The Temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11)
Have you ever been tempted to do or say something that you know is wrong? For example, you knew you had homework that needed to be done, but your favorite program was streaming now on TV, so you chose to watch TV instead of doing your homework. The next day when your teacher asked you why you didn’t turn in your homework, you told the teacher, “My dog ate it” or “My baby brother tore it up.” We begin to point the finger of blame at someone else. (Hold a large foam finger, pointing at the congregation.) Or perhaps someone in this congregation took it! (???!!!)
But you might have just have thought through this temptation over, and discerned/decided/chose that it was not a good action to take. Nope. Not going to do it. I’ll do my homework rather than be lazy, or lie, or get our family dog in trouble!
It isn’t a sin to be tempted unless we do what we are tempted to do, even though we know it is wrong. Even Jesus himself was tempted. In our Gospel lesson today, we heard about the temptation of Jesus. He was in his late twenties, not a child or teen, so it was a little different than you, but still, it was a temptation, even three of them, and all of them were big ones and from the devil himself. We won’t have it that bad, but we do get tempted to sin, and we shouldn’t, no matter what sin it is—but especially if it is a big bad one.
After Jesus was baptized, he went out into the desert to pray. He stayed there a long time and got very hungry. He had not eaten anything because He was trying to listen to God and do what he said. I’m sure that his tummy must have been rumbling from hunger! He was tested to turn rocks into bread. He did not do it. For Jesus, it would have been an action of his not trusting God the Father to do that, or to behave beyond his human limitation. He was to be like us in all things, but for sinning.
Jesus was next tempted to fly, or leap off a very, very high spot—even to dare it so! As to jump off from there meant usually death or awful injuries. The tempter said: Do it, and don’t worry–the angels will save you. Try it! Jesus said: Get back, devil. You never need not test God like that, you are wrong to suggest it to me.
Then the devil said (in his third try to trick Jesus to sin): I could use your superpowers to have you rule the world in power and people will be scared of you, and do all that you want. All this can be so, if you will bow down to me, a fallen angel, and worship me. Jesus answered, “Go away from me Satan! It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. You are so wrong and evil for wanting to take away from God His due worship. God is great! You, on the other hand, are bad.'”
Three times the devil tempted Jesus and tried to get him to sin. Did He? NO! Jesus did the right thing each time. He remembered what the Scriptures said and that He was to be the perfect and good man in the world, and the one to save us from our sins, and Jesus thought of Bible passages in all of his resistance to sin, and it helped him to resist the devil’s three dastardly tries of temptation to have Jesus sin. But Jesus triumphed.
We all face temptations, don’t we? What are examples of some of the temptations you face? (Give the children time to give feedback.) Here are a few ways I thought of that we may be tempted followed by a Bible verse that will help us resist that temptation.
- Spreading gossip about another student in your class. (You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16)
- Disobeying your parents. (Honor your father and mother. Exodus 20:12)
- Taking something that does not belong to you. (You shall not steal. Exodus 20:15)
- Eating too many sweets or too much junk food. (Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:19)
- Overdoing it with too much attention on your self, like hours and hours non-stop with a video game or phone games or talk.
Jesus said no to doing any sin. We need to get His help in us to say no to sin, too.
Any temptation we endure, or sin we commit, is one of these three areas of temptation: pleasure, possession, or pride. The triple “concupiscence.” I’ve used this image before, connecting the triple concupiscence with the seven capital vices: TRY TO DESCRIBE THIS 7 DEADLY SIN MODEL.
The Catechism (540) tells us, “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” How do we do that during Lent? Well, on Ash Wednesday, the gospel reading was Jesus’ teaching on Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving. Me, You, Others.
We are to work at being holy. There are 7 big areas to fight for our holiness—or seven deadly areas of danger to our soul life with God.
Do you know the nine? Do you know the three categories. Pride of life, lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh? Do you know what lust is –in comparison to love? (Describe it as the cheap imitation.)
So we are to be aware of our tendency to sin, and to look for ways with Jesus to defend against it. (Review the nine areas above—what are each one –in simple description.
Jesus went on offense in the desert. He had three practices that we are called to use. Again, we heard of it on Ash Wednesday. Jesus calls us to fast— to strengthen our will’s power over our bodily appetites — in order to overcome our disordered desire for pleasure.
Secondly: He calls us give alms, that is, aid, help, contributions of time, treasure or talent, as to needs of other, such as the poor, to the church — so to free ourselves from affection for our possessions, or marks of social status, and their tendency to rule over us — in order to overcome our disordered desire of possession.
Thirdly, Jesus calls us to pray— humility is the antidote to pride. When we pray, we acknowledge that God is God and we are not; we are dust and to dust we will return.
By the way, I hope you have washed since Wednesday and have that palm ash dust off your face!
So the desert scene in the sanctuary of Resurrection church was put up there to remind us, that we can unite ourselves to the mystery of Jesus in the desert (the desert time of Lent)… and that we can get strength from Jesus inside our hearts and minds, and from the faith help of other believers. So that we can take up the call to be believers and seek holiness of life, and real love, not lust in our plans.
The parish desert scene shows The Cross of Jesus in the middle. It’s ultimately on the cross of Calvary that Jesus completely defeats these three basic and major temptations (1) his lack of pleasure, in the physical pain, thirst, and agony of the crucifixion (2) his lack of possessions, crucified naked, and even giving away his mother to the blessed disciple; (3) and his definitive defeat of pride, in the humiliations of crucifixion, exacerbated by the mocking of his persecutors.
Exercising our penitential practices of Lent, we will be able to resist these three primal temptations of the devil, and of the world. Let’s give it a Lenten try.