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Matthew 4:1-17, Tempted in the Wilderness

Narrative Lectionary Key Verse for Today

One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
— Jesus statement from Matthew 4:4b

NL Daily Devotion for Sunday, January 20, 2019


by Dr. Kimberly Leetch, Clergy Stuff

Main Idea: Our temptations can serve as distractions that keep us from truly connecting with God, with ourselves, and with others.

It was not easy for Jesus to resist the temptations of the devil. Jesus may have been God, but Jesus was also human. When he was thrown into the wilderness, he would have experienced all the same experiences any of us would have—fear, isolation, hunger. By the time the devil showed up, Jesus was literally starving to death. He may even have experienced the devil’s temptations in a cloudy sort of hallucination that comes from being so very close to death. Regardless, Jesus truly was tempted to do whatever he needed to do to be fed.

But Jesus didn’t give in to temptation. Jesus did what most of us probably could not do. Jesus saw a greater purpose to his own existence than the satisfying of physical needs. He saw a greater purpose than the satisfying of relational or emotional needs. For Jesus, remaining faithful to his goals, and staying faithful to honoring God, was more important.

Jesus’ resolve does give me something to think about. Are there times when I give in to temptation, when perhaps I would do better to remember that there are greater goods than satisfaction? I am a creature of comfort. I like to be fed. I like to be well-dressed. I like to have many healthy relationships. What would it take, I wonder, for me to recognize that the only thing I truly need is God?

Yes, I need food to survive. But do I need a steak dinner with twice baked potatoes? I need clothing, but do I need twelve pairs of shoes? I need relationships, but can I also find peace in the quiet, alone moments? These things can all serve as distractions from those moments where I can truly connect with God, with myself, and with humanity. Perhaps with fewer distractions I could connect more deeply.

Narrative Lectionary Daily Reading:

Matthew 4:1-17

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written,
“One does not live by bread alone,
   but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 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.” ’
Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
“Worship the Lord your God,
   and serve only him.” ’
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
   on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
the people who sat in darkness
   have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
   light has dawned.’
From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’


Earlier Event: January 19
Isaiah 40:1-11, A Voice in the Wilderness
Later Event: January 21
Psalm 91:9-12, Refuge