Archive for the ‘Temptation of Jesus’ Tag

Devotion for the First Sunday in Lent, Year A (ILCW Lectionary))   1 comment

Above:  The Garden of Eden, by Thomas Cole

Image in the Public Domain

Misquoting God

FEBRUARY 26, 2023


According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)


Genesis 2:7-9, 15-17; 3:1-7

Psalm 130

Romans 5:12 (13-16) 17-19

Matthew 4:1-11


O Lord God, you led your ancient people through the wilderness

and brought them to the promised land. 

Guide now the people of your Church, that, following our Savior,

we may walk through the wilderness of this world

toward the glory of the world to come;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.


Lord God, our strength,

the battle of good and evil rages within and around us,

and our ancient foe tempts us with his deceits and empty promises. 

Keep us steadfast in your Word, and,

when we fall, raise us again and restore us

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 17-18


O almighty and eternal God, we implore you

to direct, sanctify, and govern our hearts and bodies

in the ways of your laws and the works of your laws

and the works of your commandments

that through your mighty protection, both now and ever,

we may be preserved in body and soul;

through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 33


I have been composing lectionary-based devotions for more than a decade.  I have, therefore, covered the temptation of Jesus already.

I make one comment about it, though:  one function of the story is to help Christians know how to resist temptation.

This combination of readings–about temptation, confession of sin, and repentance–works well as a unit.  The First Reading provides my main point:  we must resist the temptation to misquote God, as Eve did in the myth.  Read that text again, O reader, and realize that God did not forbid touching the fruit of the knowledge of good and bad.  Misquoting God gave the mythical snake his opening.

The Talmud teaches:

He who adds [to God’s words] subtracts [from them].

–Quoted in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), 15

The words of God are what God has said and says.  Scripture, channeled through human lenses and experiences, provide many of God’s words.  The Reformed tradition within Christianity speaks of God’s second book, nature.  The mystical tradition within Christianity recognizes another method by which God speaks. I report some experiences I cannot explain rationally.  I do know if I I listened to God, a guardian angel, or intuition.  Yet I know that I listened and acted, to my benefit in practical, automotive matters.

I am an intellectual.  I reject the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture, based on having studied the Bible closely and seriously.  And I take the Bible seriously.  I try to understand first what a given text says, in original context.  Then I extrapolate to today.  I try not to misquote or misinterpret any text of scripture.  Neither do I shut down the parts of my mind that respect history and science.  Good theology, good history, and good science are in harmony.  As Galileo Galilei said:

The Bible tells us now to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go.

O reader, what is God saying to you today?  Do mis misquote it.  No, listen carefully.





Link to the corresponding link at BLOGA THEOLOGICA



Thoughts and Questions About the Temptations of Jesus   1 comment

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain


For St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia

Lent 2019


Texts:  Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13

Reading the Bible for spiritual formation is an ancient Benedictine practice.  My primary purpose in writing this short piece is to ask, how do the accounts (mainly the Lukan and Matthean ones) of the temptations of Jesus challenge us, both as individuals and a parish, to follow Jesus better than we do.

The Temptation to Turn Stones into Bread

Bread was especially precious in ancient Palestine, with relatively little arable land.

We are blessed to be able to purchase our bread inexpensively at stores.  Bread is abundant in our context, so we probably take it for granted more often than not.  We can, however, think of some tangible needs related to scarcity.

One challenge is not to permit tangible needs to overtake intangible necessities.  We all depend entirely on God and dwell within a web of mutual responsibility and dependence.  According to the late Henri Nouwen, this temptation is the temptation to be relevant.  Relevance is not necessarily bad; in fact, it is frequently positive.  However, maintaining the proper balance of tangible and intangible needs is essential.  Furthermore, Christ’s refusal to cave into the temptation to use his power to make bread—to cease to depend on God—ought to remind us never to imagine that we do not depend entirely on God.


  1. Do we permit tangible needs to distract us from intangible necessities?  If so, how?
  2. Do we manifest the vain idea that we do not depend entirely on God?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Jump from the Pinnacle of the Temple

Many scholars of the New Testament have proposed what the pinnacle of the Temple was.

That matter aside, this temptation is, according to Nouwen, the temptation to be spectacular.  It is also the temptation to attempt to manipulate God by trying to force God to intervene in a miraculous way.  That effort, like turning stones into bread, would indicate a lack of faith.

We humans frequently like the spectacular, do we not?  We tell ourselves and others that, if only God would do something spectacular, we will believe.  We are like those who, in the Gospels, only wanted Jesus to do something for them, and not to learn from him.


  1. Does our attraction to the spectacular distract us from the still, small voice of God?  If so, how?
  2. Does our attraction to the spectacular reveal our lack of faith?  If so, how?
  3. Does our attraction to the spectacular unmask our selfishness?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Worship Satan in Exchange for Earthly Authority

Many Palestinian Jews at the time of Christ thought of Satan as the power behind the Roman Empire and of the Roman pantheon as a collection of demons.  Jesus affirmed God the Father as the only source of his identity.

