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 over you, to guard you.’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”:
A critical look at this temptation will reveal the devil’s technicality in the use of reason, logic and emotions to suggest evil to us in a very alluring way; the mind game at work! Here we see the devil quoting Psalm 91. More so, he is seen here being very persistent; the devil never relents, he keeps coming back! Here he repeats the phrase “if you are the Son of God” which formed part of the content of the first temptation; temptations will always come through your position, office, or rank!
Here the devil suggested to our Lord Jesus Christ to take God for granted and to falsely apply His promises. God will give His angels charge over us; that is true, but when we need it not when we want it for self-aggrandizement as it appeals to our minds.
Very often, we make this mistake of assuming that since God promised something to people in a certain context it must also be our portion irrespective of our commitment to God and obedience to His words. For instance, someone who willingly eats poisoned food while holding on the word of God in Psalm 118: 17, which says: “I shall not die but live and declare the works of the Lord” may not live to recount what would happen.
Since the mind is the base for our decisions and judgements, the devil tempts us through the mind by means of suggestions that often make us to take disastrous decisions. To this temptation our Lord replied using Deuteronomy (6:16), which says: “you must not put the Lord you God to the test”. Putting God to the test happens when we falsely make assumptions based on certain things like being a Christian or belonging to one denomination or the other.
As we launch deeper into this Lenten period, let us be mindful of the fact that our commitment to God will undergo test and trails (Sirach 2:1). Temptations are sure to come but our readiness will avail us victory. The most plausible preparation is to be found always with a prayerful heart instead blaming the devil after falling into his traps.
If our Lord was tempted (Heb. 4:15), then we are sure to pass through similar tests and trials in the hands of the devil. Being then aware of the allurements that could come from the body, the soul and the mind, we are better equipped to stand with the Lord who triumphed over the devil and his temptations. We do this at this time, by paying attention to St. Paul in the Second Reading today (Rom.10:8-13) where he said that we should confess the Lordship of Jesus Christ with our lips and believe with our hearts and then we shall be saved.
With your body, soul and mind committed to God this season, may you have a great First Sunday of Lent and a regenerative week ahead. Remember to stand against the devil’s traps instead of blaming him when you fall into them.