by Rick Campanelli
"[F]or forty days [he was] being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.' And Jesus answered him, 'Man shall not live by bread alone.'" Luke 4. 2-4
Could it be, for us, that the time of greatest temptation comes when we think we have done something noble?
It was hard for Jesus, as it would be incredibly hard for us, to fast for forty days. But we learn that these great temptations -- Satan's flagrant attempt to deflect the Lord from his mission to restore all creation to His Father -- comes after Jesus had completed the fast, "when the days were ended."
We all know that moment when we've done something noble or that took discipline -- a diet, for instance, that you've stayed on for a week; or when you refrained a second or third time from blowing your own horn to another lawyer in the firm or to a fellow law student, or from the temptation to respond in kind to the angry behavior of an opposed lawyer whom you don't respect.
It is at that moment we can hear that little voice inside saying "Reward yourself, you've been so admirably restrained! No one would blame you if you let loose a bit now." "Have a donut or two, let them know just a little of how great you are. Let that blowhard have it!" The temptation may be strongest when we tell ourselves we've done a pretty good job.
Like everything else he did, Jesus went into the desert and fasted to glorify his Father -- not just to have a fast, or be alone. It was very difficult, as it would be for us, but he succeeded. And then, "when the days were ended," we learn, these great temptations came.
The devil waited until then, as if to say "Nice going, Jesus. No one would blame you if you used your power in this little way -- just for yourself -- by making some easy bread. Just look at all these rocks! What a waste -- you are surrounded by potential bread! Aren't you are the Son of God? Who's going to blame you after this long fast -- who would even know (except us)?"
We expect temptations from time to time. But if this passage is any indicator, the greatest temptations may come when we congratulate ourselves on having been righteous in one modest thing or another.
Jesus understands this great temptation because he faced it under much more difficult circumstances. He faced it all through his life. He faced it after 40 days of fasting, and when he was wrongly accused, condemned, spat upon and crucified. All for us.
The Holy Spirit is here to protect us, to strengthen us, and enable us to keep on toward our goal. As Paul says, "Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own." (Phil. 3.12).
Lord, keep me close to you, especially when I start thinking I've done a pretty good job of things. Amen