1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread." 4Jesus answered him, "It is written, "One does not live by bread alone.' " 5Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And the devil said to him, "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours." 8Jesus answered him, "It is written, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.' " 9Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10for it is written, "He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,' 11and "On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.' " 12Jesus answered him, "It is said, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' " 13When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.
The Church's year of grace has moved into the 40-day long season of Lent. "Lent" is an old word for springtime that refers to lengthening days and more daylight. The music tempo lento is a lengthening, slowing-down pace. Lent is one of the church's oldest observances that probably began not long after Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension, although throughout the centuries lent has had different lengths ranging from a few days to our current practice of forty days – Ash Wednesday through Wednesday in Holy Week – minus Sundays. Sundays are In Lent but not of Lent, since every Sunday is a festival of resurrection.
Like 7, 40 is a famous biblical number. Moses spent 40 days of Mount Sinai; Elijah spent 40 days on Mount Horeb. Israel trekked through the exodus desert for 40 years. Jesus spent 40 days of being tempted or tested in the wilderness.
Lenten practices and observances emphasize repentance – thus colors of purple and lavender – and baptism. Just as with baptism, the turning around, repentance aspect of Lent is about living bathed in grace. Traditionally Lent has been a time of preparation for baptism that historically happened during the Easter Vigil; it's also a time for those of us already baptized to remember how in grace God claims us, names us Christian, calls us to witness and service, and in the power of the Spirit sends us into the world to be the gospel, to live as good news to everyone everywhere we venture.
Recently in Luke's Gospel
2:21-22 Jesus' baptism
3:23-38 Jesus' genealogy, ending with son of Adam, son of God
4:1-13 Jesus, full of the HS – continuing with the rest of today's gospel reading
4:14-21 Jesus, filled with the power of the HS – his first formal act of public ministry in the synagogue when he reads from Isaiah and announces release to the captives, the year of Jubilee fulfilled at this time in this place. This was our gospel reading on Epiphany 3 this year.
Every lectionary year (A, B, and C) the first Sunday in Lent features Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. It's striking how we move from Jesus' baptism in the wilderness alongside the Jordan River to the Holy Spirit Jesus receives in his baptism catapulting him out into a deeper, denser wilderness.
This is Revised Common Lectionary year C, also known as Luke's year. Luke emphasizes neighborology, the word about the neighbor. This year we hear a lot from Jeremiah, a lot from Deuteronomy; both books emphasize living together in covenantal community. Deuteronomy records the Ten Commandments that supremely instruct us how to live into the fullness of the reign of shalom where no one has too much or too little, everyone has as much as they need.
Synoptic gospels Mark, Matthew, and Luke all include an account of Jesus' testing by the devil, Satan, traditionally the prosecuting attorney in Judaism. Mark provides no details; Matthew and Luke reverse the order of the second and third temptation or test. Luke places this passage about Jesus, son of God immediately after his version of Jesus' genealogy that ends with "Adam, son of God."
• Luke 4:3 Turn these stones into bread?
But Jesus himself is the bread of life, he is far more than basic survival food, Jesus is The Stuff of ultimate revival, a.k.a. Living Bread, nutritious grain that won't rot or mold or decay!
• Luke 4:6-7 Give Jesus authority over all the kingdoms of the world?
Jesus is Lord over and against the insufficiency of temple sacrifice, the dehumanization and violence of Roman imperial rule. In Christ Jesus all the world possesses the cross of Calvary, power of life over the death-dealing, life-negating pretenses of too many ecclesiastical and earthly governments.
• Luke 4:9 Throw yourself down from the temple spire?
But Jesus himself is the temple; Jesus is more than the temple. In fact, each of us is a temple of the Holy Spirit, so no further need for a brick and mortar structure because we have and we are living temples.
In today's passage, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy, with words that point to the neighbor, the other, and not to himself. Jesus had spent a lifetime attending synagogue and being instructed in Torah, so he carried the substance and meaning of scripture in his heart. We've mentioned Mary praying the Magnificat recorded in Luke 1:46-55 – "My soul magnifies the Lord, and spirit rejoices in God my savior" – that's roughly based on Hannah's song in the OT. Like Jesus, she'd been raised an observant Jew and that meant learning and knowing scripture.
How about us? What about us? What scriptures, prayers, hymns, do we rely on when the going gets rough and tough? When we're confused or uncertain about our next move? What scriptures do we recall when life is glorious and we want to thank and acknowledge God?