Sunday, March 6, 2016

Why Jesus Put Up With the Devil

Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness
by Tissot
Now we are about half way through the period of lent. Last Sunday we looked at the Gospel of Mark's very brief, terse account of Jesus' 40 days in the desert.  This time we'll look at Matthew's account, where he tells of the epic battle between the Son of God and the Father of lies.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus put up with the Devil in the wilderness at all? Being God he could, after all, have simply blown him away. That's what we humans would expect. I've asked the theologian known as Gregory the Great to give his viewpoint on this question.


Then the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Devil. After spending forty days and nights without food, Jesus was hungry. Then the Devil came to him and said, “If you are God's Son, order these stones to turn into bread.”

 But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’”

Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, the Holy City, set him on the highest point of the Temple, and said to him, “If you are God's Son, throw yourself down, for the scripture says,

‘God will give orders to his angels about you;
they will hold you up with their hands,
so that not even your feet
will be hurt on the stones.’” 

Jesus answered, “But the scripture also says, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness. “All this I will give you,” the Devil said, “if you kneel down and worship me.”

Then Jesus answered, “Go away, Satan! The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’”

(Matthew 4.1 - 10, GNB)

But there is something else we have to consider in this temptation of the Lord, dearly beloved. When the Lord was tempted by the devil, he answered him with the commands of sacred Scripture. 
By the Word that he was, he could have easily plunged his tempter into the abyss.
But he did not reveal the power of his might, but he only brought forth the precepts of Scripture. This was to give us an example of his patience, so that as often as we suffer something from vicious persons we should be aroused to teach rather than to exact revenge.  
Consider how great God’s patience is, how great our impatience. When we are provoked by some injury or threatened harm, or moved to rage, we seek revenge as far as possible. When we are unable to obtain it, we make our threats. 
But the Lord endured the devil’s opposition, and he answered him with nothing except words of meekness. He put up with one he could have punished, so that this might all the more redound to his praise. He overcame his enemy not by destroying him but by suffering him for a while.

Gregory the Great (c. AD 540–604)
Forty Gospel Homilies 16.2–3.

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