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GOSPEL COMMENTARIES


 

 

TEMPTATION IN THE DESERT 

(Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13)

After His baptism, Jesus was led to the desert by the Holy Spirit where he fasted for forty days, after which the devil tempted him. Scriptures teach us that the devil attacks us immediately after baptism and it is important for us to have been trained in the desert for forty days (i.e., in a life of prayer, fasting and good works) for us to be victorious over the evil one as Christ showed us. The number forty is symbolic of the complete spiritual training consisting in obedience to the commands of Christ. 

The devil attacks Jesus, seeing He is alone and without help from others. Without prior training in community life or family life, a soul has no chance against the attacks of the devil. In community life, we are not alone and we have the wise counsels of others, which makes the devil hesitate to attack us. In such a situation, most of our sins come from our own vices and passions and not from the devil. 

Christ fasted because fasting is the greatest weapon against temptations; just as the love for delicacies is the beginning of sins. And He fasted for forty days. He could have fasted indefinitely and not go hungry, but then He was keeping His identity secret from the evil one to thwart his plans. So Christ fasted only as long as Moses and Elijah had done and pretended He was hungry to invite the devil to approach Him and engage him in combat so Christ could throw him down, setting an example for us. 

The devil heard the voice of God in the river Jordan proclaiming Christ as God. But now he sees Christ hungry. The devil is confused; he has to verify and sets up Christ "to change these stones into bread." The devil begins with a flattery. When someone flatters you, beware, the devil is just around. Flattery gets anyone's attention. It is a sin even to listen to what the devil has to say. Eve listened to him and could not stop falling into sin. 

The first step in the devil's temptation seems harmless: "Change these stones into bread." But there is really something wrong with it if you look closer. "These stones," ...why so many stones? Why not just one stone? So the element of gluttony is there...the trap is there without our noticing it. Knowledge of Scriptures is the means to notice the trap, "Not by bread alone does man live but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." 

The devil heard the voice of the Father at the river Jordan saying that Christ was God. But he does not believe God. He needs his own proof from Christ. So he tells Christ to jump from atop the temple. To hurl oneself is an act of savagery; it is the mark of God to save. Christ calmly rebukes the devil, teaching us to use meekness to repel the devil. 

Then the devil offers Christ the kingdoms of the world which in pride he considers his own. The kingdoms of the world is the object of greed which he gives to those who worship him. 

Christ treats the devil meekly but gets angry when the devil mentions the word 'worship' as the devil appropriates to himself what belongs to God alone. Christ's superior knowledge of Scriptures shuts up the devil. And the devil leaves Him. 

Christ conquered the three basic passions: gluttony, vainglory and avarice which include all the passions in them. And angels served Him; which shows that angels will also serve us when we overcome our temptations. 

 

 

 

 

 

(updated 03-18-02)

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                                                                                        - Teresa of Avila

 


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