The following is the second in a series of weekly reflections composed for distribution to Peace Fellowship Church in Washington, D.C. All of the reflections for Lent are derived from Luke 4, focusing on themes of wilderness and temptation.
Stones into Bread
The call to the desert was a call to worship, just like our call during Lent is first and foremost to true worship. As God’s beloved creations, we are charged with reflecting his image into the world, caring for creation, and returning to God the glory and praise due our creator in the form of worship. This is why the first commandment is to love God above all else. In Hebrew, this command is called the Shema, and Jews are expected to recite it at least twice a day. It is central to our faith.
If worship of God is our true vocation, then temptation is not about wanting to do things we shouldn’t. Instead, it is a desire to offer worship to something other than our creator God, whether that is sex, power, fame, status, or even our physical needs. When we willingly enter the wilderness, desiring to encounter God, the Satan will undoubtedly give us opportunities to worship these other things.
The temptation to turn stones into bread is not a way of saying that our physical needs do not matter, but rather that they need to be properly ordered. Jesus’s response quotes Deuteronomy 8:3—just a handful of verses after the Shema—which reminds us all that we do not live on bread alone, but by the breath and word of God. Yet we need bread as well, and God’s desire to provide bread ought to help us want to know our Creator.
Bread is significant in Jesus’s life as well, as he feeds the 5000 with just a few loaves of bread. Implicit in this miracle is a temptation to win the people over by addressing their physical hunger. Perhaps the cross isn’t necessary if Jesus can simply gain enough popular support and overthrow the Romans? Yet, we know Jesus resists that temptation as well. And at the end of Luke’s gospel, perhaps most fittingly, Jesus is known by the disciples in the breaking of bread. We see clearly here that bread is not the problem, but in fact can be the instrument of revelation. Jesus, in the desert, knows that bread has a more noble purpose than simply meeting his physical needs.
For us, we can take courage from Jesus’s example. As we fast during Lent, whether it is from chocolate, television, or other material things—not bad in themselves—we remember their proper order in our lives. Hopefully, the twinges of desire for them spur us to worship and prayer, as a kind of training ground to face our deeper temptations, those things which demand our allegiance and ultimately our worship.