The temptations of Christ


“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (NRSV, Matthew 4:1)

Today brings us once again to the parting of the ways.  By the majority of people Ash Wednesday comes and goes unheeded as they hurry on along the bustling highway of the world.  But the faithful disciples of Our Lord turn aside in spirit and follow him into the wilderness there to renew the battle against those temptations which, in countless ways, seek to entice us away from him.

The fact that we have temptations need cause us no surprise and certainly no discouragement.  They are a necessary part of the training and development of our characters and are present whenever we are faced with the choice between a higher and a lower course of action.  They become wrong only when we toy with them and give way and sin.

This helps to explain what puzzles many people, namely, how could Jesus, God made Man, feel temptation’s power.  The answer is that when he took human nature to himself in Bethlehem and so expressed himself through the conditions of human life, he also deliberately assumed the natural machinery through which temptation works.  He possessed the natural needs and desires of all human beings, not only those of the body like food and rest but also those of our higher self, the desire for sympathy and companionship and the like.  And at any time he might be in a position when it would be wrong to put them (such as his love for his Mother) before what he knew to be his duty and his mission.

The fact that he never yielded to temptation is a proof that he experienced its full power: we give in so often before it has reached its peak.  But he never did, not because there was any outside compulsion to prevent him, but because his will was so completely one with his Father’s.

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