by Shannon Mayfield
Luke 4: 1-13: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’ ”
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ “
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ”
Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
There is a beautiful river whose song I can only hear at night. In the day, layers of sound pile up on top of it: wind whirring, birds chirping, machines humming. Finding the song of the river itself is a matter of listening down through and beneath all the other things. A poor listener, I am grateful for the fall of night which lets me hear it again.
Lent can be like that. Failure can be like that. Tragedy can be like that.
In the bright and noisy moments, it can be hard to hear down through and beneath the layers of our lives.
For 40 days in the wild desert, Jesus was tempted like us. In the sunny mornings, he must have thought it absurd that he starve when he could turn a rock into bread. At midday, his ambition must have stirred thinking of all the people he could feed by using the tools the tempter offered.
In the late afternoon, the sun in his eyes must have been nearly as disorienting as the tempter quoting the words of the Bible itself.
Jesus strained, in that desert, to hear the river that whispered of the one true God, the fullness of God’s love, the faithfulness of God’s history with God’s people.
I don’t know if Jesus kept track of the river’s song beneath all that noise in the desert’s long days.
Or, if the quiet darkness of each night brought it back to him instead.
Prayer: God of love, we pray for the keen hearing that drills down through all other noise in our worlds, letting us never lose track of your song. But failing that, we thank you Lord, for the long nights of darkness. For, even as we fear the emptiness, it is often there that the song of your love becomes audible to us again.