Jeremiah 6:16

Thus saith the Lord: Stand ye on the ways, and see and ask for the old paths which is the good way, and walk ye in it: and you shall find refreshment for your souls.


Jesus of Nazareth - Chapter 2

The third installment of my reflections of Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth.

The Temptations of Jesus

The Temptations of Christ immediately follow His commissioning and anointing as the Messiah whom had been prophesied for Israel. Christ received the Holy Ghost immediately after His Baptism; this gift strengthened Jesus for the trials that He would endure proximately.

The Holy Ghost first commands Jesus to the desert that he might be tempted by the devil. This is very important; Christ becomes man so that he might share our human sufferings, he is baptized as a sign of His empathy with our sinfulness, and decent into the deep only to rise out again, and now the devil tempts Him with the pleasures and glories of this world, an experience that we all face daily. Jesus here, more fully enters into the “drama of human existence” through his desert trials “so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest” who, though without sin, has experienced the pain of temptation. The Holy Father points out the reflective nature and Edenic imagery of Christ’s journey into the desert. He takes care to point out that the angels ministered to Christ and He was with the wild beasts [in harmony]; all of this being of the original state of things in the Garden. It is here that Benedict brilliantly says, “Creation, torn asunder by strife, once more becomes the dwelling place of peace.”

Christ was tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread, presumably not simply for him but for the whole world. He however rejects this challenge, asserting that [earthly] bread is not sufficient for man, but that more is required, namely the Word of God; Himself. Next He is told that were He to cast himself down from a precipice that the angels would bear Him up, but again he rejects this and offers that one should not test the LORD but instead rely on Him. The devil’s final offer for Jesus is that of world domination if He would only bow to Satan. Christ again, successfully counters that God alone is worthy of worship and adoration.

These three temptations are an explicit enumeration of the temptations that man faces implicitly in every day of his life. To “turn stones to bread,” as the Pope points out, would be to provide earthly food for the world, but to reject that anything else is necessary, being God. His Holiness analyzes the modern world’s attempts to provide earthly bread for the world but providing nothing further, or anything of deeper significance. However, it is Jesus’ rightful role to provide for His people, both physically and spiritually. He does this for the 5,000 and most especially at the Last Supper, providing food eternal for His people.

Equally, Benedict points out that, as Christ was tempted by the devil to demand a sign from God whereby God’s angels protect Him from a fall; Jesus rejects this as blasphemous. He quotes Scripture right back saying that one must not tempt God. His Holiness explains that our scientific approach to the world imposes “arrogance” and “laboratory conditions” on God and by this, God cannot be found. Jesus recognizes this and refuses the devil, only to leap later in life into the abyss of hell in order to save souls.

Finally, the devil asks Jesus to prostrate before him, and in return, the kingdoms of the world would be Jesus’; the authority and power would rest on His shoulders alone. Jesus rejects this as well, saying that only God can be worshiped, and power flows from Him alone. Again, we see Jesus’ reception of these gifts anyways later when on the mountain He declares that all authority has been given Him.

Jesus’ threefold temptation and threefold rejection of the devil is a rejection of personal glory, and instead a directive to look to God. In His coming, he brings us God and allows us to live in Him. Christ receives all the things, which were offered him by the devil, and more; however he receives these through humility and obedience to God’s Will.

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