Prepare to listen. Quietly pause and prepare to receive the Word, believing God’s words, When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. (Psalm 91:15)
Read Luke 4:1-13
Jesus, 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 famished. 3The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ 4Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.”’ 5Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant 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.
I once thought this story was an example on overcoming temptation. If I responded to temptation the way Jesus did—quoting an appropriate Bible verse from memory at the devil—I’d be good to go. ‘It is written…,’ and a good Bible verse was all I needed. I embarked on a serious memorization plan, finding verses for different sins and temptations. It didn’t last very long, probably for two reasons. First, even though I had a verse on the tip of my tongue, ready to use for whatever temptation, I sadly discovered that too often I’d already fallen, committed a sin without even having been aware of the temptation. It was too late to quote my Bible verse. Second, I learned I’d gotten the story all wrong.
‘It is written’ isn’t some magical wand to wave around and chase away temptation. The devil wasn’t foiled because Jesus knew the appropriate Bible verse “by heart.” The devil, as Luke shows us, also knows scripture, quoting from Psalm 91. The devil was foiled because Jesus persevered in his commitment to live, as all God’s people are required to live, by every word that comes from the mouth of God. And when he was tempted, it was this commitment to God’s law, not his ability to quote scripture, which sent the devil packing.
Reflect on your commitment to live all of life according to God’s Way, according to the Jesus Way, and renew it today.
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Lord Jesus, you gave us an example of how to deal with temptation. Help me live each day with a renewed commitment to live according to your commands. And when I fail, as I know I will, help me pick myself up and try again. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world, committed to God’s Word.
Reading the Bible has always been essential to followers of Jesus. I've been reading, studying, teaching and writing reflections on biblical texts for as long as I can remember. I invite you to read the Bible with me during the Lent and into Easter Sunday.