Emmitsburg Council of Churches


The Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 4:1-11

4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 4:2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 4:3 The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." 4:4 But he answered, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" 4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 4:6 saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'" 4:7 Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 4:9 and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." 4:10 Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! for it is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'" 4:11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Entering into the Wilderness of Temptation

A Bit of Humor:

"An atomic war blasted the world back to the Stone Age. One of the survivors emerged from the rubble, looked around at the devastation and felt really depressed. Suddenly, from a pile of rubble nearby his wife emerged. Miraculously, they had both survived! After just a few moments of exhilaration and joy at their survival, they both realized they were absolutely starving and soon found themselves scrambling around, digging and poking through the rubble for something -- anything (!) -- to eat.

After they had searched for quite a long time, the woman made an astounding discovery of fresh fruit and came to her husband, proudly presenting him with an apple.

He took one look and said, "Oh, no! You're not going to start THAT over again!!"

On a more serious note, as we reflect on the Bible story of Adam and Eve . . . and the Devil's Temptation scheme, I wonder if we are all too often tempted to avoid situations that could be considered "dangerous" in terms of COMPROMISING our morality or worse yet, "our image" or our personal comfort zones.

For example, Take our "apocalyptic" -- modern day ADAM and EVE Couple. If this modern "Adam" got it in his head that, anything EVE PRESENTED TO HIM WAS GOING TO LEAD THEM into "The FALL" -- ALL OVER AGAIN.

Then he might just have to avoid her all together. Relationships have a way of Tempting us into many diverse ranges of sin. It's not always about the Apple! In fact, for most of us, it wouldn't be so much about "eating of the forbidden fruit, as it might be more about throwing the fruit at one another in our less than holy moments.

If the apocalyptic Adam, proceeds to avoid Eve or cannot establish a level of trust – that what she gives for him to eat is good . . . then, indeed, a new ploy of the Devil has tripped up Adam and Eve all over again. Because they are not willing to risk trust . . . they're relational tie falls apart. Allowing a lack of trust -- that one partner would willfully deceive the other, can lead to a tragic "fall-out" in a relationship. Trust is what was really at stake in the garden . . . trusting that God placed the woman and the man there and sought for them to be happy and healthy and attain the highest level of love and satisfaction in one another . . . if only they had trusted fully in God's counsel.

The falling out of relationship can also happen between us and our Lord.

IF we are unwilling to risk associating with certain people, then we are not going to grow in our faith, because we will not be exercising ourselves in what we have learned from Jesus.

Returning to our Eve and Adam story,

What is important is that, Rather than allowing Satan to come in between the TWO, and gaining a victory by Getting them to argue or avoid one another . . . (in this version of the story, it's not really about the apple!) Instead, They must choose the path of Relationship. They must keep their Dialogue options open. They must place their in something more powerful than themselves . . . they must place there trust in the Goodness that brought them together in the first place. They must place their TRUST IN GOD.

Our God is the God of Relationship, not the God of separation and isolation -- like what happened when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit -- then they realized that they were naked and became ashamed -- and thus, they hid from God -- (we may assume) they also hid from one another.

Recently I read about a man and his seventeen year old son, Jesse, who were not getting along very well. In recent years, it seemed that there was a constant underlying tension in their relationship. In the story they had gone to the great Rocky Mountain National Park in order to hike and camp and presumably, work out their indifference to one another. It seemed to the father, that by going into the wilderness of the Rockies, the friction in their relationship might be worked out.

As it turned out, the result was just the opposite. The further into the backcountry wilderness they hiked, the more bitter and resistant the two became toward one another. Jesse wanted to get all the way to the top of the trail where they would have to camp on the snow pack, Dad was not looking forward to an "ice bed" and argued that they would be so much more comfortable 1000' below the snow line. "You're such a drag dad, you never want to do anything I want to do, you're never up for anything challenging or adventurous." Eventually, the 17 year old plowed on ahead of his father -- kind of left Dad in the dust.

This left the father walking alone, and as he went along, he tried to understand the constant disagreement that was going on between the two of them.

Eventually, the father met up with his son again, about mid-way to the top of the trail where there rental car was parked. Jesse leaned against the car with a renewed face of frustration and anger. "I could have gotten the rest of our supplies and gear and been up at the snow line – if you had only given me the car keys!" Huffing and puffing dad came up to Jesse and decided to ask if they could discuss what the problem between them "really" was . . . .

