by Br Christopher Gronotte, LC
The narration of the temptations in the desert in the Gospel of Luke finishes in verse 13, “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.” Would the devil come back to tempt Jesus more? When is the opportune time?
What time more opportune than at the cross? After the 40 days in the desert, scriptures tell us Jesus was hungry (Luke 4:1). On the cross, Jesus was very weak. There are three people or groups of people that shout at Jesus while he is hanging on the cross. Luke does not mention any responses that Jesus gave to them. The prophecy of Isaiah comes to mind, “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (53:7)
What if Jesus was to reply to the temptations with the same words that he used in the desert? I invite you to bring this to your prayer and see what light Jesus can give you reflecting on these two parallel passages.
The First Temptation
The rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” (Luke 23:35)
We all remember the first temptation in the desert, turn these stones into bread! On the cross we have the rulers challenging Jesus to save himself, using the reason that He worked miracles for others. Jesus’ response is straight to the point, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” What could Jesus be thinking as he is tempted to come down from the cross?
These are the same rulers who had seen Jesus working so many miracles during his public ministry, maybe they had been among the 5,000 at the multiplication of the loaves. Jesus might remember seeing them there. “Man shall not live by bread alone. Yes, I have worked many miracles. I have saved many others. I have even feed thousands of people with a few small loaves. But still you do not believe. And you will not believe even if I come down from the cross.”
In this temptation, Jesus challenges us to make our faith deeper. What are the reasons for my faith? Do I follow Christ because he gives me things? In our prayer, do we go to prayer to receive consolations and lights? What happens when we have darkness? Keep following Christ!
The Second Temptation
The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” (Luke 23:36-37)
In the desert, on top of the mountain, the devil asked Jesus to worship him. The common theme in these second temptations could possibly be authority. It is important that the soldiers were the ones saying this to the crucified Christ. His response in the desert was, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.” On the cross, Jesus might have looked with love at the soldiers and remembered the Centurion that he met some time before who asked him to heal his servant. That centurion taught something to Jesus. “I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (Luke 7:8) Jesus marveled at his great faith and healed his servant.
Jesus now is King, and is on his throne, the cross. Did he not say he could ask for legions of angels to come and fight for him? But his kingdom is not of this world. This world has no king but Caesar. And these soldiers could not understand his kingdom.
Christ our King, Thy Kingdom Come! What kind of a King am I looking for?
The Third Temptation
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39)
The response that Christ gives to the temptation in the desert is almost like a knockout punch to Satan. “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” Here they have continually tempted him to come down from the cross, by praising his miracles, recognizing his authority, and now it is one sinner coming to Jesus asking to be saved from his predicament. Many people had come to Jesus in the past few years seeking aid, healing, intercession, etc. Jesus only had one condition for his miracles: that they believe in him. He always praised the faith of the people after he worked the miracles. “Woman, great is your faith!” (Mt 15:28) That is why he could not work this miracle for the bad thief. He wanted to do it more than anything else. This was the reason why he was on the cross, to save us all. “Don’t put me to the test.”
The fact that Christ stayed on the cross through these temptations is what gives us reason to believe in Him. If he would have come down, who would have believed then? He proved his love for us by staying on the cross, by persevering through temptations. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
We can also show Christ our love for him by persevering through the temptations and trials we face every day. Let us give thanks for His great love for us!
It is not in the gospel according to Luke, but at the end of the narration of the temptations in Matthew, “angels came and were ministering to him.” (Mt 4:11) I like to believe that Jesus also received some consolation on the cross after the three temptations. Immediately afterwards, we hear the Good Thief’s confession of faith. “This man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Lk 23:41-42) He was consoled to see the fruits of his sacrifice already blossoming in this soul. By testifying that Christ has done nothing wrong, he speaks to us of Christ’s credibility. Christ has proven His love for us by remaining faithful until the end.
May we also be witnesses to Christ’s love for us!
Photo Credit: Kyle Cheung