This is the first Sunday in Lent, and so it’s not surprising that the Gospel lesson would be about Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.
When we hear this story, it helps us be patient with our own temptations. We know we’re not alone. Just like you and me, Jesus knew keenly what it was like to be pulled away from loving God, pulled away from loving the people around him, even pulled away from loving himself. He knew what it was like to feel a constant, insistent tug away from the common life that God was living in and around him. He felt that tug all the time. God felt it with him and in him.
The only difference, we’ve come to believe, is that he never quite let go of the love that wouldn’t let go of him, no matter how much he got tugged in other directions.
People called him sinless, but that can be misleading.
It’s not that he never broke any rules—he was always breaking rules, even Biblical rules. It’s not that he was a nice little boy who always obeyed his parents—every time they even hinted at telling him what to do, he told them to back off. It’s not that he never had to be taught anything about the reach of God’s love—just ask the Canaanite woman who practically tricked him into healing her daughter. It’s not that he never had any second thoughts—just watch him praying that last night in the garden.
It’s just that through all of that apparent misbehavior, short-sightedness, and indecision he never quite let go of the love that wouldn’t let go of him. That’s the only difference. And it doesn’t separate him from the rest of us. It only brings us closer.
And now we can look at our own temptations in a new way. They don’t take us away from God. They bring us closer. Or at least they can.