In the gospel of the First Sunday of Lent, we always see Jesus facing Satan in the desert. There are several layers to this story, which is taken from Matthew’s gospel this year. The one I would like to highlight is that of Jesus as the new Adam and the new Israel.
In the first reading, we see the Fall of Adam. In the second reading, we hear that “sin came through the world through one man” (Romans 5:12), but grace comes “through the one man Jesus Christ” (v. 17). Adam’s sin was the rebellion of all humanity against God. This rebellion has been repeated by each person throughout history, represented in particular in Scripture by the Israelites, who repeatedly rebelled against God in the desert.
That is, each person until Jesus. With Him we something different. No longer does humanity rebel against God when faced with temptation. Instead, Jesus, a human being, perfectly resists temptation. He does not even enter into dialogue with Satan, trying to reason with him. Instead, He responds with passages from Scripture. The passages Jesus quotes are all taken from Deuteronomy, which is a sermon given by Moses to the Israelites at the end of their 40 years in the desert, shortly before they enter the promised land, and in which Moses often chastises the Israelites for their lack of fidelity. Jesus is hinting at something here.
Jesus has been in the desert for 40 days, paralleling the 40 years that Israel spent in the desert. The Israelites had often grumbled about the lack of food, wishing they could go back to Egypt. Jesus goes without food entirely and resists Satan’s temptation to turn stones into bread, to show, as He says, that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3).
The Devil tries to get Jesus to test God, just like Israel tested God at Massah, where they grumbled against God because of their thirst and asked, “Is the Lord in our midst or not?” (Exodus 17:7). Jesus refuses to test God in the same way. He already knows the power of God and does not need a personal demonstration, unlike the Israelites, who had seen the parting of the Red Sea and still refused to trust God.
Finally, Satan tempts Jesus to worship him, just as the Israelites worshipped the golden calf. Jesus responds unambiguously: “Begone, Satan! for it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’” (Matthew 4:10, see Deuteronomy 6:13).
Unlike Adam, who brought death to the world through his sin, or Israel, who continually rebelled against God in the desert, Jesus goes to the place of death, the desert, so as to remain faithful in the ways that Adam and Israel did not. Where there was sin and rebellion, Jesus brings fidelity; where there was death, Jesus will bring life. Where Adam, who represents all of humanity, cut himself off from God, Jesus, who represents all of humanity, will remain perfectly united to God, both as God incarnate and as the obedient Son of the Father.
Andrew Sheedy – St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta
Fot. Ryan Cheng/Unsplash.com