Temptation has been a uniquely human experience since the beginning of time. Temptation is something we all face each every single day. Sometimes we feel it more poignantly than others. Sometimes we are successful in our resistance to it and other times we fall to those temptations face first. Sometimes we have help to resist and other times we tempt each other as Eve did with Adam.
When Bill’s grandmother was living in Danbury, there was many a Sunday afternoon where I would get home from church and go directly to visit grandma. Now, it didn’t matter to her whether you were on a diet or not, she needed to feed you. She would always say, “Children, there’s a bobka in the kitchen. Go eat.” Temptation. No matter how we would protest, the visit could not start until we had eaten of the bobka. Then when we left the argument would proceed like this, “Children take the bobka”. There was no leaving that house without that Bobka we were trying to avoid. Temptation. Sometimes we have help from our loved ones to resist and other times they unknowingly help us give into the temptations.
I read the story from Genesis and thought to myself that the serpent must have slyly convinced Eve that the apple awfully delicious and that no harm would happen if she would have taken just a bite. Eve must have said to Adam, lovingly, “Adam eat the apple. It’s delicious.” Trying to share with him the joy she had experienced. Temptation. It’s not always easy to say no.
We all have our temptations throughout life. Sometimes they are very basic and other times these temptations are a little more serious. Temptations are those very basic human desires that prey upon our emotions, as they did on Eve’s. Eve and Adam were tempted by a serpent to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A temptation that spoke right to their desire to be like God, a desire for power, as God had power. Humanity has long sought out the power of God, trying to become equals with the Creator. We see in Eden and the tower of Babel.
Humanity has been willing to go to extremes to gain power throughout history. In the ancient world the Romans would burn cities to the ground killing hundreds of innocent people to maintain power. We see it also in the modern world in the jockeying for power in congress, in Kim Jong Un’s creation of nuclear weapons, in the way extremists in the middle east have taken control killing those who resist their rhetoric. The desire for power brings out the worst in humanity creating all sorts of delusions that what they do is for anything other than their own power and glory.
The root of all the temptations whether it is the temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden or the temptation of Christ in the desert is human desire. With Christ we see three ways that the tempter, Satan, tries to test Christ’s devotion to God. Satan goes straight to the basic human needs or desires to test God and to become like God. These temptations hit right at the heart of the human soul with the hope of driving a wedge between God and humanity. Additionally, we saw with Adam and Eve, a wedge between ourselves and each other.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Satan tempts Christ with all those things that have plague humanity for years. But in resisting the temptations Christ is able to achieve something that no one else in humanity has ever achieved. He began the act of reversing the sins of humanity by placing the focus back upon God. Instead of seeking to gain power, he gives glory to God and believes in the power of the Lord without seeking proof. Christ has faith even when he is hungry, starving, and wasting away in the desert. He has faith and asks nothing in return.
We constantly battle our temptations. We constantly try to put our own wants and desires above the plans of God. It has been the way of life since the beginning of time and nothing has changed. Billy Graham said, “The devil doesn’t need to invent any new temptation; the old ones work as well as they ever have”. So daily we find ourselves faced with the temptations from the serpents in our own lives. We are challenged to turn down the devil when we are asked to put the Lord our God to the test, to seek power and control on level with God.
I have often been asked what does the devil look like? People want a personification as we see in our scriptures this morning. But in reality the evil in our world is not some outward being enacting their will in this world or manipulating humanity. The evil in our world comes from within ourselves. It comes from selfishness, fear, desire, and hatred not kept in check. It comes from a separation of the self from God. So let us work this Lenten season to search out those emotions, those inclinations to turn our backs on what we know to be right, even at the cost of others, and let us work to put faith first. Let us take courage against desire from the words of Jesus in the desert when he said, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord you God, and serve only him.’” We need to think of God and each other making sure that what we do doesn’t come at the cost of someone else but gives glory to God by lifting up those who are in need.
 Billy Graham, 20th Century.
 Matthew 4: 10, NRSV.
(Based on Genesis 2: 15-17, 3: 1-7 and Matthew 4: 1-11)