[on fasting, Lent, and temptations]
Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
Matthew 16:23, NLT
Just a few years ago, every time I heard these words they made me feel… awkward at best, really uncomfortable at worst. I knew it was Jesus who spoke those words and he knew how to manage his speech (i.e. think before speaking) so he had a reason for saying such harsh words to Peter, one of his closest friends. I kept trying to envision that scene and I could only imagine what Peter might’ve felt at that moment.
“Jesus… but… I love you, I want you to live. And you are calling me Satan?” the hurt in Peter’s voice was easy to imagine.
However, as I watched the Jesus movie for umpteenth time (the one from ‘99 with Jeremy Sisto playing Jesus, not the standard Jesus movie), it finally dawned on me what did Jesus mean.
As this is the time of Lent, a time of fasting, I guess the passage from Luke 4 is well read.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by the Devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up he was hungry.
When I thought of the temptations, I guess I concentrated on these three and I always thought that the Devil came in the very end of those 40 days, when Jesus was hungry. However, I missed the fact that Jesus was tested by the Devil all 40 days and nights. And he knew when Jesus was the most vulnerable.
My mom knows (learned it from experience) that when I am hungry, it is better not to cross my path. She knows that if I suddenly grow easily irritated or grumpy, I need food. Thankfully, I have learned about this trait of mine myself so I am trying to control it better these days. However, I still fail quite often.
As I mentioned before, the Church board (where I am a member) agreed to fast every Friday (for now for the period of Lent, but I guess we’ll see whether we’ll stop). The first Friday we did this, I failed. I blamed it on a hectic day, on too much pressure from my boss’ side, on the weather… I was tired and I had a headache, and I just felt like I could not go on any longer. Now that I put it in writing, it’s easy to see the root of my problem: there are way too many “I” there. I am grateful that God has showed that to me and since that time, I tried to rely on his strength instead of mine (which is nonexistent in times like that). And it was tempting to give up and give in… eat just a little bit… at one point of time, I was indeed arguing with myself whether I can eat a little tiny bit of a candy. And I mean, I was ARGUING. Heh…
God did provide strength in his amazing ways and with astounding timing. Every time I felt that I cannot go on, He used my team mates from the Church board to remind me that God is the one who is strong and it’s okay to be weak. Sometimes God used my co-workers to remind me of the similar ideas. And often, he reminded me that he himself went through a similar experience.
I wonder how many times the Devil really came to Jesus to tempt him. Did he ever leave? This Jesus film I mentioned above has depicted the temptations in a very realistic way.
“Oh, come on, Jesus. They will kill you and forget about you.”
“They will use your name in crusades and kill innocents in your name.”
“Your sacrifice will mean nothing.”
“You’re just a loser – see how much I can give you!”
“You think your Daddy will be with you there on the cross? You are mistaken! You will be utterly ALONE.”
And so on and on, and on. As I often do, I tried to put myself in Jesus’ shoes. What would I do in his place? Would I be able to go on with the Father’s plan (no matter how agonizingly painful and terrifying it would be) or I would chicken-out and hide?
I pray that whenever I have to make a similar choice (to choose God instead of the worldly ways, no matter what the immediate consequences would be) it would be with God’s strength. I cannot do it on my own. I don’t want to do it on my own since there would be no point in it then.
Jesus: I am not alone; I am with my Father.
Satan: You will die in vain, Jesus…
Jesus: No! I’m in the hearts of men. I will die for the everlasting kindness of the human heart created by the Father, so that man will make His image shine once again. And those who want to will find in me the strength to love until the end.
Thank you, Jesus, for living the example.