St Francis, Terriers - Lent 1 (05.03.2017)

Tony Dickinson

There are three tests in this morning’s Gospel. They are three tests for Jesus, but they are also offer openings that can make us think “I want some of that”. The trouble is that each of them has a serious downside, a bad effect on us, or a bad effect on others, or on both. The good news is that Jesus has the antidote, in what he says and in what he does. What he says is the answer he gives to each of the tests. What he does, we find out from other stories in the Gospels.

The first temptation is to meet our own physical and material needs before considering others. But the downside of that is that meeting our own needs first makes us selfish. So what does Jesus say? He quotes the Hebrew Scriptures to remind us that our material comfort is not the only thing, or even the most important thing. “Human beings do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” And what does Jesus do? Well, when Jesus does make bread out of next to nothing in the wilderness, he does it for others, not for himself.

The second temptation is to hit the spiritual heights, to find a high place from which we show off our own holiness. The downside of that is that seeking the heights makes us look down on others. So what does Jesus say? Again the answer comes from Scripture. “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” And what does Jesus do? He looks at us. And when Jesus looks at us, he does not look down on us from the heights of heaven. Jesus looks up at us with the eyes of the Child of Bethlehem.

The final temptation is to go for power and position, to be a success. The downside of that is that the desire for power brings misery to those who have it and to those who don’t. Those who have are fearful of losing what they have and are desperate to hold on to it. Those who don’t have are bitter and resentful at being excluded, or bruised and battered by their poverty. In that setting Jesus says “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” And what does Jesus do? Jesus gets alongside others: all sorts of “others”, some of them very unrespectable and unlovable. Jesus is never one of the “in crowd”, part of an exclusive, closed inner circle. God loves in him – and in us – and God loves everything and everyone he has made. As indeed must we.