THE DEVIL SHOWED up yesterday at the Eucharist. In both the Old Testament reading and the Gospel, we had the two most famous interactions with Satan in the whole of scripture: the fall of Adam and the temptation of Christ. These, of course, are most apropos for the First Sunday in Lent, as we contemplate the temptations and crafty assaults of the evil one.
HERE’S WHAT THE Serpent said to Eve in order to get her to disobey God’s command, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of [the fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5) The Serpent essentially said, “Disobey God and you will become like Him.” The promise to become like God is an odd temptation for those who are created in “the image and likeness” of God. (Gen. 1:27) The Serpent promised that by disobedience, they could become what they already were. Adam and Eve were already like God; they were created in God’s image. The Serpent’s crafty promise was already a reality; his promise was a moot point. Eve very well could have laughed at the temptation and said, “I’m already like God – leave me alone!”
SATAN TEMPTED CHRIST three times in the desert, asking Our Lord to: turn stones into bread; to jump from the highest point of the temple and to worship the devil in order to receive all the kingdoms of the world. (Matthew 4:3,6,9) As for the last temptation, Christ could have easily laughed at the Devil and said, “You kidding me? All the kingdoms of the world, the corners of the earth and the depths of the sea are already mine – leave me alone!” Here, the Devil was promising Christ something that He already had. As for the second one, Christ could have easily said, “Of course those angels would lift me up and besides that, I could reverse the rules of gravity or even make the ground below to be like the softest down comforter even known. I can already do these things – leave me alone!”
BUT WHAT OF that first temptation? As our fantastic preacher said on Sunday, Matthew takes the time to point out that Christ was hungry. (4:2) We have no reason to doubt this, as our Lord had been fasting for forty-days. But perhaps the temptation to make bread from stone was not so much to provide substance for our hungry Lord, but was the temptation for Him to deny His reality as the true bread from Heaven. Did Christ not declare in John’s Gospel, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst”? (6:35) Perhaps the temptation to turn the stones into bread was for Christ to deny that He, Himself, is – in His very substance – is the food, the life of the world. That even though He was famished and hungry, His reality is as real food and real drink. Could not Christ have turned to Satan and said, “I am the living bread from heaven! How can turning stones into bread aid me? Leave me alone!”
PERHAPS THIS IS the nature of the Devil’s temptations: that through disobedience, we could “become” what we already are and we can “have” what we are already given. Powerful though they are, temptations are but a moot point, for they cannot deliver on their moot promises — for God has already given them to us! It is only through obedience unto death, even death on a cross that “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.” (Rev. 11:15) It is only through obedience to God that our true reality as being created like God is fully realized. Sin is not so much about doing wrong things, but about ignoring and denying who we really are and who we are created to be. Temptation is not living up to what we already are in Jesus Christ, our Lord.