Read Matthew 4:1-11 with your family.
Every year we begin Lent with the story of Jesus being tempted in the desert. This story has a lot of symbolism in it, and the early Christian church would have recognized the connections between Jesus and Moses, and the other stories in the Hebrew Scriptures. The forty days, for instance, was the same length of time Noah was in the ark, that Moses was in the mountains, that Goliath challenged David, and that Elijah walked before reaching Mount Hebron. We also have he Hebrews in the desert for 40 years.
Lent is 40 days. (We take Sundays off because Sundays are holy days and we should be able to praise on those days.)
This is where we encounter the character ‘Satan’ for the first time. In Hebrew this word was “ha-satan”, meaning the satan. It wasn’t a real name, it was a description. Ha in Hebrew means ‘the’, and satan meant the tempter or challenger. It was the job of ha-satan to test Jesus to make sure Jesus remained focus on what God wanted him to do and didn’t get distracted by an easier life.
Ha-satan tempted Jesus in three ways. 1. Get what you want by changing stones into bread. 2. Force God to save you by making unsafe choices. 3. Worship me and I’ll give you all the money and power you want.
Jesus said no each time. He told ha-satan, and reminded himself, that we are to trust God’s word, not challenge God for proof of God’s power, and find our value in God’s teachings, not in money and power.
Read Luke 4:1-13 with your family.
The scripture today talks about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness after his baptism, and having to deal with “Satan” or “the Devil”. Those are scary words and sadly the church has made them scary throughout history. But the original Hebrews did not think of a scary figure dressed in red and carrying a pitchfork – that was something artists created centuries later.
The Hebrews understood a character not called “Satan” by name, but “ha satan” as a description. This character was the tempter. That little voice that tells us to make poor decisions, that it doesn’t matter if we lie or steal. We know it is wrong but we really want to do it anyway – that is Temptation, ha satan.
In our story Jesus is tempted by that little voice in three ways: have everything you want, have all the power you want, and live forever. Jesus knew that he had a job to do and that job was not going to be popular. This was Jesus opportunity to work out his biggest fears and temptations, so he could feel strong enough to do the job of God in human form living on earth.