“Lead Us Not into Temptation!”
I want to start with something funny. I heard about a little boy named Johnny. After the Ash Service, Johnny tells his parents he has to go and talk to the pastor right away. They agree, and the pastor greets the family. “Pastor,” Johnny says, “I heard you say today that our bodies came from the dust.” “That’s right, Johnny, I did,” he says. “And I heard you say that when we die, our bodies go back to dust.” “Yes, I’m glad you were listening,” the pastor replies. “Why do you ask?” Johnny said, “Well, you better come over to our house right away and look under my bed, ‘cause there’s some either comin’ or goin’!”
It is the first Sunday in Lent, 2022. Time goes by so fast. As you know, Lent means
“Spring.” Through Ash Service, it reminds us that it is time to wash darkness and sinfulness out and prepare to refresh our minds and spirits in God’s grace as spring comes after winter is gone. Remembering we shall return to dust, let us use self-control and not give into temptation in our everyday lives. We have 40 days of Lent. The number 40 is very meaningful in the scripture, a period of testing or trial. It relates to the 40 days Noah spent in the Ark during the great flood. Many people laughed at Noah building the Ark for 120 years, and in the Ark, Noah waited for God’s sign while the great flood happened. Finally, Noah found new land 40 days later.
It is also related to the 40 years Israel spent seeking the Promised Land after the exodus from Egypt. Israelites suffered for 40 years in the wilderness. Many died in the wilderness, who couldn’t pass over the trials and temptations. But, a few of them got to the Promised Land, after 40 years. Like these, the number 40 has a biblical meaning. It is like a rite of passage that one has to undergo to get to the new things.
The number 40 relates to the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism. Today’s scripture describes Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. We found the strange verses, “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” (4:1-2a). We are curious as to why the devil tempted Jesus. How could it have happened if Jesus was the son of God? In addition, we wonder how it could have happened if Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit after he was baptized in the Jordan River. Plus, it says, Jesus went to the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. It is unbelievable. We should understand these curiosities before we look at how Jesus was tempted and how he overcame all temptation.
First, the verses may notify us that we, Christians, can be tempted even after we are baptized and even when we are full of the Holy Spirit. God may want us to know, especially when we decide to dedicate ourselves to God’s work, and when we just try to be involved in God’s ministry, evil things may tempt us, or we are blocked by something that happens. It happened for Jesus right after he was baptized, and it was just right before he was to start his public ministry. One more thing we need to pay attention to is the word “wilderness.” The wilderness was where the Israelites wandered, seeking the Promised Land. The wilderness is considered the land of death. There is no life, but it is thirsty. In other words, the wilderness means no God; but there is hunger, thirst, suffering, temptations, and everlasting tiredness. If we leave God, we might experience the wilderness. Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37b-38). However, we often miss the simple truth that we should belong to Jesus in all circumstances. And we try resolve things through our own knowledge and reasoning when we face risk or trials, instead of praying to God.
I want to share my story. When I was a freshman in a seminary, my father still didn’t believe in God, while my mother and my siblings believed in God. Most Saturday evenings, our siblings gathered at my parents’ house to attend Sunday service at the same church. We were planning on how we could make my father become a Christian. However, we made plans for my father each week and every Sunday morning we had something happen that blocked us from going to church. Sometimes, my father was sick or too had drank too much, or my father hid my mother’s coats or shoes. It was a very small thing, but it affected all family members’ emotional wellbeing. One day, my younger sister said, “I think it is a trial. Let us pray for our father.” So, we decided to pray for 40 days to make my father a Christian, and it worked slowly. Eventually, my father didn’t drink any longer, and the bad things happening on Sunday mornings were reduced. Finally, my father stopped drinking and came to the church with us. After my father was baptized, he spoke to all my family members and relatives and we stopped the ancestor’s worship. Instead, he asked me to lead a home worship service.
We may face trials or temptations, but if we pray to God, God makes a way for us to avoid these situations. The Apostle Paul says, “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing, he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Today’s scripture shows us how to avoid the trials and temptations we might be faced with. When Jesus finished fasting for 40 days and felt hungry, the devil said to him, “If you are the son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” The devil knew that Jesus was the son of God, and Jesus could make stones into the loaf of bread. However, Jesus answered, “One does not live by bread alone.” When you don’t do something when it’s bad or wrong, even though you can, it is very powerful. Jesus overcame all temptations by not listening to the devil even though he could do it. Jesus could make stone into bread, get glory and authority, and jump down from the temple top like superman. However, he didn’t do it because it was the way to follow the devil. The devil or bad things may come closer into our everyday lives, such as having a lack of food or housing, or the conflict between family members or friends. However, remember why Jesus was tempted after he was baptized and right before his public ministry. He would show us what we need to do. Remember, self-control is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit from God. In Lent, let us focus our self-control towards God. Make a rule in our lives of following God, and practice not giving in to temptation. Pray daily saying, “lead us not into temptation.” “This kind can come out only by prayers” (Mark 9:29). Thanks be to Go