(Note: this is an updated version of an essay first posted in 2019)
How is your Lenten journey going so far? I hope you have decided to make this a season of intentionally drawing closer to Christ as we prepare to remember his Passion and celebrate his Resurrection. Encourage each other as you seek Christ this week!
The traditional readings for this First Sunday in Lent find us contrasting Adam in the garden (Genesis 3.1-21) with Christ in the wilderness (Matthew 4.1-11). The connections between these two accounts are striking:
- Adam gives in to the temptation to eat while Christ stands firm against temptation while hungry
- Adam and Eve exalt themselves to the place of God, rationalizing why they need not heed God’s word while Christ submits to the word of God and uses it to defend against temptation1
- Adam ultimately caves in to the Devil's temptation while Christ stands firm and is victorious in the face of Satan’s attacks
These comparisons were not lost on the Apostle Paul, who contrasted Jesus and Adam in Romans and referred to Jesus as the ‘last Adam’ in First Corinthians. As Saint Paul points out in Romans 5, where Adam failed and brought the consequences on sin upon all of us, Christ triumphed and brought salvation for all who grasp his work by faith. Though we, by nature, follow the course of the first Adam and share in his curse, by faith, we may follow the second Adam and share in his victory.
Jesus’ temptation follows immediately after his baptism. Why? “To show that a Christian's life from Baptism to the grave is nothing other than a daily duel and battle with the devil, the world, and the flesh” (Johann Spannenberg). This sort of spiritual attack marks the lives of God's saints in a fallen and sinful world from birth to death. We must not let this be a message of gloom and doom, however. Temptations and trials do not mean that God has forsaken us, so let us not lose hope when they come! Instead, much to Satan's dismay, God uses the Devil's works for his own holy purposes: our strengthening and growth in faith.
Ultimately, it may seem unnecessary for Jesus to have faced temptation as he did, but thanks be to God that he did! As the author of Hebrews points out, “Because Jesus experienced temptation when he suffered, he is able to help others when they are tempted” (Heb 2.18, GW).
Recognize that Christ suffered temptation to triumph over it—for you. So call on him whenever troubles arise. As he clung to the promises of God through his Word in times of struggle, so we too ought to drink deeply from this same well of God's Holy Word.
Even more, as we will be reminded in a few weeks, Christ suffered death to triumph over it—for you. Therefore, we need not fear temptation, trouble, sin, death, or even the grave. All have been conquered by Christ and are still conquered in Christ. Thanks be to God!
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
--Book of Common Prayer
Photo by Taven Hash on Unsplash