Entering Into Lent & Responding Like Jesus in the Desert – Lent 2024


Jesus was tempted by the devil to the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, and the lust of the eyes. He underwent this temptation in order to give us an example and to contend with all that could keep us from God.

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Reflective Study Guide Questions

“Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil,”

Mt. 4:1.

1. The account of the Temptation of Jesus in the desert shows Jesus being tempted with the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, and the lust of eyes. What temptations do you face in your life most often? Which of these three categories do your temptations most often belong to?

2. When the devil tempts Jesus to throw Himself off the parapet, he is tempting Jesus to test the Father’s love for Him. In our own lives, we might have difficulty trusting God without seeing an obvious outward sign of His plan for us. How can you work on imitating the trust in the Father that Jesus shows during this temptation?

3. Throughout the temptation of Jesus in the desert, Jesus remains calm and rooted in the Father’s peace. How do you react when you are faced with difficulties or temptations? How can you work on imitating Jesus in times like these?

4.  We all face temptations to various sins throughout our lives. This Lent, how can you push against the lust of the flesh, pride of life, and lust of the eyes to be more fully transformed into the image of God?

Text: Entering Into Lent & Responding Like Jesus in the Desert

Hi, I am Tim Glemkowski. It’s an honor to be praying, with you through this Pray More Lenten retreat. And, sort of for my first talk, what I’d like to do is actually dive into one of the foundational passages in scripture, that’s really at the heart of this Lenten experience. You could say, in Jesus’s temptation in the desert, going to which is the passage we’re going to read in a second. he sort of gives us the example what, what we as Christians are attempting to, imitate in our own journey into the desert, and in prayer and fasting and almsgiving and penance, you know, for our own sake and for the life of the world. We’re really walking with Jesus in this moment.

So I’d love to, sort of unpack this verse, this, this passage in a, in a way that might yield some new and fresh insights for you and I, as we pray through this experience of Lent.  , and then might also give us sort of an image, for how we ourselves are really called to grow in holiness, especially in this, kind of all-important season. So to begin, what I’d like to do first for our prayer is actually to read this passage. If this is really a, a retreat, this gives you a, a chance to sort of sit back and just listen to the word of God and let it, inform our minds and hearts in a new way, speak to our will and intellect in a new way, and challenge us. And then I want to unpack it a little bit, and kind of have it show us where to go. This lent in a certain sense.

So pray with me, please. In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for 40  days and 40 nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached him and said to him, if you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread. He said, in reply, it is written, one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

Then the devil took him to the holy city and made him stand on the parapet of the temple and said to him, if you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written, he will command his angels concerning you, and with their hands, they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone. Jesus answered him Again, it is written, you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.

Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their magnificence, and he said to him, all these I shall give to you if you’ll prostrate yourself and worship me at this. Jesus said to him, get away, Satan. It is written the Lord your God shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve. Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.”

The gospel of the Lord. Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ, in the name of the Father and of the Son of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

What Has Jesus Come to Do?

Alright, so the contention I want to bring to this talk is that in order to understand what Jesus is doing here in this passage, you have to kind of, go back to, what is Jesus’s intention in the first place and kind of his whole ministry. I think that’s really important. Like, in order to understand the whole, right, if you looked at anyone’s day and you wanted to understand why they did anything, you know, know any of the series of actions that they did on a given day, at some point you kind of have to go to their core motivations and, and their core, like what they’re really looking for and seeking after life, right? That tends to order, you know, sort of how we spend our time and, and our money and our, you know, whatever, right? The same is for Jesus, right?

Like we look at His individual actions or His teachings and His public ministry, we have to look for like, what’s the through line? Like, what has He come to do? And, and here’s the reality. I want to kind of share it very simply. It’s a story that could be told in, one minute, five minutes, you know, 45 minutes or five hours, right?

But simply, what has Jesus come to do? Why is He here on Earth, right? Like, why has he come to earth? It’s kind of simple. Jesus is the son of the Father, right? This is His identity. This is who He is. He’s the eternal word from all history. Who, who is begotten, right? By the Father. So, Jesus has come to earth because he’s been sent by the Father, to do a particular thing for Him, right? He’s been sent, right? Really, you could even say the word desired, to come, wanted to come to earth in order to accomplish a purpose for his dad, for his father. So what is that purpose?

All of creation exists ultimately because of humanity. That’s sort of the Catholic understanding, right? The St. Thomas Aquinas says, when you look at the creation narrative, you have to understand that the first in intention is the last in execution. Meaning the first thing God meant to do when he made anything is the last thing he ended up doing. Humanity, right? So all of this exists so that something could come to exist, that could have the ability to have a relationship with the father, the love that would exist in the trinity desire to pour out into creation, and finally to pour into a, receptacle that could receive that love and give it back, which is the heart of communion or relationship, right? To receive love, to be loved, and then to love back. This is what you and I are right? At the end of the day, ultimately, we are the result of a, willed thought of God that that set off a big bang 14.8 billion years ago, right?

But something happened or broke in that relationship, right? We, we know the genesis story by Genesis chapter three. We’ve already seen this original plan disrupted by the tempter, the devil who has stepped into the situation and broken trust in humanity with their father. That’s what the catechism says about sin. That the first step or action of sin is actually a lack of trust in our creator. That he has what is good for us in mind, says man, losing trust in his creator, tempted by the devil, turned towards sin, is the first words of the catechism about sin.

And so, the entire story of salvation history, what it becomes about after the fall is the formation of a people. so that ultimately from that people, could come, a woman, right? Mary, a 14 year old Jewish girl who an angel would come to and say, hail full of grace, and that the eternal word would then step into creation to do a particular thing.

A Father Searching For His Children

Understand that in the fall and in sin and death, when, when Adam and Eve tempted by the devil and choose to fall, what happens there for God when he comes down to the garden, right? He says, Adam, where are you?  What he’s doing in that moment is more than just wanting to come and punish them for sin.  , he’s a father who’s come searching for his children, right?

His experience of the fall is that something has been taken from him, and that that’s actually why the devil comes into this situation and tries to attempt at him and eve in the first place,  , because he wants to steal in his hatred of the Father to steal from the father, what is most important to him, right? Which are these kind of, we are, you know, fragile creatures, right? we’re not these sort of exalted spiritual beings, but we’re super important to God, right? And so that’s what happens, right?

The Devil’s Third Temptation

We see even in this passage, what the devil ultimately tempts Jesus with in his third temptation is all the kingdoms of the world, right? Like, that’s because they’re his, he’s taken all of creation, including humanity in sin and death, these powers that Lord over us. He’s taken it and made this world his dominion, his kingdom. And so in Jesus coming, what he’s come to do is to contend with the things that contend with humanity, to rescue us, to break the chains, of slavery, to sin and death, and, and to spring us out of this trap that the devil has set for us, right? To, to tear down the walls that are keeping us locked in and, and in the kingdom of heaven, and said to invite us into the, the replacement, right? It’s an invasion of one kingdom, by a stronger kingdom, the kingdom of the Son of God who’s come to rescue his little brothers and sisters and bring them home.

So this is who Jesus is, right? This is his mission while he’s here on earth. And so when he goes into the desert, right, and it actually says that he’s, he’s led into the desert by the spirit. That word is important because in the original Greek, it’s, it’s more like driven. He’s, he’s driven out, or he’s, you could even say thrown into the desert, is, is another way of interpreting that verb. He’s thrown into the desert by the Holy Spirit, because he’s here, to contend with the things that contend with us, right? In his littleness, right? He becomes, the devil thinks he’s an easy target, right?

