Matthew 4.1-11
At Jesus’ baptism, from above holy God gave him a tremendous ‘high,’ “This is my dearly
loved Son, who gives me great pleasure. Go to it.”
To save humanity, Jesus felt that he must make himself weak and vulnerable to face similar
testing that humans would meet in life. He trusted that the assistance received would come
directly from God. He decided to trudge out into the blast-furnace wilderness wasteland, far
from distraction to observe the first full Lent. Parched with thirst, and without food, he soon
became mentally wobbly and physically faint. At this weak point, temptation slithered in.
The hollow hungry guts of Jesus growled. This now near stick-insect human was tempted to
serve himself indulgently, as his First Parents did in their garden. Weakness played tricks on
his mind. He thought “What kind of a God listens to his stomach growl instead of showing
off his power to feed himself?” A thought came “Holy God, when those moaning Hebrews
demanded food from heaven, you fed them with manna bread every day of their
wandering. Lord, God, there’s uncountable millions of sun-blasted rocks littering the desert
floor. If I am your apprentice Messiah, why can’t I test-run my power, and turn these round
loaf-like limestones into Big Macca’s buns? As a fast-food outlet, I could fling them at the
needy people and become instantly popular. What about it, Father God? Is this the way to
go?”
At once, his remaining common sense kicked in. “On the Exodus, the Chosen grumbled for
slick food handouts. If I followed this pattern, I would become a mere provider of instant
welfare. Folk do not simply live on bread alone. I must give them what they need, not what
they want, merely to satisfy their immediate craving. Holy God, your Word is what they
need.”
Then, Jesus’ frazzled mind played a second trick to test if God’s love would keep him safe. In
his mind, he imagined himself at the top of the highest pinnacle of the Temple, (the
equivalent of an eighteen-floor building). He thought “If mere bread won’t do the trick, shall
I give them a crazy stunt, an awe-inducing spectacle, that will lead to fame and following? I’ll
hurl myself down to the gasps of the crowd. At my baptism, Holy God, I heard your voice say
‘This is my Son, the Beloved.’ My leap will force your hand to send an angel to catch me and
protect me from harm. Wow! What a stunt! ‘Roll up! Roll up! Come and see a flier without a
net caught in free fall.’ I’ll be the talk of the town. That should jump-start my ministry.”
But cool reason interposed. “Drat! There’s no Channel Nine News replays. People will just
want to see ever-more sensational circus tricks. This week’s cheap thrill will be next week’s
common place. I know that, if I follow the call of God, I will certainly hear the crowd scoff
one dark afternoon ‘He saved others. Himself he cannot save. Chuck yourself down from
Calvary’s cross and we’ll believe you’ [Matt. 27.42]. No, I have to offer them eternal life, not
trendy entertainment.”
Then, Jesus’ befuddled brain pictured a third scenario. Somehow, his imagination visualized
a breathtaking panorama, a glimpse of all the kingdoms of the world, with himself as its
political leader. An inside voice beguiled “You can have this world. You can have all the

power and influence that earth can offer. It’s a world of Trump Towers and Casey councils.
It’s a world which comes to terms with the kingdom of nothingness and constantly worships
the Golden calf. It’s a world won by not pitching ethical ideals so high, but giving full
allegiance to compromise and corruption and winking at what is questionable, a world of
constantly reaching for the brown envelope of untraceable banknotes. This could be all
mine.”
Then the remnant of Jesus’ tired out conscience clicked in, but it was enough. “No! I cannot
better the world by lowering Godly standards. I cannot change the shady world by becoming
one with it. I cannot preach a cushy, comfortable Gospel by offering cheap grace.”
We humans are incomplete. We carry within us, a restless emptiness, like a hole. We may
imagine that we can plug the hole with a new partner, a better computer, an all-mod-cons
refurbishment. But, all our scarifying and sacrificing will still leave an emptiness, because it
is a “God Shaped” hole. There is no permanent filling this with earthly sops, because our
hearts are restless until they rest in God. We have been created for a relationship with God
and with each other, with God’s grace undergirding all.
Jesus’ desert experience teaches us that there is now no place so distant, so desolate, so
challenging, where Jesus has not already been. There is no temptation so great that Jesus
has not already tested it and overcome it, and will do so for us. And, more. The desert had
grafted in him compassion for the needy, love for the loveless and healing for the sick.
Sun-burned, glare-blinded, Jesus finally stumbled from the wilderness, strengthened for the
struggle ahead, only to be met with terrible news. His beloved baptizer, John, who had set
him on his course, had been slain at the whim of King Herod’s whore, Herodias. Now, Jesus
cannot let John’s voice fall silent. He must take up the Baptist’s robe. His moment had come.