Jesus, tempted in the desert, lonely, hungry, filled with dread; “Use the power,” the tempter tells him; “Turn these barren rocks to bread!” “Not alone by bread,” he answers, “Can the human heart be filled. Only by the Word that calls us is our deepest hunger stilled!”
Jesus, tempted at the temple, high above its ancient wall; “Throw yourself from lofty turret; angels wait to break your fall!” Jesus shuns such empty marvels, feats that fickle crowds request; “God, whose grace protects, preserves us, we must never vainly test.”
3. Jesus, tempted on the mountain, by the lure of vast domain; “Fall before me! Be my servant! Glory, fame you’re sure to gain!” Jesus sees the dazzling vision, turns his eyes another way; “God alone deserves our homage! God alone will I obey!”
4. When we face temptation’s power, lonely, struggling, filled with dread, Christ, who knew the tempter’s hour, come and be our living bread. By your grace, protect, preserve us, lest we fall, your trust betray. Yours above all other voices, be the Word we hear, obey
Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
This hymn reminds us that in solitude Jesus wrestled with the world’s standards and shunned them for those of God’s kingdom. Jesus deliberately retired to this lonely place for a long time (which is what the term “40 days” means in Biblical terms).
All around him in this wild place were little broken pieces of limestone. They looked just like flat bread. The temptation came that he could feed not only himself, but he could win people over by giving them material things. In other words, bribe people into the kingdom. Jesus asserted people will never find real life in material things.
At the Temple pinnacle – a drop of 450 feet Jesus is urged to jump to be a sensation. Jesus declined knowing that you must not make senseless experiments with God’s power. Jesus saw quite clearly the danger of being a nine-day wonder; sensationalism never lasts.
Finally standing on a mountain, from which the whole of the civilised world could be seen, the Tempter said; ‘worship me and all this will be yours. I’ve got people in my grasp, you know. Don’t set your standards so high. Just strike a bargain with me – just compromise a little and everyone will follow you.’ Jesus replied showing there can be no compromise in the war with evil.
In the wilderness, stripped of defences and security, God and community come close. Wilderness is about struggle. It is in the choices made in the harshest times that we discover both who we are and the nature of the community to which we belong; it is where we wrestle with God. It is a place where God and ourselves can be found. It’s the place where you discover your identity and vocation and God can meet us there.
There have been times, O God, when we have given in to temptation.
We have: searched out the easy way; longed for worldly things; not followed your way and; tried to live without you.
Help us to remember that: people cannot live on bread alone; we should worship You alone; and not to put You to the test.
May we always guided by Your truth, remembering you forgive and sustain. Amen.
The Rev’d Sue Henderson retired URC Minister member of Bradford on Avon United Church.