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Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Isaiah 58:9B-14
Psalm 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Luke 5:27-32
In the Gospel reading for this Sunday Jesus is led into the wilderness by
the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil. The Gospel reading shares how
Jesus responded to and overcame the devil’s temptations.
I have always loved this Gospel story. A fan of horror movies and the ma-
cabre, this story spoke to me from the beginning. I was impressed by Je-
sus’ words and his courage and was curious about this cursory figure, Sa-
tan, about whom much ink has been spilled. I wondered what would have
happened if, at any moment, Jesus had taken Satan up on his offer. What
then? When I was in college I was given the opportunity to write a paper
on this Gospel story in which I reflected on what the scholars who had
come before me had written about this passage. What I learned
was surprising; these answers to Satan’s questions were answers
that any good Jewish man should have been able to answer.
There was nothing unique or amazing about them, except that
when faced with limitless opportunities, Jesus relied on these
powerful phrases for strength. Similarly, I found the interesting lit-
erary choice (more clearly seen in Matthew’s account), that Satan
is continually leading Jesus upwards. Satan, a word in Hebrew
which means adversary, leads Jesus upwards in order to show him
the power he can have below. Up into the desert, up to the
mountain, up to the pinnacle of the temple, always upwards, and
invited to have power down below, in the world. And every time
Jesus was invited to “move up in the world,” he withstood the
temptation and in doing so claimed his divine son-ship. Scholars
look to this Gospel story as the moment when Jesus declared
himself the One who had been waited upon. He had been bap-
tized, God had called out to him, and Jesus responded with a re-
sounding “Yes!” in this passage.