My Dear Sisters and Brothers! The Gospel passage for this Sunday may look like an invasion of Jesus’ privacy. He went to the desert to be on his own. It wasn’t meant to be. His intense time of prayer and fasting was interrupted by the devil. As we embark on our Lenten journey we need to be realistic. Whatever your Lenten resolutions are there is someone who will not leave you alone. The devil will invade your prayer, fasting or almsgiving not simply to tempt you to break them but so that you may start judging yourself of not worthy of God because of your weakness. This weakness can be evident when we don’t persevere in our Lenten resolutions but it is even more apparent when we sin again and again.
As we come to observe the first Sunday of Lent in the opening prayer, the collect, which followed immediately the penitential act as we don’t sing Gloria on Sundays during this season, we asked God: ‘that we may grow in the riches hidden in Christ.’ Being a Christian, a disciple of Jesus, I am determined to come ‘to know him more clearly so that I may love him more dearly and follow him more nearly, day by day’ as St Richard of Chichester, an English bishop from the twelfth, century prayed. St Luke the Evangelist had the same determination for himself and for other Christians. However we can be sure that he was not spying on Jesus in the desert hiding behind a bush. How do we know about Jesus’ temptations? The devil didn’t publicize it. He lost that battle. If we know about that event it is because Jesus shared the memory of it with his disciples. He invited his disciples and us as well ‘to grow in his hidden riches.’ The richness of his divinity and humanity as the beloved Son of God is the environment for our Christian growth.
My Friends! The way the devil tempted Jesus is a clue how the devil tempts us. The devil hadn’t had an experience how to tempt God as before God hadn’t become man. The ‘expertise’ the devil used was how he uually attacks people.
Before Jesus went to the desert he was baptized in the Jordan. There he heard the voice of his heavenly Father: ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’ As I said before that’s Jesus’ richness. That’s his treasure. That’s his motivation and his strength. He is the beloved Son of God. No one can convince him otherwise. However the devil didn’t know that. Why didn’t he know it? Because many times before he had succeeded in convincing people that they were not the beloved children of God. Do you remember Adam and Eve for example? So he went on with his well-rehearsed and practiced technique.
‘If you are the Son of God, - said the devil - tell this stone to turn into a loaf.’ Couldn’t Jesus do it? Of course he could. Bu he didn’t need to turn a stone into bread to prove that he’s the Son of God. Sometime later however as the Son of God out of compassion for us the lost and doubting, but still beloved, sons and daughters of God he would turn bread into his scared body.
‘Worship me – said the devil – and I will give you all this power and the glory of these kingdoms.’ Why would Jesus fall for that? He knew what it was to be the beloved sharer of the Kingdom of his Father. Sometime later however out of compassion for us the lost and doubting, but still beloved, sons and daughters of God he would kneel in front of Peter and other Apostles to wash their feet. He the only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father saw clearly who those people were, the beloved children of God. He saw it despite their shortcomings, their weaknesses and their sins.
‘If you are the Son of God – the devil said – throw yourself down from here, from the top of the Jerusalem Temple.’ Jesus didn’t need to fly like the Superman to prove that he’s the Son of God. He chose to walk firmly on the earth instead so that sometime later as the Son of God out of compassion for us the lost and doubting, but still beloved, sons and daughters of God, he took the cross to the Hill of Calvary and was raised above the crowd on that cross by the hatred of some people. The hatred was generated by the sins of all of us who are so easily convinced that we are not the beloved sons and daughters of God.
Beloved Daughters and Sons of God. We have no right to individual privacy in Australian law but we do have right to inherit the Kingdom of our Heavenly Father as his children. If anyone challenges this right of yours turn to Jesus Christ, your Saviour, your Messiah, your Redeemer but also you brother.