He knows that this is, the son of God who’s now come to earth. and so he sees in his hunger, a weakness potentially, right? That, that Jesus is sort of lying in weight, inviting in his weakness, this moment of confrontation with the devil who thinks like he tempted Adam and Eve to turn away from the Father, that perhaps he can get Jesus to do the same thing, right? And so he begins to tempt him first, sort of, you know, by bread, by appealing to his physical hunger, right? And then, second, by appealing to, you know, sort of the, this, this desire to throw himself, off the parapet, and then third, by,  offering him all the kingdoms of the world.

The Threefold Concupiscence

So, what’s he doing there? later, St. Paul will talk about, or it’s actually John, letter, first John, he’ll talk about this idea of the threefold concupiscence, this weakness in our humanity that’s expressed in these three different ways, right? The, the what he calls the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life and the lust of the eyes. That these are sort of these three portals or areas where we’re particularly susceptible in our fallen humanity to fall into sin that driven by those desires we might turn away from the father. And so the devil knowing this is actually tempting.

Scripture scholars have noted Jesus in these three areas, first in the lust of the flesh, in the desire for bread, right? And in his hunger, second in the pride of life, right? To go to the top of the parapet in Jerusalem was a very public place. There’s probably people down below being like, what’s going on up there? Right? And to, to throw himself off, of that would be a very public spectacle, right? Of Jesus’ divinity and of the angels ministering to him. And then last in the lust of the eyes to see the glittering kingdoms of the world, and to be tempted by them, right? What we call mimetic desire in the humanity, right? To desire the thing something because other people desire it. And to want that thing, right? To, to see that and, and, and go after that and want to be in charge or in power, or honored in a particular way.

And so this is what’s happening here in this temptation with the devil, is Jesus is stepping into this situation, want to provide us an example of, how we encounter temptation, but two, at the exact same time, to go to war with the powers that are in charge of us, in our weakened humanity. These are the things that Lord over us in, in, you know, sin, death and the devil, right? Or the, or the powers that actually the Lord over humanity and Jesus has come to destroy them all.

The Imitation of Temptation of the Devil

So he enters into this conversation for the sake. And you can see here in, in the church, what the church calls sometimes is the ecclesial sense of a verse, which means sort of in the lectionary, how this particular passage is positioned, this gospel with like a first reading. And, and the church shows this, the first reading for the Sunday, that this, this, passage from Matthew is the gospel for, is Genesis chapter three, right? This, this imitation of the temptation of, of the devil to eve and her losing trust in her father and turning towards sin, and all of humanity being brought into darkness because of, of Adam and Eve and their turn toward that, and Jesus instead stepping into it, you know, sort of inviting this temptation in his, in his apparent weakness so that he can actually overcome where we failed. What’s kind of powerful about that, right? Is that one of the things Jesus teaches us then, is that he’s come, to unwind that lack of trust. I think it’s powerful in a particular way.

The second temptation, what the devil’s doing in, in tempting Jesus with jumping off the parapet is the same thing he tempted eve with. Is God a good father? Is he a good God? Is he in charge? And does he take care of us or not? Right? That’s what’s happening there at the end of, what the devil tempts him with is for the angels to catch Jesus when he jumps or when he falls, right?

What happens at the end of this passage when Jesus overcomes these three temptations, angels come to minister to him, it’s already been his destiny in this moment, that the father would take care of him with the help of his angels. That angels would come and minister to him. and it’s exactly that thing, which the, is not the devil’s to offer that he wants to tempt Jesus with. Does God have your best interest in mind, or do you need God to prove it, for you to trust him?

Jesus knows if he jumped off, the father would catch him. He’s got a purpose and a plan for his life, right? He’s got his angels to minister to him. He’s the word, the eternal word, but a but a human like eve, or like you and I might be tempted instead to say, I can only trust if I’m caught, right? I don’t know for a fact, even though God has revealed himself to be a good and loving father, I don’t know for a fact that he actually has my best interest in mind. So I need him to prove through some dramatic action, that he actually is.

An Example for Freedom

And, and so Jesus is stepping into again, as an example, but also as a way to contend with all the things that would keep us, from God. And what he shows, again, in that ecclesial sense, is that what he’s come to do, is to free us, to free us from sin, to free us from death, and to free us from the devil, right?

