Each week we pray together the Lord's Prayer and ask: "Lead us not into temptation." On the first Sunday in Lent we come face to face with temptation in the story of the temptation of Jesus. Mark's version of the temptation, like all things Mark, is short and to the point. Jesus is baptized, the Spirit descends, and the heavenly voice is pleased. And then that same Spirit "immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild bests; and the angels waited on him."
Satan, the wild beasts and the angels. Mark's Gospel does not provide us with the details that Matthew and Luke do. We do not see the specific temptations that Jesus faces-the temptation to create food, the temptation to power, the temptation to immortality. We do not hear the dialogue between the devil and Jesus-the devil's attractive offers and clever retorts, and Jesus' responses. No, in the Gospel of Mark we are spared the details of the temptation. We are left with our own imagination-Satan, the wild beasts and the angels.
We have tended to trivialize temptation-to think of it as either sex or chocolate. Valentine's Day tends to bring that out in us. And each of us has particular things which make us vulnerable-whether it is habits, relationships, events from our past. In Lent many people choose to give up something as a kind of discipline. Maybe you have done that from time to time.
Temptation, the kind that Jesus faced, and the kind that we pray we may never have to face, is bigger than small vices that keep us from our diets, that interfere with our New Year's resolutions. Temptation is whatever draws us away from God. Part of the insidiousness of temptation is that it can look so good. In the longer versions of the temptation story the devil suggests that Jesus, who hasn't eaten for 40 days, turn stones into bread. And if he could satisfy his own hunger-why not the world's? Such a temptation -- to do good!
The same is true with the other temptations. The temptation to rule the world is not only a temptation for personal power, it is a temptation to replace a cruel and unjust reign with one of justice and peace. Yet another temptation...to do good! The temptation to defy death holds with it all sorts of possibilities, many of them good. Yet all these temptations draw away from God.
Lent is a time when we reflect on what the things are that draw us away from God. And we intentionally draw close to God, and reflect on what that means. "Lead us not into temptation." Amen.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA