We’re now quite a long way into Lent now, but it’s never too late to reflect upon this season. The story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness is a big element of where our celebration of Lent comes from: Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, and now we mark Lent for the 40 days (46 if you include Sundays) leading up to Easter. The idea of giving something up for Lent comes from Jesus fasting, and the temptations he faced.
If you haven’t read the story of Jesus in the Wilderness, you can find it in the Bible in Matthew 4:1-11, or you can watch Arnold and Friends re-tell the story in our animation coming very soon (make sure you’re subscribed here to see the animation as soon as it comes out!).
So, what lessons can we learn from the story of Jesus in the wilderness?
The things that Satan tempts us with are not new
Satan is not creative. He is not imaginative. He’s not all that clever. The temptations that we face today aren’t new, Satan was using them against Jesus thousands of years ago, and he still uses them now. Satan tempted Jesus with food: his physical needs/desires, the things that his body wanted. He tempted Jesus with a kingdom of his own: power, superiority. He tempted Jesus to prove who he is: to gain a sense of identity, to prove himself as someone.
I would say that all of the temptations that we face today, no matter how new they may seem (with the changes of technology, more modern ideologies, and all kinds of things), would fit into those three categories: physical desires, power, and identity.
Personally, I think it’s so encouraging to see that the temptations we face are not new, and that Jesus also faced the same temptations too. It also means that this passage is a fantastic tool to help us face our own temptations and fight against them.
Jesus fought temptation with Scripture
A really key lesson that we can learn from the story of Jesus in the wilderness is that our greatest weapon against temptation is Scripture. Each time Satan laid a temptation before Jesus, he was able to combat that temptation with Scripture.
This is a great example of why knowing our Bible is so important (and why memorising scripture is so helpful), because if Jesus had had to sit down and flick through the scriptures to check what he should do, it would have been much easier for him (or us) to simply give up and give in to the temptation. But instead, he knew scripture well and was able to combat each temptation immediately and with great confidence.
Sometime Satan twists Scripture
In one of the temptations that Jesus faces, Satan quotes scripture to him, trying to trick him into thinking that this is God’s will and therefore perfectly OK. And this is something that continues to happen now, so many years later. If you take Bible verses out of context, of course you can twist them to mean anything you want them to.
But Jesus was discerning. He heard the Scripture that Satan quoted and knew that it did not align with who he knew God to be (because of his good knowledge of scripture). Just because something sounds “Christian-like”, or is quoted as being from the Bible, or even comes from the mouth of a Christian leader, doesn’t immediately mean that we can trust it. We need to be able to discern: test the message against our knowledge of Scripture. If what we are being told contradicts what we know the Bible to say, we need to dig a little deeper because the Bible does not contradict itself and God does not change.
Take time to prepare
It’s really interesting to think about this passage and how early it appears in the Gospels. Jesus goes into the wilderness immediately after his baptism before he has begun his ministry. It’s a time of preparation before he begins three years of ministry here on Earth.
How do we take time to prepare before our ministry begins? Do we set aside time to spend with God, to pray, to fast, to prepare ourselves? I think this is a really important idea, whether this is as simple as praying before leading a group at church or setting aside a time of specific and focused prayer or fasting before we launch into a new ministry (from a church plant, to becoming parents, to taking on a new role).
What other lessons do you think we can learn from this story of Jesus in the wilderness?
Other blog posts you might enjoy…
- Read more from our ‘Lessons from…’ series
- Why should Christians read the Bible?
- How to deal with disappointment