Matthew 4: 1-11
1Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ 5Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ’He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 7Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” 11Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
I recently installed a new faucet in our kitchen. The hardest part of the job was getting the old faucet out! Some of the metal bolts that held it in place had rusted and fused so that I couldn’t loosen them. I yanked and pulled and greased them and finally took to the strategy of bending the copper piping back and forth and back and forth until it broke! Whew! Though metal is strong, it, too, can fail when it is under stress.
We’re back at the temptation of Jesus today as we consider Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion because this is where his journey to the cross begins in earnest. Jesus does not begin his journey to the cross until after he is tested by the devil. He must be stressed first to see if he is up to the challenge. His humble humanity is pressured to crumble when weakened by fasting and fatigue and when tempted by what he deeply desires.
When we are tired and worn out by hectic schedules, job stress, emotional stress, or the stress of being caught between what God wants us to do and we want to do is when we are most vulnerable to giving in to temptation. We, like the metal piping, are most likely to sin against God and others when we’ve been bent back and forth and back and forth. That’s really when we need God’s Spirit and each other the most to support us and keep us from breaking.
It is noteworthy to me that Jesus was tempted alone in the desert with the devil, and he likely was most tempted when all had abandoned him on his way to the cross. What did he do in those times? He leaned on the Scriptures, and he leaned on praying the Psalms. When we are under duress is when we most need to engage God in prayer and Scripture, and it is when we most need a community of faith in which to find accountability and love. Waiting until we hit a crisis is usually too late. Now is the time to grow strong so we can face whatever struggles come our way.
Sometimes people believe they can be good Christians without being a part of a community of believers. To me, that‘s just foolish, not to mention non-biblical. Hebrews 10:25 reads, “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Jesus invites us now to find the strength of God in prayer, Scripture, and each other as we carry our crosses and follow him.