This temptation is about idolatry, power, and morally untenable compromises.

Many well-intentioned people—ministers, politicians, and appointed office holders, for example—have, in the name of doing good, become corrupt and sacrificed their suitability to do good.  They have sacrificed their moral integrity on the altar of amoral realism.

Some compromises are necessary, of course.  As Reinhold Niebuhr reminded us, we cannot help but commit some evil while trying to do good, for human depravity has corrupted social systems and institutions.


  1. Have we established our identity apart from God?  If so, how?
  2. How have we, with good intentions, committed or condoned evil?
  3. Have we made morally untenable compromises?  If so, how?

The Good News

The good news is both collective and individual.

I discover the principle, then:  that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.  In my inmost self I delight in the law of God, but I perceive in my outward actions a different law, fighting against the law that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct.  Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death?  Who but God?  Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord!  To sum up then:  left to myself I serve God’s law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

–Romans 7:21-25, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Jesus has modeled the way to resist temptation—to trust God and to understand scripture.









Adapted from this post:


First Sunday in Lent, Year C   15 comments

Above:  Migrant Workers Cutting Cabbages Near Lake Harbor, Florida, 1939

Image Source = Library of Congress

“My Father was a Wandering Aramean”

MARCH 6, 2022


Deuteronomy 26:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him,

Today I declare to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.

When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the LORD your God, you shall make this response before the LORD your God:

A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O LORD, have given me.

You shall set it down before the LORD your God and bow down before the LORD your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house.

Psalm 91 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,

abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

He shall say to the LORD,

“You are my refuge and my stronghold,

my God in whom I put my trust.”

He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter,

and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He shall cover you with his pinions,

and you shall find refuge under his wings.

You shall not be afraid of any terror by night,

nor of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the plague that stalks in the darkness,

nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.

7  A thousand shall fall at your side

and ten thousand at your right hand,

but it shall not come near you.

8  Your eyes have only to behold

to see the reward of the wicked.

9  Because you have made the LORD your refuge,

and the Most High your habitation,

10  There shall no evil happen to you,

neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.

11  He shall give his angels charge over you,

to keep you in all his ways.

12  They shall bear you in their hands,

lest you dash your foot against a stone.

13  You shall tread upon the lion and adder;

you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.

14 Because he is bound to me in love,

therefore I will deliver him;

I will protect him, because he knows my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;

I am with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

16 With long life will I satisfy him,

and show him my salvation.

Romans 10:5-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that

the person who does these things will live by them.

But the righteousness that comes from faith says,

Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”

(that is, to bring Christ down)


“Who will descend into the abyss?”

(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?

The word is near you,

on your lips and in your heart

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says,

No one who believes in him will be put to shame.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For,

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written,

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

 Luke 4:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him,

If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.

Jesus answered him,

It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him,

To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.

Jesus answered him,

It is written,

“Worship the Lord your God,

and serve him only.”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him,

If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,

“He will command his angels concerning you,

to protect you,”


“On their hands they will bear you up,

so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”

Jesus answered him,

It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:



 Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor it is far away.  It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us what we may hear it and observe it?”  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it so that we may hear it and observe it?”  No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

–Deuteronomy 30:11-14, New Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition


Among the benefits of having converted my Bible study program into a lectionary-based blogging project is covering texts repeatedly–usually in different combinations.  Thus parallels, contrasts, similarities, and shades of meaning emerge.  Nevertheless, a frustration arises:  Sometimes I have difficulty not being redundant in my analysis.  Sometimes I am redundant in my analysis.  So, when I read the Lukan version of the temptation of Jesus, I ask myself how I can avoid repeating what I have already written.

 The readings fit together nicely.  Luke 4:1-13 quotes Psalm 91:11-12.  Moses, in Deuteronomy 26:1-11, reminds the descendants of escaped slaves what God has done for them before they enter the Promised Land.  God is like what God has done.  Such grace requires of its recipients a favorable response to both God and fellow human beings.  Paul, in Romans 10:5-13, provides one of the famous passages about there being no distinction between Jews and Gentiles in Jesus.  Salvation is available to all via Jesus, who resisted temptations successfully.

The word of God is in each of us.  The Word of God has made the word of God manifest.  Jesus, of course, is the Word of God.  The word of God is everything God says–from our temporal perspective, has said, is saying, and will say.  We have benefited much from grace, so we must not hoard it for ourselves.  My ancestor was not a wandering Aramean; no, he was a Virginia farmer with eighteen children, most of whom did not live to adulthood.  But the principle holds.  There are “wandering Arameans” wherever we turn.  May we resist the temptation to treat them and to think of them scornfully.  God also loves them.  The word of God is also within them.