Appetite, Applause, and Ambition

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And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’” And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,
    and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    to guard you,’

11 and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. – Luke 4:1-13 [ESV]

Basilica of St. Ursula Steeple | Cologne, Germany | December 2021

I was completely surprised. Diane had suggested we stay up and watch a movie that lasted much later than our normal bedtime. At 12:01 AM we heard a knock at the door. It was some friends with party hats, noise makers and well-wishes, replete with a chorus of Happy Birthday. What a surprise birthday party – albeit a short one. Then the next evening they pulled off a second one…a larger party in honor of my 50th birthday.

Maybe you’ve caught someone trying to pull a fast one. The invitation is too good to be true. The set-up too suspicious. You’re good at spotting the hook and the barb hidden under the bait. The sale is too good to be true. The promises are too far beyond belief. But most of us have fallen at least one time. We’ve sent in the box tops and received a piece of plastic junk – nothing like the way-cool decoder ring we had anticipated. 

Whether it’s appetite, applause, or ambition, the devil’s plays those to us in myriads of ways. A shortcut to success. A one-time fling to satisfy a deep yearning. Willingness to go along against our better judgment just so we can fit in. And Jesus withstood each one of these after 40 days of fasting. 

Nothing is wrong with bread. God had promised to guard him with angels. And the temple was truly his abode. The problem with each was that Satan was setting the agenda. Satan was seeking to lead Jesus in this hour of temptation. And his intent is only to steal, kill, and destroy. 

I’m not certain every temptation can be traced back to appetite, ambition, or applause. But I am certain I have fallen prey to all three one way or another. Satan will throw out some tasty-looking bait. But the bait always hides a sharp barb. Now, truly, we are not unaware of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). And Jesus gives us a means by which we can overcome his temptations…faith in God and a deep knowledge of his word. 

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