Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted (or tested) by the devil.
It is hard for me to understand or to relate to the strength and endurance of Jesus to endure the testing and temptation he underwent in the wilderness for forty days. As I read this story again and thought about the tests that I have gone through I will never forget one of the very early tests I experienced in college.
I was a senior, and the only classes I needed to take my final semester was two electives, an administration course in my field of Kinesiology and a requirement I had been putting off for four years for fear, freshman chemistry. That fear of chemistry is another story for another day. Since my second major was English, I took a composition class and a second course in Shakespeare.
Dr Vann taught Shakespeare and was one of my favorite teachers. I had made an A in his first Shakespeare course so I felt competent about this one. On the first exam, I got a B. I was totally disappointed, because I thought I had made an A. I knew the material well. Dr. Vann had a practice of having each student come in to see him after each exam. When I went in he went over my test answers with me. I explained how disappointed I was in that B. I thought I knew that material well and wanted to know what I had missed. Dr. Vann told me that he felt that I knew the material well also by my participation in class, but he said my responses on the test did not measure up to the depth of what he thought I knew about the two Shakespearian tragedies we had been studying. Then he added, “But if you think you should have an A, I can put an A on the front page of your test. Is that what you want me to do? Would that make you happy?”
I was totally shocked by his remark.
I looked him in the eye, and even though I was disappointed with the B I told him, “Dr. Vann, if you think that my work is no more than B quality then that is what it is.” I knew that he had expected better work from me and I had not met his expectations. It made me realize that I had to take my work more seriously and not brush it off as an easy A. That experience has never left me for 58 years. I knew that if I claimed the A Dr. Vann would let me have it, but it would not be who God had created me to be as a student. God had called me into this classroom with this professor to learn, and I did not have the right to take the his roll in judging my work. I needed to heed my professor and stay in the right relationship with him.
Jesus knew that he had been named and called by his Father to bring salvation to our world. He was filled with the Holy Spirit.
In his testing the devil tried to undermine Jesus’ confidence in God and himself, and finally proposed that God is not trustworthy, then tries to get Jesus to test that relationship. Jesus knew that the devil was seeking to steal his identity as the Son of God, and his only hope was to make sure he depended on the Holy Spirit, the gift of God, to maintain his relationship with the Father.
So we too, must be attentive to the Holy Spirit in order to get through some of the tests and temptations that come our way. The Holy Spirit of God is our teacher that never demands us with “you must do this” but calls us to respond to God’s love. May we be attentive during our wilderness walk this Lent to the Holy Spirit that is within us and has been with us since our baptism.
Lent might be a good time to consider if we need to be more in touch with the Holy Spirit’s nudging for us to become who God has created us to be.
- Is there something you could give up during Lent as a way of identifying with Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf.
- Is there something you might add to your daily life during these forty days that keeps you in a closer relationship with God?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.