Reflection March 15

 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.  The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”  And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”

Luke 4:1-4

Jesus had just begun his earthly ministry. As he emerged from the baptismal waters of the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove and a voice from heaven proclaimed over him his true identity, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased.”

From here, the Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness so he could be tempted by the devil. From our post-resurrection vantage point, it’s easy not to marvel that Jesus, after fasting for 40 days, was able to so quickly and resolutely deny the devil’s temptation to turn a stone into the bread he was obviously starving for. Of course, we reason, the divine Son of God would never fall to temptation; he’s perfect.

Yes, but he was also fully human, which comes with it the propensity to sin. Yet Jesus, fully human, never sinned. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted immediately after the Father affirmed his true identity—his beloved Son, in whom he is well-pleased. The temptation recorded in Luke 4:1-4 was an opportunity not only to prove Jesus’s power over evil, but also to demonstrate that, as a human being, he chose to live fully out of this true identity, secure in his relationship to his Father and fully dependent on him in all things.

When the devil tempted Jesus to depend on himself to meet his physical need, he, rooted in this true identity, immediately denied the temptation by quoting part of Deuteronomy 8:3: “He humbled you [Israelites] by letting you go hungry; then he gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

Yes, we need bread to live. But to truly live as Jesus lived, we need to be sustained by the words the Father speaks about our true identity. The words he spoke over Jesus at his baptism he also speaks over those in Christ: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased.” When we, like Jesus, live out of our true identity, secure in our relationship to our Father and fully dependent on him in all things, we also can live more like him right now.

This Lenten season, as we reflect on our brokenness and desperate need for a Savior, may we also find great hope that we are the beloved children of a Father who, through Christ, enables us to be transformed more and more into his likeness as we live out of our true identity.

Amy Wescott