“Read Mark, and you do not know what the temptations were, only that they came to [Jesus] when he was alone and hungry, out in the wilderness where there were no distractions, where it was just Jesus, face-to-face with the Tempter and himself and the beasts and the angels. He was tempted in all ways as we are, says the writer of Hebrews, in every respect as we are.
“Formed by the word and will of God, Jesus met those three temptations we know, and all the others we do not. Surely there were others. When you read Hebrews, when you read Mark, you are left to imagine what all those ways might have been. When you examine yourself, you get a pretty good idea.”
Scripture: Mark 1:12-13 (CEV)
“Right away God’s Spirit made Jesus go into the desert. He stayed there for forty days while Satan tested him. Jesus was with the wild animals, but angels took care of him.”
I hesitate to admit this - especially since for so many this is one of the hinges of Christian faith - but I do not believe that Jesus was infinitely perfect. Though he managed to resist the temptations of the adversary in the wilderness, that does not mean that he was always a perfect person. I find it very hard to believe that he did not backtalk his parents from time to time, that he did not get into trouble for talking too much in school or not paying attention in class, or that he did not get angry and say things that he did not mean.
For me Jesus has to be human as much as he has to be part of the divine. The Scriptures say that he experienced everything that we do. If that's true I think that mistakes have to be included. That doesn't make Jesus any less important or any less a part of the divine. For me, it just makes him more human and draws me to him all the more. Because I know that the choices he made were made out of love for God and each one of us. I don't need to believe that Jesus was perfect. I just need to believe that he chose the better way when the time came.
That's what the entire experience of Jesus in the wilderness represents for us: not perfection, but the sacrifice and deep love in choosing a better way. When we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus as the incarnation of God. God becoming one of us. In the temptation, we move from incarnation by birth to incarnation by choice. Jesus chooses to be the human presence of God by choosing to give himself in love -not by power or might or wealth - but in simplicity, servitude, and humility.
This season of Lent is about examining our own hearts so that we can come closer to Christ, to choosing his way, and living in his steps. May we acknowledge the temptations that threaten to turn us to our own path, and instead seek to follow more closely and choose the way of Christ.