The Temptation of Jesus Christ
by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.
Temptation of Christ - by Juan de Flandes,
from National Gallery of Art, Washington
You and I have prayed The Lord's Prayer countless numbers of times. In it we always ask God
"lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil". Some
translations of that famous prayer have it "and subject us not into the trial".
What is it that we're praying for?
Well obviously there are various levels of
Temptation -- some powerful and severe, others not so powerful, not so grave (not weighted with much gravity). Some
Temptations are of the flesh. Some
Temptations are of the Spirit. Some involve Passion ... others involve cold
Whatever a Temptation's quality or type may be,
at whatever level, it is always a Time of Testing. Our resolve, our spiritual muscle, is being tested. And if we are weak and flabby,
without any muscle power at all, we will be a pushover for the Devil.
Jesus also had His Times of Trial. The first we know about was during His time out in the desert immediately prior to
beginning His Public Ministry. He experienced being alone and abandoned, with only His own resources to rely upon. He had His desert
experience; we have ours. He knew Temptation and Trial
just as we know them.
We need to pay attention to important words that come to us from important sources. We need, here, to pay attention to the
Biblical difference between what is a Temptation and what is a
Trial. In the Bible, a Trial
is always something far more profound than a
Temptation. The consequence that follows a Trial has finality to it.
There is a final, complete and total outcome to a Trial. And deliverance from the
sort of Trial Jesus is talking about in teaching us His Prayer is nothing less
than Battle with the Devil Himself.
We, therefore, pray that God protect us in the time of
Temptation and deliver us from the Trial, we are asking God to be
with us when we face the Devil Himself.
The problem is that the Devil always comes to
us disguised ... disguised as something or someone good. The chief weapon of the
Devil is to corrupt what is good. He takes goodness and then devalues it, debases it, corrupts it.
Do you have the gift of charm? Do you have a personality that can charm people? You can use it to seduce others. Do you have
power over words? Are you a good wordsmith? You can use your tongue to corrupt others. Do you have the gift of intelligence? So does
the Devil! You can use your power of intelligence to
corrupt the Truth and twist it into a Lie. [One of the names given in the bible to
Lucifer is "The Father of
You see, just where we are
the strongest, the Devil will come to challenge our
strength to prove His greater strength.
All of this is presented to us in the Trial of Jesus Christ. His
spectacular Trial was before the Roman Governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate. It was
the Roman Governor, Pilate, who sat on the bench, called in witnesses to present evidence, made a judgment, convicted Jesus and ordered
His execution by Crucifixion. That was the most famous Trial in history.
We also have a glimpse into the Spiritual Trial Jesus suffered
immediately before He was betrayed by one of His twelve Apostles, Judas Iscariot. It was Judas who turned Jesus in to the Roman
authorities. And what a Spiritual Trial it was -- it is reported that Jesus
suffered so terribly that He even sweat blood.
There are Trials in which we are simply overcome. There are
Temptations that quite overwhelm us. We get into a level
of Evil that's over our head. We drown in it. Which is
why the Waters of Baptism are a counter-symbol. Christ converts the Waters of Death into the Waters of Life because we are drowned in
Out in the desert, there at the beginning, the first
Temptations the Devil put to Jesus were
those that called Him to Corrupt the Good, to
Compromise His Principles.
This is what is the most insidious aspect of the culture that surrounds us. It suggests that we compromise with
Evil. It suggests that we follow the easy way. It's first and
most effective ploy is to get us to whine "everybody's doing it",
to feel sorry for ourselves, present ourselves as victims of an autocratic authority and scream about their unfairness. It's unfair to
deprive us, we whine, because "everybody else is doing it". If we can
get just the slightest compromise we can start the whole thing down a long descending slide until all restraints end up on the ground.
Then we can redefine Sin. We can change the definition of
something that is wrong into something that is okay, just so long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. After that we can ridicule the whole
idea of Sin. We can turn the
Devil into a Cartoon Character, declare that
Hell doesn't exist, and depict holy
people as ridiculous, unthinking, mindless robots who can't take care of themselves. Religion then becomes a throwaway item, a nice sort
of sentimental fancy that isn't real in the world in which we must live.
Jesus' final Temptation, you see, the one
suggested to Him as He was dying while nailed, writhing in pain upon the Cross, was to simply give up.
Saint Augustine tells us that really Evil
People are not even Tempted because they are
totally lost. It's not necessary for the Devil to waste
any energy Tempting them since they are totally corrupt.
These kinds of people laugh at the idea of Temptation -
for them, Temptations are silly things that don't even
exist. They simply don't understand them because they don't know what's good any more. Like Pontius Pilate who, during his
Trail of Jesus, asked: "Truth? What is
Truth"? The question today is: "Good? What is
Good"? Indeed, just what is it that our culture holds up to be "
How many of those around us do you suppose have sold out to
Evil? Have sold their souls to the
Devil and given away their souls? Do you admire them?
They are often, in today's media, presented to us as gods and goddesses, media stars whom we should want to be like.
Evil, you see, truly is the Corruption of Goodness,
and the Battle is going on deep within us, in our very own immortal souls. And so Christ teaches us to ask His Father to
"... lead us not into Temptation and deliver us from the Trial".
by Father Frank Pavone
What the Devil looks like
by Father George Rutler,
Pontifical Doctorate in Sacred Theology
Jesus is wounded for you,
Satan wants to wound you.
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