Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.
He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Luke 4:1-3 (NRSV)
Last night after I got home from Ash Wednesday services and turned to the family station to watch the show “Highway to Heaven”. When the TV came on a picture of a man in red with horns was the first thing I saw. It was a picture of the Devil. If you would ask most people their view of Satan or the devil they would describe a similar picture. When we read the story of Jesus temptation in the wilderness no doubt a similar picture of the devil comes to mind. But the first century Jews had no such concept of the devil. The word translated as devil literally means slanderer or adversary, in other words anyone or thing that would lead you away from doing what is right. At Jesus crucifixion the adversary takes a different role. The leaders used similar words that the devil used at the temptation “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” (Luke 23:35) The solders also became adversaries saying “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” (vs. 37) Finally one of the thief’s also carried out the roll of tempter by shouting to Jesus “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” (vs. 39) In today’s “God Pause” e-mail devotion sent out by Luther Seminary, Robert Brusic writes the following “In the Minneapolis Institute of Art, there is a compelling work by the Venetian artist Titian. Most people who look at the painting assume they are looking at a scene of Jesus in conversation with a handsome young boy. When asked to suggest a title, folks often offer something like “Jesus Blesses a Child” or “Suffer the Little Children to Come to Me.” I have heard people give an audible gasp of surprise when they learn that the painting is called “The Temptation of Christ.” All of a sudden, something comforting becomes something disturbing. Titian apparently intended to surprise the viewer when he depicted the tempter as a comely child offering something in his hand. That something is a stone, echoing the text: “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” (end of quote) The point that I am trying to make is that most temptations we encounter do not come from a red dressed man with horns. Rather temptations come from those closest to us. Anyone who has raised a teenager knows how easy they can be influenced by friends to do some very stupid things. Unfortunately, that doesn’t change when we become adults. We are told by our friends and society to cheat on your income tax, drive faster than the speed limit, spread a juicy bit of gossip, hold on to your prejudices, don’t be generous with your abundance, and the list could go on. Yes, we face temptation in life. The ones that should concern us the most are the ones coming from our friends encouraging us to do things we know are wrong.