“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.”
This, I have learned, is the seminal passage—written also in the Gospels of Mark and Luke (but not John)—which inspires the season of Lent. Jesus’ fasting for forty days and enduring temptations by the devil before beginning his public ministry is reflected by the Christian practice of taking the forty days before Easter (not including Sundays) to contemplate Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and honoring it with some form of personal sacrifice, repentance, and/or spiritual discipline.
But I have questions…
Immediately before this event Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and identified by God (no less!)—“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
If Jesus has already been declared Holy and Divine, why does he then need to be taken by his Father to endure a life-ending fast (no human can live forty days without food or water!), and mortal temptations? What kind of father does that? Who is this devil? What is the relationship between the devil and God? Why does the devil have any influence over Jesus, to “tempt” him, if Jesus is already Divine?
After some thought, I am led to wonder:
Does Jesus, the man, fully understand his Divinity?
Is this event a part of his spiritual journey—needing to wrestle with, understand, and reconcile, his somehow being both Divine and human?
Is this something I can identify with? Or even simply begin to understand?
Emmanuel, as I think about these questions, please help me to discern your closeness, love and wisdom.