Tempted in all ways as we are



Temptation is one of those subjects that comes to mind in Lent, especially when we are feeling the temptation to eat or drink something we have given up during this forty day period. Do you ever give in? I sometimes do, after I have made a good case for it in my head!”

We are told that Jesus was “tempted in every way as we are, but without sin.” The gospel writer might appear to be telling us that Jesus never gave in to temptation. But, as someone once said, this doesn’t mean that it was easy for Jesus. Anyone of us who has ever really been tempted and has struggled against it, knows it can be very hard. Perhaps it is most hard when everyone around you is doing whatever it is you are holding out against and teases you or jeers at you for not joining in. Perhaps it is even more difficult when you are not absolutely sure you are right. The point is that the one who is tempted in every way as we are but doesn’t give in, knows more about temptation, not less. Those of us who give in quickly and easily know very little about it, because we give into it so easily. So Jesus knew more about temptation than the average human being, not less.

Reading the story of the Temptations in the Wilderness one could get the idea that this episode was a one-off and that Jesus was not sorely tempted again until the night before his death when praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. But most human beings are assailed again and again by the same temptations. Under stress or strain many of us succumb. What if Jesus was also tempted when tired or under particular stress or strain?

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (John 6: 1-15)

This verse is from the story of the feeding of the 5,000. Unlike its counterparts in the other gospels, John mentions the time of year: it is Passover. Some believe that this is John’s “Last Supper” as that event is not mentioned in this gospel. The bread that comes from an amount so small feeds thousands, keeps them alive and well. Christ’s sacrificial death is the Bread of Life and will feed millions and give everlasting life. But what of the last verse of this particular event, v 15.

We are told that Jesus withdraws when he realises that the crowd are about to make him king. In the Wilderness all the temptations are fundamentally about winning power, through feeding people, force or magic tricks. He turns away from all three because they will not win peoples’ hearts and minds to God’s way of love. In the story of the Feeding of the 5,000, Jesus, whilst not turning stones into bread most certainly multiplies loaves so that all are fed- and then suddenly the crowd want to make him king: the temptation to power.

Jesus withdraws to be by himself. Is he running away again from the temptation to be popular, relevant and powerful? It doesn’t matter if he is because he is running where we should all run, back to the real source of life, back to his true self, and away from what the world would have him be, back home to his Father-God. Or is Jesus simply seeking to be alone and refreshed by the Holy Spirit; back on balance, centred, quiet and still?

Re-turning to God is what we all need to do when tempted. It is also what we also need to do when we have simply had a long, hard day and there have been just too many demands on us. Pulled outside of ourselves and fragmented we return to the Father in prayer and we become ourselves again, back on balance.