Today as Church we celebrate the first Sunday of Lent and we enter consciously with Jesus into the desert. We take up the journey to wander for "forty days and forty nights" (a number recalling the experiences of Moses and Elijah, also the 40 years of Israel's testing in the desert after the Exodus).We turn our attention to Jesus and the battle He undertakes with Satan. Upon reflection, I come to the conclusion that the devil ultimately challenges Jesus in all the temptations to prove his identity. Prove yourself!
Huddling in caves at night and fragile from a lack of sleep, Jesus was extremely hungry and soon noticed the countless flat, rounded stones littering the desert floor. One stone in particular resembled the loaves of bread baked by his mother in his Nazareth home. Satan noticed it too and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." Satan's request for a miracle would seem a perfect way for Jesus to show that he was indeed the Son of God, as revealed by the Holy Spirit at his baptism. But Jesus refused. Instead, he used a scriptural reference to state that he could not be reduced to a physical need: "It is written (in Deuteronomy 8:3): 'Man does not live on bread alone.”
Satan persisted; he took Jesus to a "high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world." He further stated that he would give Jesus "all their authority and splendour, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus responded with: "It is written (in Deuteronomy 6:13): 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'"Jesus does not compromise His Sonship, He is the Son of God and He knows this.
Lastly, Satan led Jesus to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple . "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here. For it is written: 'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" In all these encounters, Satan used conditional clauses, attempting to twist things to his purposes: "If you are the Son of God..." "If you worship me, it will all be yours..." On the other hand, God used unconditional declarations: "You are my beloved son..."
We can learn so much from the way that Jesus deals with Satan. Jesus never tried to prove himself who He was. He proclaimed that He was the Son of God, but when people asked for proof he didn’t give it to them. He knew when a question was asked for the wrong reasons. He saw right through false motives. But it goes deeper than that. Jesus also knew that you can’t prove yourself to other people. All you can do is be who you are and people can accept you or reject you on those terms. In Matthew 16:15, Jesus puts the ball in the disciple’s court, it is the relational litmus test: “Who do you say that I am? ”.
The more we base our identity on who God is and what God can do the less we have to prove ourselves to people. And the corollary is obvious. The more you base your identity on who you are and what you can do the more you have to prove yourself to people. These ceaseless attempts to prove ourselves in the little things drains the energy out of us like a car battery with lights left on. There is so much freedom is embracing our imperfections and letting Christ become our soul sufficiency.The major area where Satan tries to tempt us is on our ‘belovedness’. He tries to sow doubt in our mind and hearts that the Lord can really love us as we are, that others could love us as we are, with all our defects, weaknesses etc. However, the battle belongs to the Lord and we must keep fighting. We are His Beloved and He will fight for us even in our darkest moments. Love conquers all things. This is wonderfully portrayed in this clip which shows how Jesus fights for us, always! Let us pray for each other as each one enters their own personal desert, place of grace, challenge and transformation.