It is common for us in our daily experience to say that we have been tempted to do this or that. We often say this when persuaded to do something wrong or foolish and we would like to lessen our responsibility.
At times we use the term even in very light matters like advertisements which tempt us to buy more than we may actually need. But in the Bible, especially in the New Testament, temptations are not taken so lightly.
The Bible warns us that the devil or Satan, who frequently acts as the agent of temptation, is often ‘roaming around us like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour’ (1Pt5:8f.) Whether we take this as an exaggeration or not, the fact remains that temptations are a very tricky part of our every day life.
Every human being experiences that lure of evil. Every one is invited by that agent of temptations at a certain moment; to turn his or her back to God and walk the path of self-indulgence and arrogance that Adam and Eve opened up for us; their descendants.
The issue of temptations should not be taken lightly and it should be of personal concern for everybody. When we meditate on this human experience of temptations, we come across a biblical episode which is rather hard to imagine.
When Jesus wanted to associate himself with man, he chose to do it through our human experience of temptation. He had done this earlier on by being baptized in Jordan by John Baptist. Being sinless, Jesus did not need the remission of sin like the rest who went to John for Baptism.
He did this to show how human he was, and how he wanted to share that human experience of ordinary men and women of his time.
In the same way, the Gospel tells us how Jesus allowed the devil to tempt him in Mark 1:12-15, just to share with humanity that part of our daily human experience.
Using comfort, the devil invited Jesus to provide bread for himself from the stones, and by a mere command, since he was God. Jesus did not do it.
Next, the devil tried the urge of being a star, or a hero admired by everyone, and told Jesus to throw himself down from the temple and order the angels to protect him such that everybody would admire him. Jesus did not do that neither.
You know, the devil does not give up that easy. He (or she?) knew how strong the human desire for power is; and so he offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth if he would give himself over to the devil.
As only God would do, Jesus resisted all the devil’s tricks. The text tells us that after all this, “the angels ministered to him,” as they protected and guided the Israelites in the exodus.
At the beginning of the period of Lent, which is a penitential season for Christians, the church uses this biblical episode to remind us of our own temptations.
We are tempted to comfort; the kind of comfort meant here is not the ordinary legitimate comfort that is so essential to our lives. It is rather that comfort that we achieve through selfishness and indulgence. We are tempted to power: to run things and people, to be always in charge.
If this is for serving humanity, it is good. But it is not an urge that should be answered at any cost, no matter what it takes! Such and other human inclinations; we need to be aware of, and we need to confront them wisely, because they are tricky.
Unfortunately, dealing with our sinfulness is not something we take on gladly; and with enthusiasm. To admit that there is evil in our lives is already distasteful, but to try to eradicate it is harder still.
However there is a piece of good news about all this; just as Jesus was in the wilderness in order to experience our full humanity, so is with us as we try to come to grips with the same kinds of temptations that he endured. ‘Courage’, he tells us.