Temptation, Ashes, and Dust

Is there any new or groundbreaking reflections on this text? It is familiar and rich. It has been well written about and well preached about by so many others.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written,

‘Worship the Lord your God,
    and serve only him.’”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    to protect you,’

11 and

‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”

12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Sometimes we don’t need new insights. Sometimes we need reminders of what we know to be true. Lent is a time for remembering. There may be insights, but they come out of the ancient practice of remembering. Remembering that we are dust. Remembering that we return to dust. Remembering, after that comes resurrection.

In the Bible, when people go into the wilderness, they encounter God. That’s not to say the journey in the wilderness is easy, or glorious. The stories of people in the wilderness are stories of difficulties, hardships, doubts, and temptations. It’s almost as if difficulties, hardships, doubts and temptations are prerequisites for encountering God.

I don’t know why life works this way. It just does. Even for Jesus.

Which is the consolation in the story of Jesus’ temptation. Jesus knows. Jesus understands. The difficulties, hardships, doubts, temptations- the dust of life and death- can’t be avoided or ignored. Believe me when I say this, I know this is true. I’ve tried.

If we have the capacity or are giving the grace to look around in the midst of the dust, we discover we are not alone. Other people are there too. They are present for us. And we are present for them. It’s been said (C.S. Lewis?) that the two most comforting words to hear are “me too”- to know we are not alone.

The amazing thing is that Jesus also can say, with complete integrity, with complete understanding, “me too”.

We are not alone. And neither the devil nor the dust has the last word.




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