From your Lent in a Bag, take out your stone. If you don't have Lent in a Bag, find a stone and hold it in your hand.
Our second week of Lent finds us in the wilderness with Jesus, as he is tested by God and tempted by the Evil One. Jesus has been fasting for weeks and is famished. In his weakened state, the Devil approaches. He doesn't seek to frighten Jesus or put him down. He talks to Jesus in a very matter-of-fact manner, conversationally, sympathetically, saying, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Notice that the Devil doesn't say anything outlandish. Ever the practical-minded, he tries to tempt Jesus to do something that makes absolute sense. Jesus is very hungry. There are lots of stones out there in the wilderness. Jesus is dealing with both his Divine and human natures. The Devil enters the mix, and suggests, I imagine, in the mildest, most encouraging tone, "turn these stones into bread." By doing so, his divine nature is supporting his human nature, which is experiencing extreme hunger. What's so wrong in satisfying an ordinary human need like hunger? What's the big deal about one stone becoming bread, so Jesus can alleviate those hunger pangs?
A few things stand out here. First, we see how the Devil operates. Most often he doesn't tend to approach us in scary forms - like the ghoulish image of a red-horned creature with a pitchfork stinking of sulfur, or the terrifying distorted face of the possessed teen in The Exorcist. The Devil prefers to draw near to us in the most sympathetic and ordinary ways, coaxing us to deeds that seem ultimately reasonable, victim-free, solution -oriented. Like when the cashier gives us the wrong change. Or when he whispers us to say, "Don't get me wrong, I really like her and understand where she's coming from, BUT..." When you really need the extra money to pay for something your family needs, and an opportunity arises to fudge an invoice .. Or, you really WANT to pray now, but you've been waiting to see this movie for ages... I really had it on my list to call him today, but I'm worn out and it can wait until tomorrow... So how are we being tempted today? If this scripture teaches us anything, it is that the Tempter prefers to fly under the radar, to speak soothingly and gently in our ear, and lead us slowly but surely away from God's will. Why tempt with terror when honey will do?
Make no mistake, the Devil approaches us when we are weak, whether we know it or not. The Devil purports to resolve our conflict in a way that seems bottom line, reasonable and caring. Because it seems so reasonable, because we are in need, it makes sense and we tend to fall for it. Jesus demonstrated that he was the Son of God not in appeasing his human hunger, but in taking the godly approach. "One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). In declaring this, Jesus speaks of a fundamental spiritual hunger that is just as deep as bodily hungers, even deeper, and more profound. For Jesus the hunger for bread awakens not dampens, our awareness of our need for God.
Another significant point here is if Jesus fell for the Devil's trick, he would have used his divine powers in a self-serving way, when ultimately, our spiritual nature beckons us to other-serving ways. If Jesus followed the advice of the Devil, he would have ignored the ways of God. God does test us, often to instill in us trust. Jesus ultimately got bread, the "angels attended him," (Matt. 4:11) and he was cared for. The question becomes can we trust God's timing, God's plans for us, even when the way seems dim and we are uncomfortable? Remember the words of scripture, which although difficult to believe we are called to hold fast to: "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure (1 Cor. 10:13, NLV)
What stones in our lives are tempting us to give in, give up to chose the Tempter's way? What needs are gnawing at us for attention? What deeper spiritual needs are awakening, if we just recall God's word speaking to us in the challenges, trials and tests we face? Turn away from the reasonable, soothing intoxicating voice of the Devil, listen for God's word -- and become the hold fast to the promise God made through the prophet Ezekiel: "And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezek.36.26)