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There but for the grace of God ...

Rembrandt van Rijn Satan Tempting Christ to Change Stones into Bread


In many churches, the readings on the first Sunday after Ash Wednesday (the First Sunday in Lent) have Jesus appearing in the wilderness and holding his own against the tempter's power to do him in.

Though the account of Jesus’ temptation occurs at the end of his 40 day fast, it is read near the beginning of the season of Lent when those of us who have committed ourselves to some Lenten discipline of self-denial can still remember what it was that we intended to forgo. Enough days have lapsed, however, that we’ve become well aware of how difficult it might be to make it happen for the 40 long days until Easter.

This year, the account of the temptation of Jesus came from the Gospel according to Luke.

It can be really depressing. Here we are, just at the beginning of our struggle to go without lunch or chocolate or some other treat and Jesus walks in and fends off all of the devil's temptations, and on an empty stomach!

We do well to remember that the purpose of any Lenten discipline is not to achieve some heroic reenactment of Jesus in the wilderness, nor is it to rise to some high level of righteous self-discipline so as not to need Jesus at all. Rather, we mark these 40 days of Lent in self-denial or abundance, as a time to contemplate our own vulnerability in the face of temptation and to cherish the great gift of Christ's life and death in our place.

So read the account of Jesus in the wilderness and rejoice in saying, "Better him than me."


+ Pr. Jim

Feb. 19, 2013

Rev. James A. Wetzstein and Rev. Charlene M. Rachuy Cox serve as university pastors at Valpo and take turns writing weekly reflections.

Image: Rembrandt van Rijn

Satan Tempting Christ to Change Stones into Bread, 1635/1640

Widener Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.