At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. Mark 1:12-14
I took a class in seminary about the temptations, and different theologians view points – reading such greats as Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and John Calvin. I have both formally and informally studied human nature and sin. I have read and meditated on the three gospel versions of this story countless times and taught them almost as much.
And often all we ever hear from this gospel lesson is this message: “Jesus overcame the devil’s temptations, so you can too” in that great western viewpoint of “we can do anything by ourselves if we just pull up our bootstraps.” But we don’t. None of us are as successful as Jesus are we?
I know that I am not. That’s why so many observe the season of lent by giving up something – we are hoping to change a bad habit – hoping to change something about ourselves that we can’t seem to change without attaching it to a season. And even then we have difficulty, and we often fall prey to those temptations again. But instead of beating up ourselves, instead of giving up because we can’t do it, repent and BELIEVE the GOOD NEWS.
The incarnation was not so that Jesus would just say “look, here is how you live – just do it like me”, rather, Jesus entire life, ministry, death and resurrection was for one purpose – restoration. His ministry, his life, his suffering and crucifixion and His resurrection was to restore us to God –and this is His work – His not ours.
It is not about us being so perfect that we overcome Satan and the temptations, rather that Jesus’ work, Jesus’ merit, Jesus alone brings us salvation. And that is good because quite frankly, I cannot do it myself.
I have made many decisions in life. Some were good, some were bad. Some were God honoring, and some were not. But I’m in good company, for as the Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:15 “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”
And nobody is tougher on me than me. Nobody disappoints me more than me. Someone else does something wrong, and I’m willing to forgive them right away, but if I do something wrong, I carry it like a cross – letting it’s weight bear down on me and preventing me from achieving my God given potential. I let the weight of my sin drag me down. And I’d bet the same is for you – nobody is tougher on you than you. We seem to be willing to extend grace to others long before we extend grace to ourselves.
That is where Jesus comes in. He overcame the powers of darkness he overcame death he overcame temptations precisely because we cannot do it ourselves. The entire Lenten season reminds us that we are not perfect, we are not living in God’s light all the time, but not in a “beat us up way” rather Lent is about us rekindling our relationship with God. It is about us turning from our wrongful ways and following Christ, knowing that we rely fully on Him to reconcile with God.
As we continue down this Lenten journey, be kind to yourself. Try to live as you ought, spend some time with God in prayer, meditation and scripture reading, turn to Jesus Christ as your redeemer. Repent and believe the Good News.