Luke's temptation story (Luke 4:1-13), where the devil meets up with Jesus in the wilderness, is all about power and its dangers. The final two temptations are great examples of how power can corrupt.
Satan starts by tempting Jesus to eat some bread, which Jesus can make out of a stone.
I mean, why not? Is there anything particularly wrong with that? After fasting for forty days, he can’t eat a little bread?
He can change water-into-wine, but stones-into-rocks is out of bounds?
But, the real question is—is that what God had in mind for Jesus on that day? Was that God’s plan for Jesus right then? Was that how God wanted Jesus to be fed?
You see, temptation isn’t just about the desire to stick your hand in the cookie jar. It’s about being led towards disobedience. It’s a lack of discernment—or the willing deviation from the discerned will of God.
The Christian life is meant to be a life of seeking after God. Listening for God. Listening to God. Following God.
And, when following God’s will, sometimes we’ll pass up things that are just fine. But, things which God didn’t have for us to do this day, or in this particular way.
Spiritual maturity looks not just for the things that are passable, or explainable. Not just for the things that will get you into trouble.
But, spiritual maturity looks for the way that God has set before us, and then summons the courage to go there—and to ask for God’s help along the way.
Luke did something very clever: his long list of names of whom Jesus is related to differs to Matthew's in two significant ways. Matthew links his audience back to Abraham, their spiritual father. Luke, writing with a Gentile audience in mind, brings us all the way back to Adam. Additionally, he has the list not at the beginning of his Gospel like Matthew, but right before the temptation story. Right before the devil temps Jesus to turn stone to bread, we trace Jesus' bloodline back to "Adam, son of God."
This realization concerning temptations can have great impact on our daily lives. What is God calling us to be? What helps us go forward in that journey? What are the things that we can do to help live into God's vision for the world, and what distracts us from that path? How often do the things that "don't really hurt anyone" keep us from living into the hope of God?
This Lent calls us to use our ears, mind and heart to discern the path God would have for us, and perhaps to resist some of our more familiar and comfortable temptations.
Together, we can do it.