After a moment of awkward silence, Jesse talked about how his father was always so negative about the world, the future and everything that was going on. "Dad, you depress me! You have no hope! No vision for things to get better! So I have to reject what you say, or else I have nothing to live for!!"

The father didn't like his son's analysis of himself, though he had to admit that his son was not wrong in what he said. Yet the Father tried to explain his bleak outlook on things, that it was motivated by what he saw as an ending of so many of the good things in life – things that he wanted for his son (and all children of the world) to experience and enjoy.

The Father's depression and gloomy outlook was based on what he foresaw his son losing. The father wanted the best for his son and all of the future generations. And so his gloomy outlook ultimately was based on a protective attitude. He wanted for the world to be preserved and kept or improved in every way so that the welfare of future generations would not be endangered or torn apart by natural, economic or political calamity. The issue was about TRUST . . . from one generation to the next.

And yet the son was also right – If we do not project and elaborate on hope and vision of a bright future, then Death and the Devil have already won!

Both Points of View Require Conviction, Trust and Faith.

If we don't look critically at our world and where we're headed, all may be lost – If we lose our hope and will to solve the world's problems, then we have given in to Satan's Ploy:

"Go Ahead, Give Up, It's hopeless anyway! Eat, Drink, Be Merry! For tomorrow we die!"

It has been said that "The devil is like a mad dog that is chained up. He is powerless to harm us when we are outside his reach, but once we enter his circle we expose ourselves again and again to injury or harm." This quote may serve as an example of not getting ourselves involved with someone else's problems–let alone our own relationships(!). Or not getting involved with politics that threaten us or others, or not getting involved with saving some aspect of creation for future generations to enjoy or benefit from.

But I think it is also helpful to consider: "Is it possible that -- when we do not engage in the realm where Satan (or evil or whatever you wish to call it) is biting (the outer limit of his chain) -- we may find that we have stationed ourselves at the very center of the "Mad Dog's" pen?? I would suggest that if we're not doing battle with the Devil (and all of his empty promises) then, maybe we have found rest in the very center of his pen (!!) Where we may stay without fear or despair. We feel nothing there, we see nothing there – life can seem pretty good so long as we're held at bay either in the center or far from the perimeter of destruction at the edge of the "dog pen."

Indeed if you're going to either get out of the Dog House, where it's safe and comfortable or if you're going to approach the dog's pen . . . then you had better be armed with a conviction as to why your approaching the limit of the "MAD DOG'S Chain." You don't want to go there unarmed or unprepared. Taking on the Devil, or evil or persons or ideas that are leading us into a potentially dangerous future, (the realm of the WILDNERNESS) requires great faith and conviction. If we are to approach the Mad Dog, then we had better possess The skills that Jesus used to fend him off (the Devil) – THIS IS THE WORD OF GOD made from the words of the Law, the Prophets, and the Good News of God's Salvation.

In another story about a father and his son,

We learn of a young man who greatly valued his father's presence. IF anything was going wrong in the young man's life – he would draw close to and speak with his father about the problems. Obviously, this young man grew very dependent upon his father – he had come to rely on him always being around.

Eventually his father died and the son was left to fend for himself in life. He greatly missed his father's presence, esp. since dad could always untangle things and make sense out of chaos or unforeseen circumstances. But after some time, the son realized that it was not exactly correct that he had relied on his father. He began to recognize that it was his father's Teachings and Wisdom that had carried him through life thus far.

And so, he began to love and respect his father all the more as he realized that the father's presence was ingrained in the things that he had taught his son. Indeed, the son began to live with greater self-assurance as he recalled more and more of his father's teachings.

The tests of faith must be overcome by trust!! Trust in the teaching and example of those who have modeled reliability and truth. Trust in those who have been faithful to learn and follow in the footsteps of jesus.

It takes great conviction, it takes great courage! But our inspiration is jesus who entered into the 40 days of fasting in the wilderness. Faith and hope and courage are formed in us as we meditate on jesus' movement into the wilderness. Yes, he was tested, and there was suffering involved. But he carried out his calling. By submitting himself fully to god, he saw through satan"s scheme, and by his superior wisdom he straightened out the devil's deceptions.

In fact, jesus does come and remain with his people. And this is our hope and trust. Our source of inspiration from day to day.

In Fact, Jesus does come and remain with his people. And this is our Hope and Trust. Our source of inspiration from Day to Day.


Read more writings of Pastor Jon