The Temptation of Christ and Lent
Since the days of the Early Church, Lent has been associated with the Temptation of Christ in the Wilderness: the period of forty days at the beginning of the earthly ministry of Jesus in which he fasted alone in the wilderness and was tempted by Satan.
In my experience, and in my opinion, even though this key part of the Lord's life in this world is commemorated in Lent, and Lenten fasting is connected with His fasting of the Temptation, it receives too little attention outside of Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent).
The Temptation of Christ is recorded in three passages of the Gospels:
The following spiritual disciplines are fitting for observing Lent:
1. Reading one, two, or all three of the accounts of the Temptation of Christ
2. Memorizing one or more verses of the accounts of the Temptation of Christ
3. Memorizing one or more of the verses of the Scriptures which the Lord quoted during the Temptation
4. Studying the Temptation of Christ
5. Meditating on the Temptation of Christ
6. Singing one or more songs (such as hymns) which tell about the Temptation of Christ
7. Thanking and praising the Lord Jesus for what He did in the Temptation, e.g. His fasting, His being alone in the wilderness, His suffering temptation by Satan, and His overcoming of that temptation
Ten years ago I observed Lent by reading one account of the Temptation of Christ every day: the first day Matthew, the second day Mark, the third day Luke, and then back to Matthew. I recommend this practice.
When I did it, I read the same translation of the Scriptures every day. Another way to do it is by reading the accounts in a cycle of more than one translation. For example, reading three translations in a nine-day cycle, with the first translation the first three days, the second translation with the next three days, the third translation with the next three days, and then returning to the first translation.
This is easy to do if one has access to the Internet, where dozens of translations in English, and translations in many other languages, are accessible for free.
As I read the accounts of the Temptation, I thought about them, and made notes of things I noticed and learned about them. I recommend this practice, too. One may well be surprised at what one may notice for the first time, even if one has read and heard these accounts many times before—especially if one asks God to bless one's reading.
I also recommend that if one does this, that one share with other one or more other Christians what one notices and learns about the Temptation of Christ. That could be edifying for both oneself and with whomever one shares.
I have also observed Lent by memorizing the verses of the Scriptures which the Lord quoted when He was tempted by Satan. These are:
Deuteronomy 6:13 and/or 10:20 (the two verses are similar)
As one would expect, through the ages much has been said about the Temptation of Christ. One can read some of it in study Bibles, Bible commentaries, poems, songs, and other works of literature. Some of it can be read, and some of it can be heard, on the Internet. (If one would like learn of hymns which tell about it, I suggest one look in the Lent section of a hymnal, and search the Internet with the search terms "Lent" or "Lenten" and "hymns".)
I further recommend that one observe Lent by thinking about the Temptation of Christ every single day—even better, multiple times a day every day. I recommend that if one fasts during Lent, that whenever one has a desire to break the fast, one think of the Temptation. For example, if one fasts by abstaining from snacks, then whenever one feels a desire to eat a snack, one responds by thinking about the Temptation.
Whenever and however you think about the Temptation of Christ, always bear in mind who He is.
It was no mere man who fasted for forty days in the wilderness and was tempted by Satan.
No: it was He who, to be sure, is the Son of man, but who is also the Son of God. He is the Word made flesh, who in the beginning was with God, and was God (John 1:1).
As the Apostles' Creed says: He is the one who, after His Temptation, and after His Passion and Resurrection, ascended into heaven, and who now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, "from whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead".
The more we know about who Christ is, the more we will know the truth about what he has He done for us: not only during His Temptation, but before and after—and also about what He is doing for us now, and will do for us in the future.
And the more we know that truth, the more appreciative we will be of it, the more grateful we will be for it, the more joyful we will be about it, and the more awed we will be by it.
And the more appreciative we will be of, the more grateful we will be for, the more joyful we will be about, and the more awed we will be by: HIM.
In conclusion: Whether or not one observes Lent, I recommend one read about and meditate on the Temptation of Christ.
Questions for consideration
1. Do you think you give enough attention to the Temptation of Christ? If so, why? If not, why not?
2. Would you like to observe Lent by giving special and sustained attention on the Temptation of Christ? If so, why? If not, why not?
3. Would you like to observe Lent by practicing spiritual disciplines involving the Temptation of Christ? If so, why? If not, why not?
4. Would you like to learn more about the Temptation of Christ? If so, why? If not, why not?
5. What are some other spiritual disciples one could perform that involve the Temptation of Christ?
6. Would you like to pray for knowledge and wisdom with respect to the Temptation of Christ? If so, why? If not, why not?
7. Would you like to thank and praise the Lord Jesus for what He did in His Temptation? If so, why? If not, why not?
Thank you Salvatore ... I will share this with other readers/leaders,
We don't really realize how humiliating it must have been for You to be tempted by You archenemy. But You overcame. It is written ... It gives us so much hope, because You want us to abide in You, as You abide in us. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit, who helps us to abide in You and protects our faith.
It is all about You, Lord Jesus Christ.
John 15:5 ESV I AM the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
Matt 6:13 NLT And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.
We need Your miracle power to overcome. If we rely on ourselves, we will fail. But even so, You are forgiving and kind and merciful.
Thank You Heavenly Father. We praise You, Lord Jesus Christ, amen.
Henri Nouwen's prayer for Lent:
Oh Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find You again. Amen.
Thank you Salvatore. I am going to try this. I started today during my quiet time and read the account from Matthew. Then went in to my centering prayer time. We'll see where the Spirit leads this practice.
You're welcome. I'm curious as to what you will experience. You are welcome to tell me about it in another comment after Lent.