Matthew 4:1-11: Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
Our Gospel reading for Sunday March 5 is the story of Jesus being in the wilderness for 40 days and in his time there being tempted by Satan. It is included in all three of the Synoptic Gospels and Hebrews 4:15 highlighting Jesus’ humanity and identification with all of us. We are tempted daily, but as both divine and human, Jesus Christ was tempted too.
Through this temptation story see that Jesus would not compromise for desires of personal or social authority. Jesus would not compromise for political or religious power. Jesus would not compromise to theatrics or to demands of others.
For each temptation, Jesus responded to Satan each time with Scripture. After 40 days of being in the desert without sustenance and shelter, Jesus is exhausted and rather beat down. Jesus does not need to rely on his own words because he deeply knows the words of the law and the prophets that have come before him.
He fulfills the command at the heart of the Hebrew scriptures “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your should and all your might.” These are the words that introduce the Shema, the central confession of faith and the center of every Jewish prayer service.
During this Lenten season, my discipline will be to commit more of scripture to memory.
Sometimes I use these passages that I know by heart on a card when I can not seem to find the appropriate words. More often, I use these passages as an internal compass when making a decision. I have to admit that most passages I have not memorized in full. I know a part of the passage or have an general idea so I look it up on the internet. That usually works.
But the passages that I know completely sit deeper on my soul than the ones I might casually know. These memorized passages become written on our heart and embedded into the body of our soul. These are the passages we can take out in in all moments of life from those moments when we want to say speak but can not find our own words. These times can come in any moment – from times of joy and thanksgiving to times of anger and lament.
These are the passages that I hope guide my actions even when I am not aware. My favorite among these is Romans 8:38-39, which I know from singing it out-loud. Perhaps it can be your prayer for today. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”