Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness – Luke 4

There are many layers of things going on here at the same time. The narrative seems to be based on Genesis and mirrors the temptations Adam fell prey to. Both sets of temptations fall under the three categories of Lust of the Flesh, Lust of the Eyes, and Pride of Life. It is interesting to note that Jesus responds to all three by speaking forth the scripture.

In the first temptation, one may emphasize cravings of the flesh, hunger, but Jesus was starving. There was nothing sinful about him being in dire need. His life was on the line; his natural life in the material world. In all three temptations, his material stability could be seen as at risk. Also, in all three temptations, the “small self” is at play. The devil tries in all three cases to get Jesus to yield to the human ego, which is our default but may not have been his.  The devil questions his sinless state in saying “if you are the son of God.” The devil wants him to pull rank and take advantage of his privilege in ways he cannot do as the Son of Man, having come as a man and identified himself with humanity in every way.

The second temptation makes it plain that evil is encountered in power-seeking in the natural, or material, realm. Politics and all the corruption, pretension and games that go with it are of the evil one. If we interpret the devil as a metaphor, the more literal “devil” is found in the small self, which is connected with through fears over our physical, material stability: necessity to have food and enough of it, all pertaining to natural order, and thirdly, our concerns for our eternal stability: our standing with God, which comes up in the third temptation.

The devil doesn’t quote scripture until he takes Jesus to the Temple and sits him atop it. He uses the small self and concerns for physical and material stability to tempt Jesus to confuse religion with the Real. He wants him to hide the small self behind religion by embracing the presumption that God will intervene in human affairs to keep him “safe” as the small self understands safety: we don’t want to suffer physically. We want God to protect us from our own shortcomings but Jesus identifies that as “tempting” or “testing” God and God will not go for it. God is sovereign and owes us nothing. This doesn’t mean God is not involved in human affairs, but it does mean it isn’t on our terms, or terms dictated by the small self – human ego.


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