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When we mess up: Jesus was tempted in every way we are

February 29, 2016

A Lenten Reflection

At the beginning of Lent, the same lectionary passage of the temptation of Jesus from Luke 4 was read two times at our church because we had two services that day, one being an afternoon installation of our new pastor, Stephanie Sorge Wing.

As it happened, I was lay leader during the morning worship and anytime that happens, I find it more difficult to actually enter into a state of worship because of having too many things on my mind. When do I get up next? Do I stand or sit for the next reading or song? Will I stumble or mispronounce a word?

So at the afternoon service the scripture passages, read by Stephanie’s father, who is also a minister, spoke to me in totally new ways.

When Sheldon Sorge read aloud the story of “The Temptation of Jesus” in Luke 4: 1-13, he lingered over the words “…When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him    until     an     opportune    time  (v. 13, NRSV).

Dr. Sorge pointed out we sometimes forget that Jesus’ temptations were not once and done. In that very passage, the scripture says Jesus was “tempted in every way,” and elsewhere we read that Christ was tempted in all ways and is therefore able to help us as we are tempted. That’s something we forget as we struggle along and often end up confessing the same old tired sins Sunday after Sunday: pride, arrogance, thinking bad thoughts (or however you fill in those blanks).

So Jesus was tempted many times after his well known wilderness temptations. Now of course Jesus did not sin, but he was tempted. There’s a difference.

Jesus struggled with his mission on earth right up to the end, where he wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane. This was not drama, or an act. Jesus must have been torn at the heart not wanting to go through with what he knew lay ahead. Now Jesus was also God, so there was internal warring with himself and with God’s overall plan for the world. If the human/divine Christ had not gone to the cross … would there have been a plan B?

Never mind. Jesus took plan A, and that has made all the difference for the millions who profess faith in Christ.


I am moved and reassured in my faith as I learn from scholars, theologians and pastors whose education, intelligence and IQs go far beyond mine, to hear and know that they have explored and plumbed the scriptures in original languages, read the great philosophers and biblical historians, and proclaim with the beloved but oh so human disciple, Peter, “You are the Messiah.” Peter, of course would be tempted to deny that he ever knew Jesus a short time later, and sinned as he succumbed to powerful self-protective urges by swearing that he never knew Jesus. Yet still later, the early Christian church was built upon the faith, preaching and servanthood of Peter.

So if we worry that we’ll mess up (on things greater than sneaking some chocolate or a donut), we can look at both Jesus and Peter and know that Jesus did not mess up, even though the great tempter continued to jab and belittle and attempt to veer Jesus as he “set his face like flint” to Jerusalem, and the cross.

As we struggle through these days of Lent aware in new ways of the many small ways we fail, thanks be to God for the love, forgiveness and redemption we receive through Christ!


As you reflect on the ongoing temptations of Jesus, what thoughts come to mind? Is it helpful or not helpful to look at Christ’s life this way? 


What helps you overcome the ways you are tempted?


During my first year blogging, I offered a meditation for each weekday of Lent (ambitious!). They began here. 


From → Faith

  1. Thank you, Melodie, for this Lenten meditation and the daily renewal it suggests.

    As to your third question: reading Scripture, listening to or making music, a focus beyond self

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Nazarene Commentary Matthew 4:5-7 – A Temptation to Test God | Belgian Biblestudents - Belgische Bijbelstudenten

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