I was reading the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness as it is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew the other day. (Matthew 4:1-11)
4 1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,
“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ And
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
There were some questions raised as I spent time in this account. This blog raises more
questions than I have answers. But I am hoping you can provide your insight on these questions.
In the second two temptations, Matthew records the fact that the devil “took him” places. Why did Jesus allow the devil to take Him places? If you or I reported that “The devil took me to this bar…” or even “The devil took me to this beautiful park…,” our friends would be very concerned. We know from the preamble that Jesus was “led up by the Spirit … to be tempted by the devil.” I thought about Jesus’ prayer where He taught the disciples: “Lead us not into temptation.” I was wondering if Jesus was remembering that time in the wilderness where He was led into temptation by the Spirit when He taught us to pray that way. Was He remembering how bad it was for the devil to take Him places? Was He saying: “You don’t want to go through what I went through. Ask your heavenly Father to not lead you into temptation.” We sometimes don’t realize how trying this was for Jesus.
The text concludes with the statement that angels ministered to Him after this encounter. That seems to strongly indicate how difficult this time was for Jesus.
The other thing that struck me for the first time was that Jesus waited until the third temptation before He said: “Be gone.” Why wait? Perhaps he was allowing this Spirit led temptation to run its course. Perhaps it took that long before it dawned on Him that He simply needed to say: “Be gone.”
For me, distractions are some of my greatest temptations. I am amazed when I am in the
middle of writing out a dialogue with God and I realize I need to write an email to someone. Amazingly, I very often go and do it. I leave my dialogue with God dangling in mid-air. Or how very often in the middle of centering prayer, my mind wanders off to some petty concern of the day. Maybe I need to learn to just say: “Be gone.” Thomas Keating’s image of letting the concerns and distractions float down the river comes to my mind. But I am thinking I need to be more forceful. Be gone.
Father, today I ask that I not be led into temptation. And Lord, when tempting distractions do come, let me say – Be gone!