Forty Days and Forty Nights

“Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.” 1 Peter 3:18

Of the three Gospel accounts of the temptations in the wilderness, St. Mark’s is the shortest.
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Matthew and Luke give us the specific content of the temptations Jesus faced from Satan in the wilderness:
1. “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matt. 4:3; cf. Luke 4:3)
2. “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.’” (Matt. 4:6; cf. Luke 4:9-11 [Luke puts this as the third temptation])

3. “All these [kingdoms] I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” (Matt. 4:8-9; cf. Luke 4:5-7 [Luke puts this as the second temptation])

The summation of these temptations is that Jesus was tempted to make himself as God, and to compel everyone to worship him, but that was not his plan. He knows what it is like to be tempted to sin, and yet, he did not.

So when we are tempted to sin, we know that he understands about temptation. We are tempted to sin all the time. Of course, I have never tried to command stones to become loaves of bread, nor have I have been tempted to throw myself off of a cliff, but perhaps I have been tempted a time or two to become King of the world. Or at least act like I was King of the world.

One particular verse of the Psalm we read today stood out to me:
Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; *
remember me according to your love and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.
Some may get the idea that I have always been this pillar of righteousness, that I have never done a rotten thing, or spoken bad about anyone. They don’t know me very well.

Some of my friends are always apologizing for their language in front of me. I have to remind them that I have not always been a priest, that I was a carpenter for many years, and have heard the worst language ever spoken!

The “sins of my youth and my transgressions” are many. When I think of some of the things I have done, I am quite ashamed. Every day, I am reminded that I have no righteousness in myself. The only righteousness I have is because of our Lord Jesus.

Sometimes I think if he could face temptation and not sin, then maybe there is hope for me.
Another verse from the Psalm stood out for me:
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; my God, I put my trust in you; (Ps 25:1)
I really want to put my trust in God the Father. In order to do that I have to put some things in order in my life. I have to decide what is important, and what is not. To do that I have to look at myself, and how I am tempted to sin.

The number one thing I have to ask myself, “is it all about me?” When I don’t get what I want, do I think that all of life is just unfair? Am I focused on what I want, and don’t care about what anyone else wants or needs?

Do I mistreat others, lie, cheat, lust, or give in to anger? Am I lazy? Do I always take the easy way out? Do I make excuses when I should be giving my time to my church, or to my brothers and sisters?

Am I the center of my universe? Do I always insist on my way? Do I get really angry when I don’t get my way?

All of these behaviors not only damage my relationship with God, but they also damage my relationship with my family and my friends. Who am I really hurting in the long run? I am hurting myself.

The season of Lent is that time when I really have to take a good, hard look at myself, and my behavior.

Once I begin to realize that all of this behavior is destructive, I have two choices. I can continue to sin, and maybe reach the point where I want to hurt others, or myself, or both. I could take out my frustrations on innocent victims. We have seen far too many instances of this behavior. The end of this is eternal punishment.

Or, I can turn away from all of that bad behavior. I can lift my soul to God, and put my trust in him. When I do that I find a release from all of the pain and suffering I cause myself, and others. The way I do this is to look to Jesus, who gives me faith to follow him.

Without Christ in my life, I would have to receive the punishment for all of my sins, but he took the punishment that I deserve. Jesus took this painful journey as depicted in these Stations of the Cross for me. He was judged, beaten, mocked, spit on, and nailed to the cross, and died for me.

These Stations allow me to walk with Jesus as he took his last journey on earth, all the way to the Cross and the tomb, taking my sins with him. I hope I never forget what Jesus did for me.

I thank him for the season of Lent, when I can be reminded of what he did for me. I can never do enough for him, but I can try to follow him more closely so that he can bring me to God. That is what Jesus did for me. What has he done for you?


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