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Like Jesus we can all reject temptation during Lent

By Canon Walter Lewis

Three days ago, Ash Wednesday was the first day of the Season of Lent. The 40 days of Lent is a time when people adopt special disciplines - attending church services, 'giving things up' such as sugar in tea or coffee, chocolate, maybe one meal a week, or a variant of that, with money saved going to people in need.

It can be a time of 'taking up new things' - doing a kind deed, mending fences where relationships have broken down. Also praying more and spending more time with God. These things, and many others, are consistent with the spirit and commitment of Jesus as he undertook his lone mission of 40 days and nights in the wilderness.

It is solely because of Jesus that Lent exists and that you and I may modify or alter our lifestyles during this period. We try to 'walk with Jesus' during these days.

At age 30, the life of Jesus changed significantly, suddenly and dramatically. He left Nazareth and the family carpentry business, and travelled to the river Jordan. There a fiery preacher of Jewish background, John the Baptist, was calling people to get ready for the coming Messiah, to repent and be baptised.

Large multitudes flocked to hear him and be baptised by him. Jesus joined this queue of humanity and was baptised by John. We are told: "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where, for 40 days, he was tempted by the devil."

Think of Jesus - alone, by himself - in these wild and dangerous fastnesses, subject to attack by wild animal and human bandit, and then fasting for 40 days - no food, only water from the mountain streams to drink. And as the days and nights passed, the increasing pangs of hunger, the intense cramps and pains assailing his weakening body and threatening his mind.

It was in these circumstances that Satan came to Jesus and tempted him. Already, Jesus would have known the course his future life would take: it would be one of closeness, obedience and communion with his Heavenly Father as he carried out his public ministry.

Satan approached Jesus, with the intention of sowing seeds of doubt in Jesus' mind, and undermining his confidence in his divine calling. "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." Jesus responded: "One does not live by bread alone." Jesus rejected the offer of bodily survival, stressing the supreme need of reliance upon God as the bread of life.

Then, there was the challenge of 'jump and freefall' from the spire of the temple in the city centre of Jerusalem. It would be a confidence-building measure for Jesus - proving he could do it. It would also evoke public awe and adulation: he would be sought after by all. But, neither confidence building' nor 'followers' by this means were what Jesus sought.

There was the challenge of the offer of power and control over people. Jesus could have sovereign rule of the world, with all subjects paying homage to him. The word of Jesus would decide the fate of many. But, the price for Jesus would be the worship of Satan. Such was not the way of Jesus. Rather, his way was the way of love, which invited the free response of faith.

In each of the three Temptations in the Wilderness, Jesus rejected the approaches of Satan and, in each case, pointed Satan to God; and thus was triumphant over temptation.

At the start of Lent, we acknowledge the presence and power of temptation. We remember that Jesus resisted and overcame temptation.

Today, we share in that victory as we are united with Jesus and the Father in lives of faith, obedience, prayer and love.

Belfast Telegraph

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