The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness is unlike any other
person’s temptation because Jesus is unlike any other person. He
alone is the Messiah of Israel, Savior of the world, and Son of God.
Yet because of his full humanity and solidarity with our humanity,
his temptation is instructive for our times of testing. Not every test is
a temptation, but every temptation is surely a test.
First said by Thomas Aquinas, the classical answer to the question of temptation’s source is “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” Let us be clear about what this means. We are enticed to abandon trust in God and worship of God. We are subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, tempted to disobey God’s commands, to deny our human and vocational identity, to give up integrity and believe lies. We will be fiercely tempted to sin as long as we live. And when we are, we must first remember that temptation itself is not sin.
Sin takes place when we yield to temptation and refuse to resist it. Like Jesus, we can resist temptation by countering it with Scripture and depending on the Spirit. Like Jesus, we must not only endure temptation in the moment, but through Jesus, we can ultimately overcome it.
Because he was tempted, Jesus can sympathize with us in our
temptations. Because he has overcome the world, the flesh, and the
devil, Jesus can empower us to overcome temptation. Because Jesus is
sympathetic, worthy, and now ascended, “Let us therefore approach
the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and
find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16).
How am I being tempted today? How will prayer help me overcome this?
Living Christ, help us pray what you taught us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.