Wed, March 2, 202210 mins readFather Hans Buob

1st Sunday of Lent

Biblical Homilies on the Sunday Gospels in Reading Year C

Ⓒ Brooklyn Museum - Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness by James Tissot.

Bible passages


Luke 4:1-13

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.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Biblical Homilies


“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.” (cf. verse 1-2)

After his baptism in the Jordan, Jesus goes into the desert, led by the spirit. The spirit does not take the place of Jesus' human self, but Jesus goes his own way. The word "Holy Spirit" points to the baptism in the Jordan from which he has just come. Luke distinguishes between the fullness of the Spirit in which Jesus returns and the Spirit's impulse in the wilderness. The Spirit drives him in the desert, but at the same time he is full of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ time in the desert was on one hand a time of being moved by the spirit …

The time of the stay in the desert was for Jesus on the one hand a time of being moved by the spirit - because he possesses the fullness of the spirit; but on the other hand also a time of temptation by the devil. This temptation by the "diabolos", the confounder, is not only a test allowed by God as in the Old Testament, but the devil wants to bring Jesus down. That he does not succeed in this, the Son of God proves himself in his power.

Jesus' complete lack of food gives him and us a glimpse of the wonderful fullness of those days. Only when the 40 days were over, Jesus suddenly notices that he is hungry. So he is so filled with the power of the Holy Spirit during these 40 days that he has no sense of hunger at all. Jesus' fasting in this case is therefore not a penitential fast, but a natural expression of being filled with the Spirit. It expresses his being filled with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, that he needs nothing else, as it were.

“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.” (cf. verse 3-4)

The temptations of the devil ("If you are the Son of God...") refers twice to the proclamation of the Son by the Father that took place immediately before Jesus went into the wilderness: "This is my beloved Son. In him I am well pleased. To him you shall listen." So the devil refers to this sonship of God and, aping Scripture as it were, tries to put an accent on it. He apes the Father's word at baptism and seemingly quite skillfully backs up his temptation with Scripture. Jesus, for his part, calmly rejects the temptation by referring to the Holy Scriptures. So he does not appeal to his sonship with God, but to the Scriptures, to the Word. The Son does not fight and argue with Satan. He would do so if he appealed to his sonship to God: "I am the Son of God. Who are You?" No, he appeals only to the Scriptures. He does not put himself on a par with Satan. Satan basically does not come close to him properly at all.

The first temptation ties in very concretely with Jesus' hunger, which suddenly makes itself felt after the 40 days. Jesus is supposed to pervert his Sonship authority and his words of omnipotence and egoistically put them at the service of his self-preservation, and not at the service of the salvation of the world. That would indeed be a perversion, indeed a perversion of Jesus' mission in the world. The devil was not concerned with a messianic work to which Jesus was called, but only with distraction from his mission.

Jesus refers in his answer to Satan in a quite superior calmness to the miraculous power of God, who can sustain wonderfully even without bread. That he could live 40 days without food and not hunger shows that with God nothing is impossible. That is why he can say, "Man does not live by bread alone." Jesus, who just lived 40 days only on the fullness of the Spirit, experienced it in his own body: With God, nothing is impossible.

“And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, ‘To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” (cf. verse 5-8)

The second temptation by the devil occurs on the way up from the desert to Jerusalem. It is said in the Greek "having led up" he tempted him. But from the desert it goes up to Jerusalem.

So now Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth and promises him: "All the power and glory of these kingdoms I will give to you; for they are given to me, and I give them to whom I will." So what according to Scripture and according to the Gospels, the Son is to receive from God - "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matt. 28:18) - is now offered to him by the devil. However, he must admit that these kingdoms were only "left" to him. They are not his property. At that time Israel was under occupation of the Roman Empire and this was of course a Gentile empire. And only of this one Satan is allowed to claim that he rules it as the lord of the political world of that time, i.e.: of paganism. But even this was not his property, but only left to him.

With Satan's invitation to Jesus to prostrate himself before him and to worship him, the climax of all perversion, of all antagonism is probably reached. The conditions for the proposed, yes one could say diabolic enthronement is the worship of the "world ruler" by the son. That would be really the highest perversion, if the Son of God would put the devil on the throne of God - and Jesus would do that, if he would worship him who pretends to be the world ruler, although it is only left to him. Unfortunately, many people have fallen prey to the temptation to worship the devil in our time, even in our latitudes, even in the villages, often without us noticing it or even suspecting anything about it. Here it is not the Messiah who is tempted to do a wrong work, but here the Son of God is tempted, and that in his relationship to God, his Father. He is to worship Satan, as it were, that is, to take the place of the Father - a sinister, the highest perversion. It then says in verse 8, "Jesus answered him, saying, In the scripture it is written, Before the Lord thy God thou shalt bow down, and serve him only." So Jesus points with full resolve, and calmly, to the One to whom alone worship is due - and that is the Father!

“And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (cf. verse 9-12)

As already said mentioned, Jesus was under the guidance of the spirit in the desert and the guidance of the devil then leads him out of the desert to Jerusalem. There - and this is a special abomination - in the holy place, in the temple of the Father, the third temptation takes place.

After Jesus refused Satan's worship, the devil again sneeringly takes up the Father's son address at the baptism in the Jordan: “You are my beloved Son.” Because Jesus twice confessed God's Word in Scripture during the first two temptations, "It is written...", the devil now changes his tactics at the last minute. He now tempts Jesus in his turn, as it is actually "proper" for the temple district, with two words of Scripture. So Jesus is supposed to trust in a confirming miracle. He is supposed to tempt the Father, as it were, and put to the test whether his word that he carries him on his hands and that the angels are coming is also true. After two evil temptations to evil, the devil now tries under the appearance of good. This is, so to speak, the climax of the temptation. Jesus is to put the Father to the test for no reason. But also this time the devil fails. Once again, with calm composure, Jesus refers at the same time majestically and humbly to the word of God in Deut. 6:16: “One must not challenge God.”

“And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.” (cf. verse 13)

So, in the end, the devil lets go of Jesus, but he does not admit defeat. At the end of Jesus' life in Jerusalem, he will cry out again, but this time through the people who cry out and put Jesus to death. The refusal of Jesus to worship Satan will be answered by Satan with the killing of Jesus. The way of temptation of Jesus from the desert to Jerusalem actually reflects the whole way of Jesus on earth: Again and again he is challenged, by the scribes, the Pharisees etc. And the devil always uses the word of God as a weapon.

Saint Paul says yes: We are to use the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, to fight the spiritual battle, just as Jesus did. This is how the ancient fathers of the desert did it. They picked out a specific word of God against every temptation. When the temptation came, they spoke this word of God out loud against the tempter and thus turned the temptation away from themselves. That is why Paul, in Ephesians, calls refers to the Word of God that Jesus holds out to the devil and with which he defeats him, "The Sword of the Spirit." We should do the same, we too should fight the spiritual battle with the Word of God, with the Sword of the Spirit. This Gospel is to remind us of this, and that is why it is used/read? at the beginning of Lent. We must expect to be tempted just as Jesus was. And we therefore need the same weapon, the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Let us prepare ourselves in prayer for this spiritual battle! ∎