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The Temptation of Jesus – 1st Sunday C, February 17, 2013

(1st Sunday of Lent C, February 17, 2013) Gospel: Luke 4:1-13 1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was hun-gry. 3The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ 4Jesus an-swered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.” 5Then the devil led him up and showed him in an in-stant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ 8Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” 9Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you”, 11and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” 12Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”13When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
Introduction

The first Sunday of Lent in this Year C of the liturgical cycle introduces us to the reality of Christian life. In fact, it is not an easy road. Being a Christian is not simply a picnic. In which case, it is not simply about pros-perity preaching or “Christianity without the cross.” There is a struggle involved, called temptation or spiritual warfare. As the apostle Paul said: “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). This sets the tone at the beginning of Lent. So the Christian is put on notice, he or she is put on alert. Hence, we are reminded that we are the children of Adam and Eve; made of flesh and blood; and prone to sin.
The narrative of the temptation of Jesus reenacts, in a different way and on a different plane that ancient en-counter with that ancient serpent in Genesis 3:1-5 with the mother of humanity, Eve. As the two narratives bring to our minds, when the devil wrestles with humanity, the result was a disaster of epic proportion. But when he wrestles with God, God emerges victorious and triumphant. Accordingly, in the gospel of today, Jesus is the winner, the one who holds sway over demonic forces. Hence, the victory of the Christian warrior now depends on his alliance with Jesus, the Victor. Today, we shall examine the details of this temptation and see how they relate to our lives

The Literary Genre
Some people have asked whether the account of the temptation of Jesus is a picturesque narrative of what ac-tually happened. The response is that this is a symbolic narrative that falls under the category of Jewish narra-tives called the aggadah ( ), also the haggadah ( ). The aggadah is a telling, narrative, or a fanciful story with an ethical, moral, or doctrinal intent. It is a pedagogical strategy intended to present some truths about life and religious beliefs. This type of narrative is not uncommon in the Judaism of the New Testament period. It is a compendium of rabbinic homilies that incorporates folklore, historical anecdotes, moral exhortations, and practical advice in various spheres. It is used in educating the people, strengthening their faith, and bolstering their pride and courage. Indeed, “Whatever the imagination can invent is found in the aggadah, the purpose al-ways being to teach man the ways of God (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0001_0_00525.html). The aggadah includes narratives, legends, doctrines, admonitions to ethical conduct and good behavior, words of encouragement and comfort, and expressions of hope for future redemption. Its forms and modes of expression are as rich and colorful as its content. So, this is the literary genre of the temptation narrative in the synoptic gospels. Now, Jesus was in the desert for forty days and forty nights. Let us examine this symbolism.

Forty Days and Forty Nights
This phrase “forty days and forty nights” has biblical significance. In this regard, the deluge took place for forty days and forty nights. Hence, Genesis says: “For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth” (Genesis 7:4). This was not an empty threat. It did happen for “the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights” (Genesis 7:12). And even “the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth” (Genesis 7:17). It was only “at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made” (Genesis 8:6). And Prophet Jonah used this phrase in these words: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. “Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights” (Jonah 3:4).
In the various biblical traditions of “forty days and forty nights” two things stand out very clearly. These are the traditions of Moses encounter with God on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights and Jesus’ sojourn in the desert for forty days and forty nights. The Moses narrative was introduced in this way: “And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:18). A more striking text concerning this phrase is seen in Exodus 34:28. The text says: “And he [Moses] was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.”

This very tradition is highly emphasized in Deuteronomy. The first instance of this says: “When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water” (Deuteron-omy 9:9). This is repeated in slightly different ways in Deuteronomy 9:11; 9:25 and 10:10. Interesting is the fact that the tradition of Exodus 34:28 is repeated with remarkable accuracy in Deuteronomy. The text says: “And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink wa-ter, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger” (Deuteronomy 9:18). This links up well with the gospel text above where Jesus also fasted for forty days and forty nights. This striking similarity warrants a side-by-side analysis.
Moses: a) “And he [Moses] was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments” (Exodus 34:28).
b) “And I fell down before the LORD, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger” (Deuteronomy 9:18).
Jesus: “Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over, he was hungry.”
Here, there is an obvious similarity. First of all, in both instances, forty days is involved. Secondly, there was fasting. Both men did not eat during this period. Thirdly, God was with them. In this regard, Jesus is filled by the Spirit and Moses was before God. However, there is also a difference. The element of temptation from a very powerful enemy, the devil, delineated Jesus’ fasting. But why is this comparison here relevant?
Luke and Paul share almost the same New Testament worldview that is significantly different from Matthew and his gospel. In this regard, Matthew represents a typical first century Jewish or Palestinian Christian. Hence, he presented Jesus almost as a Jew with impeccable Jewish orthodoxy. He saw Jesus as a continuation of the Jewish status quo. Accordingly, Matthew presents Jesus as saying: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one iota shall pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18). Here, it is all about a perfect fulfillment of the law, which in both Paul and Luke is not the case. In this way, Matthew presented the New Testament as a continuation of the Old Testament. As a result, he sees Jesus as another Moses.