This is kind of the lesson, that I want to leave us with in this talk, is that ultimately what Jesus is teaching us about the pursuit of holiness, is that every, no, we’re going to say to in our entire life, whether it’s no to certain friendships that keep us away, from God, or it’s no to certain habits or practices or addictions, or it’s, or it’s no to even good things that might keep us from the best thing in our life, whatever that no is ultimately, it’s not just about like sort of repression, or, or just like God wanting us to suffer in an abject way, but it’s about freedom.

There’s a definite who we’ve been made to be. There’s a mission in an identity sent into our life that the passage that comes immediately before this is the baptism of Jesus baptized into his identity. And immediately after this, what Jesus does is, is he goes to Galilee, and it’s the passageway where they talk about the people who walked in darkness, have seen a great light, like to, in order to become the light right, to step into this mission, to be the light of the world that he’s called to be, he passes through this time of contending, right? He’s giving us an example of being confirmed in an identity, a contending with the things that keep us away from the freedom that is going to allow us to become the fullness of who we’ve created to be.

And so, what you notice about that is that, you know, one, like I said, that that’s really what all of these sacrifices are about. but two, what you notice in Jesus, is how he engages in these sacrifices, right? So this is what I think he wants to teach us about the pursuit of holiness. You know, one, you obviously see, him, him responding with scripture, right? He’s rooted in the truth, that God has revealed in humanity. But what is noteworthy, I think, in a particular way about his temptation, what it, what it can reveal to us about our own pursuit and holiness is that what Jesus is, is rooted in the entire time, is an incredible peace.

Like he’s one led or thrown into the desert by the Holy Spirit. And then as this temptation is happening, he is allowing it to happen, in his life. And he’s responding calmly without anger, with the word of God to the temptations, which is a lesson for us. But there’s an incredible sort of, docility and surrender even to being ministered to by the angels, the end allowing himself a, a time of rest and rejuvenation. That’s part of this journey, of sort of that, this example he is giving us of how we pursue holiness. But there’s a stillness in him. The cross stands while the world turns, the monks used to say, right?

Surrendering to God’s Plan For Us

And I think one of the things we don’t think about enough, is how much in the midst of temptations or the noise of the world, or the worries, the lack of trust, the things that make us turn away from our good and loving father, how much peace, and trust can allow him to do the great work in our life that he wants to do. that it’s not always about like gripping it all so tightly enforcing it to happen, but it’s instead about a surrender into the stream of God’s plan for our life, which is far greater than we could have ever anticipated.

So this is kind of really how I see this passage is, the beginning of Jesus’s work to set us free to accomplish the freedom that we’re made for, and then the example provided of how we ourselves step into the battle against the woundedness still of our humanity, and that lust of the flesh, that pride of life, and that lust of the eyes, so that we might ultimately encounter, the freedom that we’re made for.

And maybe that’s an interesting reflection to leave us with, is, in some way, how can we, push against pride of life, lust of the flesh and lust of the eyes this lent, to begin to encounter and to become, to be transformed into, the image of the invisible God that we were created to be from the beginning and to experience the blessing, the benediction, the goodness, the freedom and the peace ultimately, the relationship with the Father that we’re made for. So happy praying, happy lent and, pray for me too. God bless.

About Tim Glemkowski

Tim Glemkowski is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Eucharistic Congress. Previously, he served in the Archbishop’s Office for the Archdiocese of Denver as the Director of Strategy, helping to set up the archdiocese for a time of apostolic mission. He is the former founder and president of L’Alto Catholic Institute and Revive Parishes. Tim authored Made for Mission: Renewing Your Parish Culture, which was released in Fall 2019 through Our Sunday Visitor. He is an international speaker who has also consulted for many organizations, dioceses, and parishes. His writing has appeared in numerous print and web-based theological and catechetical publications. Tim and his wife, Maggie, live in Littleton, CO with their three young children.