Many approaches to the season of Lent begin with our stomach. What appetites might we curb or ignore for forty days? What other comforts filling metaphorical bellies need chastening or redirection?
Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness begins, too, with his bodily discomfort. Hunger. And hope that with but one Word of God he – and we – will be sustained. The ensuing temptations will be very public: a spectacular rescue from a temple-top leap; a worldwide dominance felt even by those who do not see him. But for now, at first, the private privation of Jesus’ person.
Which makes me wonder about the relationship between personal discipline and public decorum. How many disasters of spectacle and power are symptoms of a prior failure to exercise private control?
This Lent, I’m praying to struggle with the first temptation in my own life. To live not by bread alone, but by every word of God, beginning with: “It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they de fi le a person” (Mark 7:20-23). What’s wrong with the world? I am.
Struggling with Jesus’ fi rst temptation leaves less time and energy to fi xate on the spectacles and power plays of others. A Lenten journey from the dusty eyes of “those people” or “that one person” to my own log-jammed vision is perhaps the hardest route to navigate. But “God gives through Him what Satan never could; the broken bread that is our only food.” The body of Christ, given for you. The grace of Christ, broken to make us whole.