1st Sunday of Lent


Genesis 2:7-9,3:1-7
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11


Artworks depicting today’s gospel seem to fall into two groups. Jesus looking out onto a landscape, and beside him, a large black creature, similar to a man but with large bat like wings. In some, one of the creature’s arms wraps around Jesus’ shoulder, the other pointing out into the distance. A shonky salesman promising more and a set of steak knives. The other group of artworks have Jesus all alone, usually sitting, but perhaps crumbled is a better word—desolation on his face and desolation in the landscape around him.

After the exultation of his baptism and being identified as the Son of God- the Beloved, Jesus has been led by the Spirit to this challenge, a very human thing, to wrestle with his inner demons. The community of Matthew would have understood Satan as an illusory obstacle, a temptation that gets in the way of living a life of faithfulness to God and helping to make the world a better place.

Jesus is offered or is aware that he can have wealth, power and position. Most of us would see these as desirable things and, in some ways, necessary in the world. Wealth can be used to help others. Power and position can also lead to widespread positive outcomes if used for others, not over others. Used incorrectly, wealth, power and position become pride, greed and selfishness. This is what Jesus is grabbling with, the tempter/devil/Satan drawing him away from a life of faithfulness and creation of the Kingdom, away from a life of humility, sacrifice and selflessness. Jesus is discerning between the good and evil spirits within, and it is only when he has wrestled with the questions of how he wants to live his life that he has the peace of the angels, the good spirits. His answers to each temptation are rooted in the tradition he knows and loves and in his own identity.

Lent is a time of discernment for us all. What sort of life do we want to live? One that is only about ourselves and what we can accumulate? Or one that is orientated towards ‘other’ and what we can give?

Alison Gore is a parishioner at St Paul of the Cross, Glen Osmond. She works in education and formation.