On the contrary, Luke partly agrees: Jesus is both a continuation and a discontinuation of the Old Testament. In so far as the prophets foretold his coming he is a continuation. On the other hand, in so far as he has come as the son of God, he stands above Moses. Hence, at every possible juncture, Luke tries to compare and contrast Moses and Jesus in order to highlight the superior advantages of Jesus over Moses.
Accordingly, Luke implicitly recognizes the forty day encounter of Moses with God. In a somewhat similar manner, he now also shows that Jesus had a similar encounter as well but in a more trying way, yet he emerged victorious.
Contextual Reading
The gospel of today put the whole temptation episode in a wonderful perspective. Everything was happening after Jesus was “filled with the Holy Spirit” – a reference to the spirit-filled baptism of the Lord. The signifi-cance of this introduction is that Luke makes it very clear that without this condition the battle ahead will be very tough. In the case of Jesus, he is now battle ready. He has put on his spiritual armor, ready to confront a very powerful enemy who was ready to use Holy Scripture as a weapon of war against him. So the Holy Spirit becomes a fortification against hostile forces. In the same way, the Christian has to be ready for battle in order to achieve victory over evil forces.
It is interesting that the devil stepped in when Jesus was in need of food because he was hungry. It is im-portant to pay attention to this because it applies to us more than Jesus. The object of temptation is not what we do not need, but what we need most. In view of this, the devil makes his first “black” offer. He asked Jesus to “command this stone to become bread.” If Jesus had done this, he would have submitted to the authority of the devil. In this way, the sovereignty of God would have been surrendered to the dominion of satan. But Jesus was smarter than him and reminded him that “one does not live by bread alone.” In this first round, the devil has lost but refused to give up. Instead, more schemes were devised to try to win the contest. With this in mind, the devil now “led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.” He has moved beyond the narrow confines of food and eating to a broader range of worldly things. Now, the devil makes his move in these words: “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Here, you can see that the temptation above is above submitting to the devil. This is also what the second one is all about using a different method. The promise made here is totally false. This is typical of the devil. Hence, John describes this devil in these words: “You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). Finally, in the last temptation, satan now uses a religious theme to try to knock Jesus off one more time. Ac-cordingly, he “took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you”, and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” Here, the devil cleverly misuses scripture to achieve a diabolical aim. He quotes Psalm 91:11 with accu-racy. And Jesus was very effective in his rebuttal. Hence, he reminded the devil that “it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” As we can see from the story, the devil departed. Let us examine further this satanic use of scripture to deceive opponents.

The Bible-Quoting Satan
As we have already seen above, the account of the temptation of Jesus contains an important alert for the 21st century Christians. A world, thirsty of God, could end up having an agent of demon as its pastor. Christians for-get that even satan preached to Jesus to obey him using the same word of God. Many Christians are easily de-ceived with this satanic ruse for the mere reason that biblical quotations are involved. They think that because someone is carrying the bible, ipso facto, such a person is the angel of the Lord. As we can see, the Lucan account of the temptation of Jesus puts forward a spoiler alert for satan. Christians must be on alert always. To-day, in the encounter between Jesus and the tempter, we have seen how satan became a false and dubious preacher, making negative use of scripture to deceive Jesus. As we can see, the satan in the text has also some knowledge of the bible to the extent that he could quote it to convince Jesus to bow to him. The first use of scripture relates to the second temptation, which is from Jeremiah 27. First of all, the devil is said to have showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Then he said to him: “If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” The text in Jeremiah and Luke are displayed in the table below.

Jeremiah 27:5
It was I who made the earth, human being and beast on the face of the earth, by my great power, with my outstretched arm; and I can give them to whomever I think fit.

Luke 4
6The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish.d7 All this will be yours, if you worship me.”

Looking at the two texts, we can see that the devil adapted Jeremiah to serve his purpose. In fact, he misap-plied the text. He impersonated as the divine Speaker in Jeremiah and usurped divine authority. If Jesus did not know the scriptures well, the devil might have used it to mislead him. As we know, in Jeremiah the text re-fers to Yahweh, the God of Israel. Hence, God says: “I can give them to whomever I think fit.” But the devil changes the subject to refer to himself. Accordingly, he said: “I may give it to whomever I wish.” One sees why satan is called the deceiver. In order to succeed, he uses every available instrument to tempt people. So, Chris-tians must be on their guard always.
The second place where the satanic preacher played a role is in relation to the third temptation. Here, Luke tells us that the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here.” Then he quoted Psalm 91:11-12 to support his com-mand. The text in both Luke and Psalm 91 are displayed in the table below.

