This article was originally published by The Mennonite


Isaac S. Villegas is pastor of Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship. He serves on the Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA and the Governing Board of the NC Council of Churches. Lenten Reflection: Luke 4:1-13 “For forty days he was tempted” (Luke 4:2). Jesus is tempted—tempted by the devil, tempted by sin. Jesus is like us, even in our vulnerability to temptation. The wilderness weakens Jesus, exposing his desires to the allure of sin. I usually don’t think this about Jesus. I don’t think of sins flashing across his mind. I don’t think of him as being tempted by the same things that tempt us. I don’t think of him as having to resist sin, as if he could even entertain the possibility of sinning, as if that would be possible for God incarnate. Yet, for Luke’s Gospel, from the beginning to the end Jesus is tempted—here in the wilderness and there in Gethsemane, his “time of temptation” (Luke 22:40). From start to finish, he suffers temptation. Jesus is the tempted one. And, according to the book of Hebrews, the temptation of Jesus is essential to the gospel. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). The good news is that Jesus knows us, from the inside—he is just as human as we are, temptations and all, tempted in every respect. Jesus is “truly human… like us in all things but sin” (Council of Chalcedon).[i] “Temptation besets me as it beset him” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).[ii] In the wilderness Jesus reveal the pulse at the heart of all our temptations. All of them have to do with grasping, the sin of overreach. “They are temptations to certain kinds of grasping.”[iii] We are tempted to take what we want now, no matter the consequences. In the wilderness Jesus is offered good things. There is nothing wrong with wanting bread to satisfy hunger. There is nothing wrong with wanting a new kingdom on earth, the reign of God. These are good. Jesus longs for them. He wants them. He is hungry with desires. But he doesn’t seize what he wants as soon as he feels the desire for it. He waits instead. He is patient with his longings. In the wilderness Jesus is tempted by the sin of speed, the urge for immediacy. The temptations have everything to do with the impulse to grab what you want when you want it, without having to endure time, without having to undergo the discipline of patience, without having to wait. Jesus is tempted by the offer to escape from being human, as human as we are. To be human is to learn how to wait, to be where you are in time. To be human like Jesus means we grow into our weakness, our vulnerability to the passing of time. During Lent we are invited to wait in the wilderness with our brother and savior, Jesus Christ, the tempted one. We are invited into the patience of Jesus, to wait with our hunger and longing, to make peace with them—to resist making deals with the devil to get what we want right now. Instead Jesus shows us how to love, how to take time to love, to spend your life undergoing the discipline of love—to love without coercion, to love without possession, to love without grasping. Jesus falls in love with this world and us, and takes time to get to know creation from the inside. He undergoes time with us, the frustrations of learning patience. In the wilderness he doesn’t turn those stones into bread because he longs for a meal with his disciples, with his friends—that meal where he breaks the bread of his body for all of us to eat with him. He will suffer this world for the sake of that meal, for the joy of that fellowship, that shared life with his beloved friends. “For the joy set before him he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). Love is patient. He waits because he loves.     [i] Chalcedonian Creed, [ii] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall, Temptation (SCM, 1959), 117. [iii] Eugene Rogers, After the Spirit (Eerdmans, 2005), 164.

Isaac S. Villegas

Isaac S. Villegas of Durham, N.C., is president of the North Carolina Council of Churches and an ordained Mennonite minister. Read More

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