First Sunday of Lent, 26th February 2023

Matthew 4:1–11
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ But he answered, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you”, and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’ Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” ’ Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.


Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness after his baptism in River Jordan. We are told earlier in the same Gospel, “And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ (Matthew 3:16-17)” Reading the two passages together, we begin to wonder about the work of the Spirit. As soon as Jesus had experienced the consolation of the Spirit at his baptism, he was led by the same Spirit out into the wilderness. We may simply ask why consolation is always followed by desolation?

Emerging out from his hidden life, Jesus wanted to make sure that his coming public ministry was exactly his Father’s will of him. Thus, the first thing that Jesus did was going to River Jordan and asking John to baptize him. Can we see how it was different from us nowadays? Steep in the culture of instant gratification, we tend to make hasty decisions based on what we want instead of what God wants from us. It took Jesus 18 years to pray, contemplate and discern about his next move. How much time do we spend to contemplate about our next move? Even when he arrived at a decision, Jesus offered it to God (at his baptism) for confirmation.

The consolation that Jesus experienced at the baptism was part of the confirmation of his decision. The other part of the confirmation was found in the desolation of Jesus’ experience in the wilderness. The consolation experienced by Jesus in his baptism and the desolation in the wilderness is the benchmark testing our trust of God in whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Nowadays, our wilderness may be someone or some community, including our own family, who has hurt us so much. Note that Jesus was led by the Spirit in his experiencing of consolation and desolation. And the spirit is God’s love. Thus, it is important to be led by the Spirit into our wilderness. In our prayer, we try to note how my prayer was led by the Spirit.

The three temptations faced by Jesus in the wilderness are in fact three aspects of one temptation not to trust God. We tend to trust ourselves more than trust God because we believe in results and numbers. Each of the temptations offered by the tempter is result-oriented and is the obvious choice of our culture.

We can pray with the three temptations slowly, one at a time, so that we can savour Jesus’ responses and identify with them. The tempter’s temptations are not only for us as individuals, but also for our society and our Church.

In the first week of Lent, we begin our journey with Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus reminds us that if we remain faithful, God will send angels to look after us at the end of our wilderness. Then, we will be back to consolation from desolation, because our God wants us to share His glory and joy. Amen.