Christ in the Wilderness

Christ in the Wilderness by Ivan Tramskoy
Before even His Cross and Resurrection, before even the beginning of His Ministry, the nature of God's love becomes manifest in Christ's 'exile' in the wilderness.

While 'normal' life is continuing in the rest of the land, Our Lord fasts for 40 days and nights. The Gospel of St Luke tells us, '...he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry.'

He sacrifices his own bodily needs, for He is fully human. Already, He is sacrificing himself, his self -  for being fully human - we know that He has a self. It is a self that He will eventually lay down upon the beams of the Cross.

So, why? Why does He do this? Who is He doing it for? For His Heavenly Father? For us? For both? Is this act of self-offering for 40 days and nights, to the Eternal Father, borne out of a different motivation to His Passion or is it the same? Is this not already, in some sense an interior Passion that prefigures His Cross? He has no need to do this! He has committed no sin! He is united to the Heavenly Father, always, as the Son. Is He keeping the Lent that we cannot keep because we are not Him? Is He already taking upon Himself our sins, our greed, our disobedience? Is he undergoing the hunger of the starving and poor 'in solidarity' with them?

Though fully human, He is God and He 'always does what is pleasing to the Father'. At the end of it, He will meet the Devil, the Evil one. At His weakest, He will be offered earthly glory and power and He replies, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." This is the answer that He gives to the Devil. It is also, conversely, the answer that He gives to us. Only God can satisfy the human heart. Only God can grant Eternal Life, immortality.

He is able to say this because it was from the mouth of God the Heavenly Father, alone, upon which He fed for that time. It is this that prepares Him for His confrontation with, temptation from and refusal of, the Evil one. The Devil is bold before Jesus, he does not appear afraid of Him, even though He is God, even asking if He will 'bow down and worship' him! In his Pride, he is deluded! How can he think that God will worship him?! Yet, we can say that if there were not a chance of it, because Jesus can be tempted, like us, and can choose, like us, then the Devil would not have asked it! Because Jesus is so weak and surely desperately hungry, presumably in a wretched bodily state, he thinks that this is his chance to thwart God's plan! 'He knows what hunger is like, so how can He allow this for His people, His creation?' thinks the Devil!

Yet, in His total weakness, His fragility, the answer comes back. "Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." The Devil is confounded not by Christ's strength, for the Devil was not kind enough to offer Him food, but by His total trust in His Heavenly Father, in a condition of total and utter weakness! It is not 'will-power' that prompts Our Lord to reject the proposal to 'feed the World'. It is His total love, total trust and total obedience to His Heavenly Father. How furious the Devil must have been that day! And yet, He will be more furious still, apoplectic with rage, when Christ will humble Himself further, will be even weaker than after His time in the wilderness and will entrust Himself once more to the Heavenly Father. The Devil will be scorned once more, in his Pride, for the Lord of Lords, through One 'through Whom all things were made', will humble Himself further, totally, yes, 'even unto death, death upon a Cross'! In His filial love for the Father, the Lord will defy Evil and overcome it, destroy its power, through His suffering and death. It is what His Martyrs will do also to achieve victory over the Devil. It is a crown His Saints will wear through patient suffering and love.

If we will place all of our trust, our hope in Jesus then He will invite us one day into Heaven, the Heavenly City of Jerusalem. The invitation is extended to all of us, in our weakness and even when we are in sin, but the Devil is still scorned because he knows that his name is not on the invitation list.

Comments

Ryan said…
Very, very nice Laurence.
Query on this line:-

"He has no need to do this! He has no sin!"

Do you not think there WAS a "need to do this"?
Surely the Temptation was necessary because, though without sin, in His humanity He was CAPABLE of sin but chose not to?
To be unable constitutionally to sin would have made Him less than human, impossible to emulate and the 40 days a pointless excercise.
I meant that He had no need to do penance, no need to undergo this interior suffering for any sin.
Thanks for the comment.