1st Sunday in Lent, March 6, 2022
Rev. Misa Furumoto
We have already entered the season of Lent since last Wednesday. The liturgical color has changed to purple; there is no flower prepared on the altar. During this season which last forty days, not counting Sundays, we are to repent. Repentance means again to know where we stand now and change our direction so that we turn to God. Every year on the first Sunday in Lent, we read Jesus’ temptation story.
For forty days, without eating anything, Jesus simply continued to pray. The wilderness has been known as a place to meet God since Old Testament times. It is an empty place, where all you can hear is the sound of the wind, and all you can see is the sky, brown ground, and craggy rocks and stones. No food, no water, no fire, no house, no blanket, no TV, no car, no smartphone. No other human is there, but there are wild animals around. I cannot imagine putting myself in such a place even for just 24 hours. Jesus was there for 40 days.
It was not by Jesus’ own will but he was led to the wilderness by the Holy Spirit, the Gospel says. This happened right after He was baptized in River Jordan where the Holy Spirit descended on Him and a voice from heaven was heard: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased”. The same God who gave those sweet words to His beloved Son now takes Him to the desert like a hell. We know the saying “If you love your child, send him out in the world”, but this is not like that; it is far severer than that. Why? Maybe because God wanted Jesus go through this trial so that He could know and experience human sufferings so that He would be the one to tell us about God’s true love and to become our true friend.
In the wilderness, sure enough, the devil came. He said to Jesus who was starving to death, “If you are the Son of God, why don’t you command this stone to become bread?” Jesus knew that He could do it. But at the same time, he was aware that he was sent to this place so that people might be saved through His suffering. Jesus replies. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” He confronted the devil with the words written in Deuteronomy. Jesus knew that if we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, God will surely provide us with what we need.
Next, the devil led Jesus up on a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world, and said “If you worship me, I will give you all the power and prosperity of these kingdoms.” If He left God the Father and bow down to the devil, He would not have to go through all the pain and suffering that was going to happen to Him in the future. Not only that, He could have become the king of this world. But Jesus responded, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’” These are also the words of Deuteronomy, and they are the first of the Ten Commandments. And Jesus says later to a scribe that the most important first law was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
Finally, the devil had Jesus stand on the edge of the roof of the Jerusalem Temple and said, “If you are the Son of God, why don’t you jump off this roof? Then the angels will protect you and you won’t even get a scratch, and everyone will praise you as God at first sight.” Jesus must have thought how wonderful it would be if He could really do this. The suffering from the contradiction of being 100% human and 100% God was something that only Jesus Himself could understand. If all human beings could say “Yes, I believe” after seeing God with their eyes instead of believing in something unseen to be saved, the Kingdom of God would be complete in no time at all. But Jesus knew that was not God’s plan. And He said, “Do not test the Lord your God.” He was determined to believe in God the Father’s plan and to follow God’s will to the end as He said, before His crucifixion, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup from me. But do not do what I ask, but do what You will.”
The devil, having finished all his temptations, left Jesus until the time was right. “The devil could not break the invisible bond of love that connected Jesus and God. And the shield that protected this bond from the devil’s temptation was the Word of God. All three times Jesus rebuffed temptation with the Word of God from the Bible. The Word of God is the strongest shield that nourishes, comforts, heals, and strengthens us, and at the same time protects the connection between God and each of us. Read the Bible. Know the Word. Carry it with you always.
We say in the Lord’s prayer, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” I believe that this means, “Let us keep the Word of God close to us so that we do not fall away from it.”
We have 36 days until Easter, not including Sundays. I know that there are all kinds of temptations to separate ourselves from God, such as speaking ill of others, complaining about our lives, quarreling with our family members, wanting things that are not necessary, hating someone and hating yourself. And the biggest temptation given to all mankind of the earth now may be to give up making peace and to let beautiful children of God in Ukraine and Russia be killed. Let us now again listen to the Word of God and follow Jesus. Think always “What Would Jesus Do?”