Psalm 91:
11For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go. 12With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.

Luke 4
10He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you, 11and on their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.

As we can see, in this instance, the Lucan devil quoted Psalm 91 with remarkable accuracy. He used scrip-ture to support his diabolical command. However, the fundamental thing missing is the context of Psalm 91. Here, we see the misuse of scripture for a diabolical purpose. Indeed, the lesson from this analysis involving the devil and the use of scripture is that not every pastor is the anointed of the LORD. Do not believe that every single bible carrying person is a man of God.

Application of the Three Temptations
As we know, there are three of these temptations focusing on three different aspects of life: food; wealth and power; and protection. The first temptation deals with changing stones into bread because Jesus was hungry. So, the devil does his background work well. He mounts a type of surveillance to find out what the Christian needs badly. In this case, it is food. We can see that we are tempted with what we desperately need. Hence, some women in need of a job are forced into “prostitution” in order to be able to put food on the table. In the same way, some working class women are equally forced to do the same since this is the pathway to promotion in the workplace. Because of food, people, cheat, embezzle, and engage in all sorts of fraudulent activities. Some-times, in order to put food on the table, some are tempted to look for something to steal.
The second temptation is about inordinate wealth, and the ambition to be powerful. This is why fraternities, “brotherhoods,” and sisterhoods are now becoming the order of the day in many places. If you want to get rich and become powerful you are tempted to join a cult and start counting in meaningless millions.

The third temptation is about demonic protection. As we can see, the devil wanted to guarantee that Jesus would not break his legs should he fall down from the pinnacle of the temple. Hence, he offered assured him that he would be protected from harm. This is now where the marabout’s business is now booming in many countries. Spiritualists are now successful entrepreneurs because of a booming business. Charm makers are now considered to have superior powers that can offer protection. Hence, in Nigeria, the rich and powerful are now rushing to the devil to get this “power” and “protection.” The reason why they need this “power” is because they want to use it to fight and control their opponents. On the other hand, protective charms are needed to evade the evil machinations of their enemies. But they forget that as the Preacher once said, “vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
In all these practical instances, Christians have omitted something very fundamental. They do not ask: Why did Jesus win his battle with demonic forces? Luke says that it is because “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, re-turned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.” So, Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and was led by this Spirit. Hence, in every spiritual warfare, spirits are involved. On account of this, the Holy Spirit led the way for Jesus in this encounter with satanic powers. This teaches us that you do not fight the devil with devil if you want to defeat the devil. So, do not fight satan with satan. You will be crushed. The only way to succeed is to fight the devil with God. This is the only way that guarantees triumph. Consequently, your victory over the devil depends on your rapport with God, the one who is the ultimate defeater of satan.
The battle with the devil did not begin with Jesus. This has been an on-going struggle in which humanity has not always emerged victorious. The shrewd nature of the devil has made this possible. There is no gainsaying that this devil is the “father of lies.” This is seen in the case of Jesus today in the gospel. It is also seen in the temptation scene of Genesis 3;1-5. Here, it was used to deceive Eve. So, we must be in the state of preparedness at all times.

Conclusion
At the beginning of this Holy Season of Lent, the church reminds us that it is not an easy road as expressed in that popular song. Indeed, there are trials and troubles. If Jesus, the Master and Lord, the Transcendent Savior could be tempted by the devil, then, let us all brace for impact for the battle with visible and invisible forces is real. So today we are called upon not to rest on our oars or relent for the roller coaster journey has begun. It is going to be rough and tumble. But He is with us, if we hold firm unto him. as Christians.
Indeed, the gospel of today has a clear warning to all Christians: the mere fact that somebody is preaching or quoting the bible does not mean that such a person is ‘an angel of the Lord.’ As we have seen in the temptation of Jesus above even satan quoted the bible for him. In this age, when we have inflation of pastors and preachers and new churches are springing up every day like mushrooms in the rain forest of Africa Christians must be-ware. They could unintentionally be the disciples of bible-carrying satans operating as the preacher of the Lord.
Finally, the temptation of the Lord reminds us that spiritual warfare is a reality. We have also seen it in the case of Eve in Genesis and Paul in his missionary activities. This means that there is no immunity for any Chris-tian. No one is above temptation. The battle is on and the heat is on. The heavenly march is not devoid of ups and downs. From my youthful memory, I still remember that famous English song: It's not an easy road - some-thing reminiscent of the Igbo song of action: nzọgbu-nzọgbu eyimba eyi. This becomes egwu agha - the battle song of the Christian and the banner to be courageously paraded and defended. The road may be too rough, but the tough will keep going. Fellow Christians, we have no choice but to keep going and to continue the struggle till we have become conquerors and over-comers like Jesus in the gospel of today. Praise the Lord! Alleluia!
AMADI-AZUOGU © February 2013