Believing in something you cannot explain is the true definition of faith. As Christians, we believe in many mysteries of God as part of our faith. We call these things mysteries because to us, as mortals, we cannot comprehend how they can be because they defy our mortal understanding. But we, as believers, accept them as truth.
One of the hardest of these mysteries to grasp is how Jesus can be fully God and yet fully man. And so it is that when Satan tempted Jesus, it was at times when Christ was most vulnerable, most like us, most fully man. John’s gospel tells us that the Spirit led Him into the desert with the purpose of being tempted.
So Satan’s first temptation was the most human of temptations: food. “After he fasted forty days and forty nights he was famished”. After fasting for forty days, who wouldn’t be? Satan came to Jesus and said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread”. For someone who would go on to turn water to wine, heal the blind and lame, and multiply loaves and fishes, certainly Jesus could have done this easily. What human would have been able to resist that temptation after forty days of fasting? How many of of us would forget that we would be following a command of Satan in order to fill our empty stomachs?
Satan’s second temptation was an appeal to Jesus’ human pride. After taking Jesus to the highest point of the temple, Satan said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written, ‘For he will order his angels to protect you’ and ‘with their hands they will lift you up, so that you will not slip and fall on a stone.’” How many of us would’ve been so offended by this challenge that as a matter of human pride we would’ve taken the attitude of “I’ll show you, Satan!”?
The third temptation was Satan’s appeal to human ambition. Satan offered Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world” if Jesus would throw Himself on the ground and worship him. How many people are so driven by ambition to attain high positions of power and influence that they would do anything to attain it? How many of us are driven by the ambition to attain “just a little bit more” in this world for ourselves and our own glory that we lose focus on the fact that it is God who blesses us with all that we have?
After these three temptations, Satan departed Jesus “for a time”. Certainly, Satan returned when Jesus was the most vulnerable: when He was on the cross. It is here where God showed His enduring love for us in Christ’s Passion. Indeed, the root of the word “passion” is the Latin word “passio” which means “suffering.” Think of Satan’s words coming out of those who mocked Him: “Save yourself! If you are God’s Son, come down from the cross!” “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! He is the king of Israel! If he comes down now from the cross, we will believe in him! He trusts in God – let God, if he wants to, deliver him now because he said, ‘I am God’s Son’!” “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” Jesus, who is fully man, endured the agony of crucifixion as we would. Imagine Christ on the cross, the weight of His human body hanging from the nails piercing His hands and feet. How tempted do you think He was to just end His own suffering before prophesy was fully fulfilled?
Temptation comes in many forms, and it always comes when we are the most vulnerable. Satan appeals to our human nature, to our human weakness. We must always remember what Satan purposely omitted from Psalm 91 to twist its meaning: “For he will order his angels to protect you in all you do.” Psalm 91 is about God protecting us from sin, not from bodily harm.
The story of Christ is the story of love and suffering as one, and of God and man as one. It is the story of God suffering for His love of all mankind, to become closer to us by becoming one of us and to walk among us. It is the story of God’s passion for us. What is your story? What will be your sacrifice for God? How will you resist temptation, so that you will become closer to Him? What will be your passion for God?